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USC Stays Home; UCLA Hits the Road

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Optimism on the day to sign national football letters of intent is understandable, especially at USC and UCLA.

The schools finished a combined 11-12 last season, neither qualifying for a bowl game. Each had many needs to fill.

So after 19 high school seniors committed to USC and 19 seniors and a junior college transfer committed to UCLA on Wednesday, the reaction of the respective coaches was predictable.

“We feel our recruiting efforts were very successful,” second-year UCLA Coach Bob Toledo said. “We filled our positional needs and improved our athleticism and size at key positions.”

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Said USC Coach John Robinson, who was on the hot seat most of last season: “I think we’ve signed a good class, and I believe we’ll see a number of these players have an impact this coming season.”

Robinson, who returned for his second coaching stint at USC in 1993, was host to a group of football boosters Wednesday night to announce a class that included four running backs, a fullback and no quarterbacks.

The Trojans also didn’t sign any offensive linemen, although they did land two highly recruited tight ends in Antoine Harris of Loyola and Lonnie Ford of San Diego Morse.

Their biggest prize is Rod Perry Jr., a wide receiver from Santa Ana Mater Dei. Perry finished high school with nearly 3,000 receiving yards and 37 touchdowns on a team that won two CIF Southern Section championships.

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The running game, which couldn’t sustain any consistency last season, should be bolstered by the addition of several heavily recruited players, including Malaefou MacKenzie of Capistrano Valley in Mission Viejo and Eric Reese of Long Beach St. Anthony.

MacKenzie rushed for 1,488 yards (8.2 per carry average)and 17 touchdowns last season, including 231 against Mater Dei. Although Reese played at a small school with limited visibility, his speed and numbers impressed many college coaches. He finished with 2,047 rushing yards and 33 touchdowns last season.

The Trojans signed four defensive backs, including Darryl Knight of Riverside Rubidoux. Knight’s older brothers, Ryan and Sammy, each played for USC. Darryl sat out the second half of last season after tearing the cartilage in his right knee.

USC also announced the signing of one junior college player, running back Jabari Jackson of the City College of San Francisco. Jackson is already enrolled for the spring semester and will participate in spring drills.

Although USC’s class included only one out-of-state player, defensive tackle Tommie Townsend of Las Vegas Bonanza, UCLA included seven from out of state.

“One of our goals was to expand the recruiting base and return UCLA to a position of strength in terms of national recruiting,” Toledo said. “We believe we made great strides in this area.”

Its most notable out-of-state recruit is defensive lineman Jesse Simms of King and Low Haywood Thomas High of Norwalk, Conn. Simms is the grandson of Jackie Robinson.

The Bruins also signed San Bernardino Pacific defensive back Ryan Nece, whose father is Ronnie Lott. Lott was an All-American defensive back at USC.

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“USC never recruited me, otherwise I’m sure I would have considered them,” said Nece, who also played quarterback at Pacific. “But my dad wasn’t upset by me going to UCLA. In fact, he was happy that I made my own decision and supported whatever I wanted to do.”

Toledo said his biggest need was on the defensive line, which was one of the conference’s smallest last season. He signed four linemen, including junior college transfer Andy Kassotis of Citrus College in Glendora. Kassotis played at Glendora High.

UCLA also signed four offensive lineman, among them Ed Anderson of Chino Hills Ayala. The 6-foot-5, 260-pounder was considered one of the top lineman in the Southland.

The Bruins also signed two quarterbacks, Scott McEwen of Thousand Oaks and Ed Stansbury of El Paso Irvin. Toledo had initially planned to sign only one quarterback but that changed when redshirt freshman Dylan Aquino was ruled medically unable to play.

McEwen, who had orally committed to UCLA in August, passed for 2,142 yards and 14 touchdowns in a run-oriented offense. Stansbury passed for 2,503 yards and 27 touchdowns.

(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX / INFOGRAPHIC)

Future Bruins and Trojans

High school football players who have committed to UCLA and USC:

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UCLA’S FOOTBALL RECRUITING CLASS

Player, School: Ed Anderson, Chino Hills Ayala

P: OL

HT: 6-5

WT: 260

*

Player, School: Marques Anderson, Long Beach Poly

P: DB

HT: 6-0

WT: 185

*

Player, School: Kenyon Coleman, Alta Loma

P: DL

HT: 6-5

WT: 260

*

Player, School: Troy Danoff, Albuquerque La Cueva

P: OL

HT: 6-4

WT: 280

*

Player, School: Bryan Fletcher, St. Louis Hazelwood East

P: TE

HT: 6-5

WT: 215

*

Player, School: Santi Hall, Moreno Valley Valley View

P: LB

HT: 6-2

WT: 242

*

Player, School: Zak Haselmo, Lompoc Cabrillo

P: K

HT: 6-2

WT: 175

*

Player, School: Cody Joyce, Hart

P: WR

HT: 6-1

WT: 193

*

Player, School: Andy Kassotis, Citrus College

P: DL

HT: 6-3

WT: 263

*

Player, School: Scott McEwan, Thousand Oaks

P: QB

HT: 6-3

WT: 196

*

Player, School: Freddie Mitchell II, Lakeland (Fla.)Kathleen

P: WR

HT: 6-0

WT: 175

*

Player, School: Ryan Nece, San Bernardino Pacific

P: DB

HT: 6-2

WT: 192

*

Player, School: Brian Polak, La Puente Bishop Amat

P: OL

HT: 6-5

WT: 319

*

Player, School: Brian Poli-Dixon, Tucson Sabino

P: WR

HT: 6-4

WT: 195

*

Player, School: Jesse Simms, Norwalk (Conn.) Haywood Thomas

P: DL

HT: 6-3

WT: 265

*

Player, School: Ed Stansbury, El Paso Irvin

P: QB

HT: 6-2

WT: 225

*

Player, School: Jason Stephens, Redlands

P: DB

HT: 6-2

WT: 180

*

Player, School: Stephen Sua, Tustin

P: DL

HT: 6-1

WT: 257

*

Player, School: Tony White, El Paso Burges

P: LB

HT: 6-1

WT: 224

*

Player, School: David Wilford, Tustin

P: OL

HT: 6-5

WT: 276

USC’S FOOTBALL RECRUITING CLASS

Player, School: Bobby DeMars, Westlake

P: DE/LB

HT: 6-4

WT: 235

*

Player, School: Kori Dickerson, L.A. Washington

P: LB

HT: 6-4

WT: 215

*

Player, School: Lonnie Ford, San Diego Morse

P: TE

HT: 6-3

WT: 220

*

Player, School: Antoine Harris, Loyola

P: TE

HT: 6-4

WT: 220

*

Player, School: Jabari Jackson, City College of San Francisco

P: RB

HT: 6-2

WT: 215

*

Player, School: Darryl Knight, Riverside Rubidoux

P: LB

HT: 6-2

WT: 195

*

Player, School: Charlie Landrigan, Mission Viejo Capistrano Valley

P: FB

HT: 6-0

WT: 210

*

Player, School: Mike MacGillivray, Loyola

P: PK

HT: 5-10

WT: 205

*

Player, School: Malaefou MacKenzie, Mission Viejo Capistrano Valley

P: RB

HT: 6-0

WT: 210

*

Player, School: Zeke Moreno, Chula Vista Castle Park

P: RB

HT: 6-3

WT: 240

*

Player, School: Ryan Nielsen, Royal

P: DL

HT: 6-5

WT: 235

*

Player, School: Ife Ohalete, Los Alamitos

P: DB

HT: 6-2

WT: 205

*

Player, School: Rod Perry, Santa Ana Mater Dei

P: WR

HT: 5-10

WT: 180

*

Player, School: Michael Pollard, Long Beach Poly

P: LB

HT: 6-1

220

*

Player, School: Eric Reese, Long Beach St. Anthony

P: RB

HT: 5-11

WT: 185

*

Player, School: Kris Richard, Gardena Serra

P: DB

HT: 6-0

WT: 170

*

Player, School: Antuan Simmons, Sacramento Valley

P: DB

HT: 5-11

WT: 185

*

Player, School: Tommie Townsend, Las Vegas Bonanza

P: DL

HT: 6-4

WT: 255

*

Player, School: Henry Wallace, Torrance Bishop Montgomery

P: FB

HT: 6-2

WT: 210


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