It's another strong finish in recruiting for Steve Sarkisian, USC

It's another strong finish in recruiting for Steve Sarkisian, USC
USC Coach Steve Sarkisian helped the Trojans sign 19 players to go along with five others who have already enrolled for the spring semester on national signing day. (Rick Loomis / Los Angeles Times)

If USC can learn to finish games the way it closes the recruiting cycle under Coach Steve Sarkisian, the Trojans' future could be bright.

After enduring years of NCAA sanctions, USC on Wednesday welcomed its first full recruiting class since 2011. And for the second consecutive year the Trojans finished with a flourish.


Previously uncommitted cornerback Iman Marshall of Long Beach Poly High and defensive lineman Rasheem Green and linebacker John Houston of Gardena Serra signed national letters of intent, capping what by consensus of recruiting websites ranked as the second-best class in college football.

The Trojans retained every player who had made a verbal commitment before signing day and added the local trio for a class that filled needs in every position group.

"Everything we thought could occur ... happened exactly the way we thought it could happen," Sarkisian said.

For each of the last three years, USC was limited to 15 new scholarship players. On Wednesday, the Trojans signed 19 to go along with five already enrolled for the spring semester. Kicker Matt Boermeester was awarded a scholarship during training camp last year and counted against this year's class as what is known as a blue shirt.

The fast finish echoed of last year, when cornerback Adoree' Jackson, receiver JuJu Smith and offensive lineman Damien Mama announced commitments on signing day. All played significant roles for the Trojans last season.

"Just like last year they finished with a bang," said Greg Biggins, national recruiting analyst for Fox Sports and Scout. "They got everybody they were supposed to get."

Said Sarkisian: "I remember a year ago at this time and talking about Adoree' and JuJu and Damien and all the excitement of that class, when in reality we knew how important this class was going to be."

Quarterbacks Ricky Town, who is already enrolled, and Sam Darnold are part of a class that includes Texas running backs Ronald Jones and Aca'Cedric Ware, touted Utah linebackers Osa Masina and Porter Gustin, rangy junior college receivers Isaac Whitney and De'Quan Hampton, and Marshall, who is regarded as the nation's top cornerback prospect.

Marshall's announcement was not without drama.

He was scheduled to announce his choice in the afternoon on ESPNU. Shortly before the ceremony, his pick was revealed in a music video that was posted on Bleacher Report's website.

"SC was the fit for me," Marshall said during his announcement ceremony at Long Beach Poly High. "I felt that was home and I'm trying to bring a [national championship] back to Los Angeles."

Marshall said he was looking forward to playing with Jackson and linebacker Su'a Cravens.

"Just be a legend at one of the premier colleges in the nation and bring L.A. back to the promised land," he said.

Sarkisian and his staff will bolster the roster with more blue shirts — players who were not officially recruited under NCAA rules but will be awarded scholarships during training camp and count against next year's class. Serra receiver Deontay Burnett and Anaheim Servite offensive lineman Clayton Johnston could fall in that category.


The Trojans finished 9-4 in Sarkisian's first season. They lost to Arizona State on a last-second Hail Mary pass and to Utah on a touchdown pass in the final seconds. USC could have avoided both defeats by assuming control in the fourth quarter.

Sarkisian said his staff pursued "taller, longer and rangier" players to help the Trojans become more stout.

"We need to build a football team that has the potential to be a bully," he said.

Near the end of last season, Sarkisian said the Trojans' future was "ridiculously bright." He repeated that statement after the season-ending Holiday Bowl victory over Nebraska.

As he reviewed the new recruiting class, he remained steadfast.

"I'm not backing off that," he said.

Follow Gary Klein on Twitter @latimesklein