Football welcomes underwhelming class

After rumors that he would retract his verbal commitment, five-star receiver Kyle Ford signed with USC as the school’s top 2019 recruit. (Photo from 247 Sports Twitter Page)

With the 2019 National Signing Day in the books, the Trojans filled positions of need at defensive back and secured five-star wide receiver Kyle Ford’s marquee commitment to top off an overall underwhelming class. Not only was the class not in the top 15 nationally, but it also did not beat out its Pac-12 rivals, ranking No. 18 overall and No. 3 in the Pac-12. To put it into perspective, the Trojan class was No. 4 overall last year and No. 1 in the Pac-12.

On Wednesday, head coach Clay Helton shared his goals for the upcoming season and areas for improvement on the team. On the offensive side of the ball, Helton praised newly signed offensive coordinator Graham Harrell for the strides he hopes to make in USC’s passing game. USC’s offense was lackluster on almost every front in 2018, but Helton said Harrell hopes to continue the success he had elevating a North Texas team to offensive dominance through pass-heavy schemes. Helton noted that while he wants to focus on the passing game, he will not employ an air raid scheme and will run the ball.

The efforts to improve the passing game will be aided by Ford, a Southern California native who verbally committed to the Trojans in early January. Trojans fans were sweating bullets before Ford’s commitment after fellow recruit Bru McCoy transferred to Texas before  playing a single game.

Ford’s senior season was derailed by an ACL injury and Helton said the team will not rush him back to play. Even if Ford doesn’t see the field in 2019, his big frame and ability to win the jump ball will be a weapon for the Trojans in the future as they begin their schematic offensive overhaul.

After seeing major attrition within the position in the past two years, with eight players leaving the program for various reasons, the five new signees at defensive back will fill a huge role on the team. The Trojans went to the South to recruit three of their signees who will look to replace the void of production left by departing seniors Iman Marshall, Ajene Harris and Isaiah Langley — key players on the defense.

USC managed to flip Adonis Otey, a Tennessee native, from his prior verbal commitment to Arkansas. Otey is a versatile athlete, contributing as a safety, running back and kick returner in high school.

Helton said he is excited about Dorian Hewett, another southern recruit. Hewett won the Texas state championship and ran track, recording a 100-meter time of 10.73 seconds.

The Trojans also managed to snag a commitment from local JUCO prospect Jaylen Watson. Watson, another southern prospect, is originally from Augusta, Ga. A versatile athlete, he filled up the stat sheet in JUCO with 43 tackles, 13 passes defended, four interceptions and one fumble recovery.

Another non-local signee, Kauluna Makaula, looks to slot in at safety for the Trojans because of his 6-foot-3 frame and rounds out a solid core of three-star defensive backs.

Tuasivi Nomura, a safety in high school, signed with the Trojans, but will likely be an outside linebacker for USC this fall. This year’s group is not filled with the five- and four-star players the Trojans are used to, but it does a solid job filling a position of need for this upcoming season.

Four-star wide receiver recruit Puka Nacua, a verbal USC commit, did not sign with any team on Wednesday and will take time to explore other options. The receiver from Utah had over 2,300 receiving yards his senior season, a state record, and is being pursued by many Pac-12 rivals.

Although Helton didn’t reveal specifics, he said the 2020 class would be smaller in size than 2019. The final date for recruits to sign their letter of intent is April 1.