1. Recruiting experts are projecting USC's class to be amongst the top-25 in the nation, and the best in the Pac-12. What recruit(s) do you feel ultimately swung USC in the right direction?
In this case, it simply took one commitment. 5-star recruit Adoree' Jackson is Nos. 6, 7 and 9 on the respective boards of Rivals, 247Sports and ESPN. USC wasn't supposed to land such a marquee product among the scholarship reductions, and yet it bids farewell to these dark ages with the flourish of a top-ten headliner.
The accumulated depth within the trenches and the abundance of athleticism surrounding them are what will trustingly pay dividends on the field, but Jackson aspires to be the next superstar face of storied Trojans secondaries, following in the footsteps of T.J. McDonald, Taylor Mays and Troy Polamalu. Additionally stabbing rival UCLA in the gut is always a nice bonus.
2. USC went heavy this year by adding five offensive line recruits in 2014. Do you feel this was the right move, and how impressed are you by the quality of talent coming in?
Coach Sarkisian stressed this strategy from the get-go. Upon being hired, LA Times' Gary Klein reported back in December that Sark "made the recruitment of offensive linemen a priority," and the five young men signed justify those words.
With Cody Kessler sacked 30 times in 2013 and particularly after the losses of Marcus Martin and Aundrey Walker, USC's offensive line trudged into Las Vegas more battered than a plate of Ed Orgeron's cookies. Consequently, it's refreshingly impressive to see Sark already walk his talk. Naturally, the next challenge is to say "Toa Lobendahn and Viane Talamaivao" five times fast.
3. The big three additions of Damien Mama, Adoree' Jackson and "JuJu" Smith made all the headlines but was your immediate impression of the signings, and what will these three bring to the table in the near future?
Acquiring this alleged Big Three manipulated USC's rumor mill for weeks. After witnessing the Trojans actually execute it-in their long awaited sendoff of sanctions, no less-it appears as though their bad "juju" is officially gone, as the allure of Southern California resumes its former post.
That being said, let's manage expectations and remember these are still unproven collegiate athletes, not quite an assemblage of touted veterans a la the Miami Heat. Each of them must adjust to the escalating speed and talent platform of college football and find footing in their respective facets of the team. Two-way hybrids Smith and Jackson face decisions as far as where they'll be predominantly lining up on the field, while Mama is included in the shuffling of an offensive line that should expectedly endure underclassmen growing pains early on. Nonetheless, morale and potential both realized significant boosts on Wednesday.
4. Steve Sarkisian mentioned that the current crop of runnings are loaded with depth, so acquiring another back was not on their radar. Do you support that decision, and what should we make of the ensuing RB competition?
Similar to the landscape of professional sports' free agency, a player returning from injury essentially assumes the role of an incoming recruit anyway. Amid the wavering health of 2013's roster, Justin Davis served as a quality spell back (6.8 YPC, 361 YDS, 6 TDS) before spraining his ankle halfway through the season. Now the sophomore looks to return to a versatile backfield filled with guys who each took advantage of their turns in the spotlight: spark plug Buck Allen, prototype Tre Madden and knuckleballer Ty Isaac.
So long as USC and durability amend their tainted relationship, Sark standing pat in the running back department will ultimately pan out. Of course, maintaining these bodies and managing their carries during Spring Football and throughout the season are primary keys of the Trojans' pending offensive success, in order for them to compete with the lethal plural-headed backfields of yore. Prioritizing the offensive line certainly helps, as well.
5. How impressed were you by the job Tee Martin and Clay Helton did working under the holiday dead period and an immediate coaching change, cutting recruiting time in half?
Such a figure (signing 12 of the 19 prospects after the coaching change) proves why the conservation of these two incumbent coordinators is Sarkisian's most pivotal and admirable coaching move. Their fresher experiences within the program pitched Trojan Pride seamlessly while the likes of Justin Wilcox and Tim Drevno settled onto their saddles.
Helton will continually strive to keep Sark honest, and Martin...well, the nation's No. 1 cornerback (per 247Sports) admittedly related strongest to the wide receivers guru. That's no coincidence. Stability and poise suffered mightily in Troy over the past few years, but Helton and Martin provide exactly that as USC slowly but surely trends upward.
6. What did you think of Adoree' Jackson's selection skit? Did the box live up to past expectations for dramatic unveilings?
As soon as Jackson stumbled on the LeBron James trademarked "taking my talents" line, it became evident that the endeavor would fall short. The NCAA hopes to collect the fine for copyright infringement in seven to ten business days. Also, I still cannot decide whether Adoree's father Christopher was more disappointed by his son's slighting of the SEC or his lukewarm Carrot Top impersonation.
I give Jackson the benefit of the doubt due to the on-field jovial charisma he showcased at the West Coast Bowl back in January. Jackson cherishes the Los Angeles lifestyle as much as USC appreciates his letter of intent (albeit tardy), but a few electives with the School of Dramatic Arts will perform wonders for him in Hollywood.