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February 4, 2009Before the sun rose over Heritage Hall Wednesday, USC head coach Pete Carroll had an idea what his class was going to look like.
By the time to sun set, that list looked pretty different.
Carroll announced the Trojans' 17-man class Wednesday, and the names he rattled off made just as much news as the ones he didn't.
USC won some recruiting battles in the Southeast, receiving letters of intent from Columbus (GA) Carver four-star linebacker Jarvis Jones and Miami Gulliver Prep Frankie Telfort.
Four-star Tallahassee (FL) Lincoln safety Jawanza Starling announced he'd attend USC, but as of Wednesday night, the staff hadn't received the faxed letter.
USC lost out on five-star linebackers Manti Te'o and Vontaze Burfict to Notre Dame and Arizona State, respectively. Offensive tackle Xavier Su'a Filo and longtime commit Randall Carroll picked UCLA.
"We were surprised in a couple of kids that we were recruiting and thought we had a good chance to get that, and for one reason or another, wound up going somewhere else," Carroll said. "We were surprised to land a couple of these kids from out of state, Jarvis and Frankie, and there are a couple of guys that we continue to recruit that are still out there that have yet to make a final decision."
Carroll could be alluding to five-star running back Bryce Brown and four-star receiver Orson Charles.
The guys Carroll did land Wednesday, though, all seem to fit a certain profile. They're athletic. They're fast. They're versatile.
"We have put together a diversified class that we needed to get," Carroll said. "We needed to get more on defense than offense this year. The guys that are in the class are such dynamic guys and have so much ability to add so much to the team, we're really excited."
Carroll addressed each player in the class.
The top-ranked player in USC's recruiting class didn't even sign a letter on Wednesday.
"Offensively, when you start off with the best player in the country at quarterback in Matt Barkley - and he's already here in school - that's an extraordinary boost to your class and a great starting point," Carroll said. "We're thrilled to have him here and he's already working and will be in the thick of the quarterback competition."
While USC lost Alshon Jeffery to South Carolina, it did pick up a LOI from De'Von Flournoy.
"He's a big-play guy with great speed - makes all kind of plays and is a terrific kick returner as well. He makes plays on defense as well," Carroll said. "We want him as a wide receiver in the Z spot, and we're really pumped about him. He's a track guy and very fast. He's explosive on the field and on film. I really love the way he plays."
USC also added a fullback in Simione Vehikite, something USC hadn't addressed in recent classes.
"It is the first time in a while where we've hit a fullback. We're thrilled about getting that done " Carroll said. "We've had a hard time finding guys that fit the bill, but Simi is one of those guys. He comes here with an opportunity to do that, of course, and also be a special teams kid because of all the work he's had at linebacker."
Four-star offensive tackle Kevin Graf's commitment wasn't in doubt as the deadline approached, Carroll said.
"I think he was coming to the eighth-grade camps when he was in fourth grade he was such a big kid. He's been around us forever," Carroll said. "He comes from an SC family. His brother (Derek) played here and his dad (Allan) played here, offensive linemen from the day they were born...
"He's one of the most complete players that we've had at the offensive line at this early age and a great deal of credit goes to his coaches of course, but also from the upbringing from his family and the camps, he's really well equipped and can vie for the best kid at his position with anyone in the country. We're really thrilled about him."
The Trojans also may have found Kristofer O'Dowd's replacement at center in one of the nation's top offensive guards, John Martinez.
"He grabbed our attention early on because he's an extraordinary effort guy," Carroll said. "He played very much like Jeff Byers did when he captured our attention long ago in that he finishes and runs down field and makes hits and shows great versatility to play all the positions on the line. But we talked to John from the beginning about being a center and he's championed the cause"
USC shored up some holes in special teams by signing kicker Jake Harfman.
"He comes from Mt. Sac and will definitely be able to compete on kickoffs, placekicks and punting," Carroll said. "What we do know is that Jake has an enormous leg and as we've grown accustomed to David Buehler and the big booming kicks, Jake does all of that."
But, the main emphasis in the 2009 recruiting class was defense.
"We lost a lot of kids that played a lot of football for us at linebacker and the rush spots," Carroll said. "We went hard there."
Carroll gushed about the James Boyd's signing, calling the four-star defensive end one of the most unique players he's recruited.
"We've never had a guy who could do that much coming to play defensive end here. I look back to all the guys we've had that have played so well and try to think of Kenechi (Udeze) being a quarterback or Lawrence Jackson being a leading scorer in basketball," Carroll said. "This is a very skilled athlete and we're really pumped about him that's he coming and looking forward to all the things he brings. He's a very well-rounded athlete."
USC also got five-star Devon Kennard's signature, beating out Texas and Cal.
"He can cover, he can rush and he's a great edge rush guy," Carroll said. "He can play one-on-one coverage on tight ends and shadow receivers when he has to. He's played on the offensive side of the ball. He's just a gifted player who has a tremendous upside and we think he's got a chance to help us right away and be a factor in our rush corps from the beginning."
Like Harfman, Hebron Fangupo followed the path from Mt. San Antonio to Troy.
"He's got really good quickness at the line of scrimmage. His initial quickness is there, a kind of explosion and play-making ability that you love," Carroll said. "It's coincidental that an opportunity opens up at the 3-technique with Fili (Moala) taking off. Here comes another 300-pound kid that can come in and fit the bill."
Kevin Greene, a three-star defensive end from San Francisco, could help USC a number of places.
"We've seen him run very, very fast. He's got great speed and size," Carroll said. "He could play defensive end and outside linebacker, he's got that kind of body type at 6-3, 237. He could play both and we'll see how he fits in. He runs so fast and gets up the field rushing the passer. You never have enough guys that can do that."
USC got another one of those guys in Jones.
"He's an all-around athlete - explosive, dynamic, an excellent basketball player and might have a chance to play on the basketball team. He's that dynamic," Carroll said. "He attacks and rushes up the field. He's a great blitzer and cover guy and we're ecstatic that we're able to get Jarvis.
"We think he'll have a chance to play and contribute and compete for playing time immediately when he gets here."
USC bolstered its linebacking corps with Telfort, and Carroll raved about the speedy Floridian.
"He's so explosive and is such a feisty kid. He's a kid that led their football team as the playcaller on defense," Carroll said. He's got an enormous understanding of defensive football and adjustments that would" knock you out - like way beyond anybody we've ever talked to about understanding how to make checks and audibles and how to change defenses. He talks like he's a junior or senior in college and maybe even more than that."
Another Trojan legacy, Marquis Simmons, inked with USC Wednesday. Simmons had been on USC's radar for some time.
"He's been a leading tackler and a guy that makes everything happen," Carroll said. "He's an obvious penetrator and a guy that blitzes very well. He's an outside speed guy and runs sideline to sideline and a kid we've watched grow up in the program."
The Trojans landed a major haul in the secondary, led by five-star Patrick Hall.
"We want to see him on the defensive side of the ball, but it won't take us long to continue to find ways and experiment with him in terms of getting the ball in his hands," Carroll said. "He's one of the fastest kids we've seen in a long time."
Byron Moore's path to Troy epitomized much of the 2009 recruiting season. Moore committed, decommitted and recommitted before signing Wednesday.
"He's got great ability, speed and is a dynamic player. He scores touchdowns from everywhere, catches passes, runs out of the backfield," Carroll said. "(He) played safety and corner in high school and is an extraordinarily gifted kid that gives us great diversity. He does all the things that you want a terrific football player to do. He's a big get."
Like Graf and Simmons, T.J. McDonald had family ties to USC, where his father, ex-NFL safety Tim McDonald, played.
"He's a gifted player and student, a great leader and just everything you're looking for. His dad played here at USC, Tim McDonald " Carroll said. "They are the spitting image of each other. They are the same size and stature and playmaking ability and leadership qualities and all those things."
The Trojans also may have found a Kevin Thomas-clone in four-star cornerback Torin Harris.
"He's a really, really gifted athlete," Carroll said. "He's one of those guys who can do a lot of stuff. We're going to feature him at a corner. He looks perfect."