Marquee signings mean little for 2012

For a lot of college football fans, Wednesday was the beginning of a new season. Yes, signing day often signifies the start of greatness or the start of a downward trend for teams, whether they play in the SEC, the Big-10 or the Pac-12.

Signing day has become a nationwide phenomenon. ESPNU started its coverage at 6 a.m. and went the entire day. Fans eagerly waited to hear which blue-chip recruits would attend their favorite universities, and the pundits projected which players will make their impact when they first step on the field.

But such was not the case for USC. No, I do not expect much out of the highly regarded freshmen that will be arriving on campus in the coming months. Sure, there will be contributors, but I do not think there will be any game changers.

That is not to say that these players lack talent; they certainly have a brilliant crop of players that look as if they will be stars sooner rather than later. The Trojans, however, have a serious problem.

They have too much talent that has been on campus for at least a calendar year.

They are returning 17 starters, among them junior quarterback Matt Barkley, sophomore receiver Robert Woods, cornerback Nickell Robey and freshman middle linebacker Lamar Dawson. The only area where the team lacks depth is in the receiver position, as Brice Butler and Kyle Prater have transferred, and Brandon Carswell will have graduated. But the Trojans still have last year’s top receiving prospect, George Farmer, waiting in the wings to emerge as the team’s third receiver.

USC is set for most defensive positions, except for defensive tackle, where there is not a vast amount of experience returning. Linebacker and defensive end are deep positions, as is corner and safety. On offense, every offensive lineman but Matt Kalil returns, and the only other starter not returning is fullback Rhett Ellison.

This is a team that has national championship aspirations because of the players that are proven commodities — not because of who they have coming in on the ESPNU 150 recruiting board. This edition of the Trojans will look similar to the 2011 edition; in fact, do not expect many changes among the stat leaders.

Though a great recruiting class is always a positive, it will not have a major effect on this year’s team; it can’t. USC’s last few recruiting classes were too good.

Players from this year’s class could very well become all-time Trojan greats; in fact, it wouldn’t surprise me. But the fact of the matter is USC has set playmakers all over the field. It’s a problem many coaches would love to have.

The Trojans are a preseason top five-team because they are established. The same players who accounted for 50 points against UCLA are all back for the most part.

That team that took out Oregon at Autzen Stadium? Yeah, most of them are back too.

Signing day is incredibly important—don’t get me wrong. But for the 2012-2013 edition of the Trojans, it will not matter nearly as much as it will for other teams in the country. Teams like Alabama, LSU and Oregon will be breaking in starters at key positions, whether it’s quarterback, tailback or linebacker. USC, however, will not be one of the teams putting the pieces together with true freshmen. Instead, they will be relying on the savvy veterans that helped them get to 10-2 and a first-place finish in the Pac-12 South Division.

Lane Kiffin’s third recruiting class will have its share of contributors somewhere down the line. But 2012 USC does not need to — and frankly can’t afford to — depend on true freshmen this coming season. No, the Trojan’s ascent to the top of the college football mountain will be due in large part to its sophomores, juniors and seniors.

The Trojans do not have time to break in players; they are one of the top teams in the country because of who they return from last season.



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