In the two short months since he was hired, Steve Sarkisian may already have turned recently troubled USC around.
On Wednesday’s National Signing Day, Sarkisian kept two of the nation’s top recruits in California, netting the Trojans gifted defensive back Adoree Jackson and safety JuJu Smith.
With five players leaving early for the NFL, Sarkisian and his staff mainly focused on boosting the offensive line and secondary, as well as adding more top flight targets for the passing game.
Sarkisian only had 15 scholarships to use this year in the final season for USC under NCAA sanctions for troulbes that seem a lifetime ago. The Trojans signed 19 players on Thursday, including four who are already enrolled in classes, and four who are from out-of-state.
Each player will be integral in Sarkisian’s first season, but could lay the foundation for a new title run for the Trojans.
Jackson represents the best of both worlds, recording 1,450 yards receiving and 12 touchdowns, along with six interceptions at corner back for Junipero Serra High School, and there's talk he could fill both roles for th Trojans as well. He reportedly chose USC over UCLA and Oregon, and could make a run at the 2016 Olympics as a sprinter.
Smith was the No. 2 ranked safety in the country coming out of Long Beach Poly, and picked the Trojans over Alabama, Oregon, Notre Dame, and Ohio State among many others. At 6-foot-1, 206 lbs, Smith and Jackson could make the Trojans pass defense even more dominant than last year’s squad that ranked second in the Pac-12.
The Trojans also signed receiver Rahshead Johnson from Cabrillo HS and hyper athletic tight end Bryce Dixon, to help a passing offense that was 10th in the Pac-12 with 227.1 yards per game and only 20 touchdowns all year.
Quarterback Jalen Greene, a teammate of Jackson’s at Serra, highlights the group of early graduates. Dubbed a dual-threat passer, the lefty Greene has shown excellent accuracy and consistent in the pocket and could potentially challenge Cody Kessler next season.
USC finished 10-4 overall last season, overcoming the firing of Lane Kiffin and the eventually departure of interim head coach Ed Ogeron after Sarkisian was hired. The defense played very well in the second half of the season, but offensively the Trojans were challenged, ranking 61st in the nation in points per game and 59th overall in rushing.
The full list of USC signees is below.
JuJu Smith, S, Long Beach Poly, Long Beach, Calif.
Adoree Jackson, CB, Junipero Serra High School, Gardena, Calif.
Jonathan Lockett, CB, Mater Dei HS, Bellflower, Calif.
Uchenna Nwosu, LB, Narbonne HS, Carson, Calif.
John Plattenburg, DB, Lamar, HS, Houston,Texas
Olajuwon Tucker, LB, Serra HS, Harbor City, Calif.
Lamont Simmons, DB, Raines HS, Jacksonville, FL
Bryce Dixon TE, St. Bonaventure High School, Ventura, Calif.
Viane Talmalvao, OG, Centennial HS, Moreno Valley, Calif.
Toa Lobendahn, OG, La Habra HS La Habra Calif.
Chris Brown, OT, Loyola HS, Los Angeles, Calif.
Malik Dorton, DE/OL, St. John Bosco HS, Los Angeles, Calif.
Rahshead Johnson, WR, Cabrillo High School Long Beach, Calif.
Ajene Harris, ATH, Crenshaw HS, Los Angeles, Calif.
Damien Mama, OL, St. John Bosco HS, Bellflower, Calif.
Claude Pelon, DL, Mesa CC, Orlando, FL
Don Hill, OLB/DE, Timberline HS, Boise, ID
Jordan Austin, OL, Claremont HS, Claremont, Calif.
Jalen Greene, QB, Junipero Serra HS, Gardena, Calif.