Trojans' class big in quality, if not quantity

Times Staff Writer

Matt Kalil waited more than a year.

The offensive lineman from Anaheim Servite High, who made an oral commitment to USC during his junior season, finally got to sign a letter of intent Wednesday, one of 10 linemen in a 19-player recruiting class that lacked glitz but filled many of the Trojans' immediate needs.

Kalil was among five offensive linemen who could help fill the void left by the departure of four starters who completed their eligibility or turned pro.

"We've got a great bunch of guys so the offensive line should be pretty solid the next couple years," said the 6-foot-6, 290-pound Kalil, whose brother, Ryan, played center for the Trojans.

The Trojans also signed five defensive linemen.

"I think of this class as the big class because of all the big guys," Coach Pete Carroll said.

USC made a big splash early in the day when defensive lineman Nick Perry of King High in Detroit and defensive back T.J. Bryant of Tallahassee Lincoln High in Florida announced they would attend USC.

"Bryant was a shocker," said Greg Biggins, director of recruiting for "No one goes into Tallahassee Lincoln and gets him because it's a pipeline to Florida State."

Perry's and Bryant's announcements tempered the loss of multiple-purpose standout Joe Adams, who backed off his oral commitment and signed with Arkansas, his home state school.

USC's class became complete in the evening when Lawndale Leuzinger linebacker Uona Kavienga announced he had signed with the Trojans.

Because the Trojans' class lacked a quarterback or marquee running back, several recruiting experts projected the class lower than in the previous five years. USC's classes were never ranked lower than third nationally during that span.

The additions of Perry and Bryant to those already committed gave the Trojans the nation's No. 10 class, according to ESPN ranked the Trojans sixth, ranked them 13th.

Nevertheless, Carroll described it as "a championship class again."

Based on the linemen, at least one expert concurred.

"It's one of the top two, the other being Ohio State, if you just look at the trenches," said Allen Wallace, publisher of SuperPrep magazine.

Offensive linemen Kalil, Khaled Holmes of Santa Ana Mater Dei, Tyron Smith of Moreno Valley Rancho Verde and Daniel Campbell of Houston will join Matt Meyer, who graduated early from Stockton Lincoln and is already attending classes at USC.

Each member of the quintet will get an opportunity to compete for playing time, Carroll said, citing Winston Justice, Jeff Byers and Kristofer O'Dowd as players who have started games as true freshmen at USC.

Tight end Blake Ayles of Orange Lutheran, receivers Brice Butler, from Georgia, and D.J. Shoemate of Servite and multiple-purpose threat Curtis McNeal of Venice were other signees who play offense.

Perry, Bryant and Kavienga join a group of defensive players that includes linemen Wes Horton of Sherman Oaks Notre Dame, Armond Armstead of Elk Grove Pleasant Grove, Jurrell Casey of Long Beach Poly and Malik Jackson of Lake Balboa Birmingham, linebacker Maurice Simmons of Compton Dominguez and defensive backs Drew McAllister of Danville Monte Vista and Brian Baucham of West Torrance. Simmons is the brother of former Trojan Melvin Simmons.

The class does not include quarterback Mitch Mustain and receiver Damian Williams, Arkansas transfers who redshirted in 2007 and will be eligible next season.

Safety Shane Horton, older brother of signee Wes, transferred from Nevada Las Vegas in January. He will participate in spring practice but will not be eligible until 2009. Carroll said the Trojans might also add an unnamed junior college receiver, thought to be Jordan Cameron of Ventura College.

Carroll said that some parents from outside Southern California expressed concern about his flirtation with NFL teams. Carroll spoke with the Atlanta Falcons and Washington Redskins last month.

"I think parents around the area are used to seeing it and handle it well and don't worry about it," Carroll said. "But out of the area, it did come up a few times. I don't think it factored into any of the decisions by any of these guys."

Carroll said Adams' decision to sign with Arkansas was not entirely unexpected.

"We just knew it was going to be a struggle the whole time," he said. "A kid really has to be strong about it to leave and know what he wants to do. . . . At the end it just was too hard for him to leave."


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