USC coaches must hit ground running in final contact period with recruits

Clay Helton coaches the Trojans during the Pac-12 championship game against Stanford on Dec. 5.

Clay Helton coaches the Trojans during the Pac-12 championship game against Stanford on Dec. 5.

(Ben Margot / Associated Press)

USC closed with a top-ranked recruiting class in 2015.

But if the Trojans want to finish with a top five -- or even top 10 -- class in 2016, Coach Clay Helton and his new staff must work overtime in the final contact period, which began Thursday, before signing day on Feb. 3.

USC has 14 players committed, six of whom enrolled in classes Monday, and six scholarships available.

The class is ranked 21st in the nation by the prep sports publication Scout and 19th by Rivals.


Helton, Johnny Nansen and Tee Martin are the coaches on staff with whom recruits are most familiar.

Helton fired defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox, defensive line coach Chris Wilson, defensive backs coach Keith Heyward and offensive line coach Bob Connelly after a loss to Stanford in the Pac-12 Conference title game.

Since a season-ending loss to Wisconsin in the Holiday Bowl, quarterbacks coach Marques Tuiasosopo jumped across town to take the same position with UCLA, and linebackers coach and recruiting coordinator Peter Sirmon accepted an offer to become Mississippi State’s defensive coordinator.

Helton has hired defensive coordinator Clancy Pendergast, special teams coordinator John Baxter, running backs coach Tyson Helton, offensive line coach Neil Callaway and defensive backs coach Ronnie Bradford.

Quarterback Matt Fink, offensive lineman Nathan Smith, receivers Josh Imatorbhebhe and Michael Pittman, defensive back C.J. Pollard and defensive lineman Oluwole Betiku began spring semester classes this week and are expected to be available for spring practices.

Coaches are likely to soon visit the remaining eight commits: Receivers Velus Jones from Saraland, Ala.; Trevon Sidney and Tyler Vaughns from La Puente Bishop Amat; tight end Cary Angeline from Downingtown East in Exton, Penn.; offensive lineman Frank Martin from Santa Ana Mater Dei; defensive linemen Liam Jimmons from Huntington Beach and Keyshon Camp from Lake Gibson Senior High in Lakeland, Fla.; and linebacker Jordan Iosefa from St. Louis School in Honolulu.


With six scholarships still available, USC could try to sign a few more defensive backs and defensive linemen.

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