A huge surge of commitments on national signing day helped propel USC to another strong recruiting class, finishing in the top 10 for the third year in a row.
The Trojans ended up eighth in the country in 247Sports' composite rankings thanks to adding seven players on Wednesday, three of whom had previously been committed to other schools. This allowed the class to rise from 20th in less than 24 hours, getting a final boost late in the day when 5-star cornerback Jack Jones continued the program's pipeline from Long Beach Poly High School.
All told, USC added 20 players—19 from high school—including seven who had signed in December and are already enrolled in school. The signings addressed immediate needs and should help provide depth in other areas, making for an impressive first class for Clay Helton.
"As a head coach, I cannot tell you how proud I am of the staff for how they finished and how they closed," Helton said, per Lindsey Thiry of the Los Angeles Times.
Follow along for a more detailed look at the next wave of future USC standouts.
USC's class got a major boost thanks to a trio of players whom recruiting experts didn't think it had a good shot at, mostly because those players were already committed elsewhere.
It started early on Wednesday when Jamel Cook flipped from Florida State, giving USC two players from the Miami area along with receiver Keyshawn Young. The 6'4", 190-pound Cook, who played safety and cornerback in high school, is the cousin of FSU running back Dalvin Cook.
Hawaiian running back Vavae Malepeai backed out on a pledge to Oregon, and later, Long Beach City College defensive tackle Joshua Fatu opted not to sign with Boise State. Malepeai, who is 5'11" and 195 pounds, is the state career record holder in rushing yards (4,549) and touchdowns (71).
Another shock came when E.J. Price, an offensive tackle from Georgia who seemed like a lock to stay close to home, picked a USC hat instead of one for Georgia or Auburn.
The 6'6", 311-pound Price is one of two players from the Peach State in USC's 2016 class along with receiver Josh Imatorbhebhe. He's the brother of tight end Daniel Imatorbhebhe, who sat out last season after transferring from Florida.
Seven of USC's signees will be able to participate in spring practice after enrolling for this semester, including the class' highest-rated player. Oluwole Betiku, the No. 2 player from California, committed to the Trojans on Christmas after previously being set to go to UCLA.
The 6'3”, 240-pound defensive end is originally from Nigeria, moving first to Maryland in 2013 and then coming to California along with mentor and former NFL star Lavar Arrington. Depending on how he develops, he could end up working on the edge or moving to linebacker with the Trojans.
Four other early enrollees were 4-star prospects, including two of the six receivers USC brought in. Imatorbhebhe and Michael Pittman, who are 6'2" and 6'4", respectively, can help the Trojans prepare for the inevitable departure of JuJu Smith-Schuster to the NFL draft after the 2016 season.
Sleeper of the class
Connor Murphy was among the players who Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh tried to recruit via a “sleepover,” but it wasn't enough to sway the 4-star Phoenix prospect from signing with USC. He could end up being the jewel of the 2016 class if he's able to keep growing into his 6'7", 250-pound body.
"[He] has all of the tools to be a big-time player," Scout.com's Jason Jewell wrote. "Still developing and raw physically, but the future is bright as he continues to grow."
Murphy has the versatility to get used at multiple spots on the defensive line or get moved to offense in the future.
Recruiting information courtesy of 247Sports unless otherwise noted.
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