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On Saturday, USC earned its fifteenth commitment of the 2017 recruiting class. Defensive tackle James Lynch out of Round Rock, TX, pledged to the Trojans, lifting SC’s class to 12th in 247 Sports’ national recruiting rankings. Although the news was widely overshadowed by the naming of Max Browne as starting quarterback for the 2016 season, Lynch is a nice pickup for the Trojans. Previously committed to TCU, Lynch is a three star recruit with a 247 sports composite rating of 86.1 that puts him as the 547th best player in the nation and 42nd best defensive tackle.
Listed at 6’4.5" and 282 pounds, Lynch has prototypical size for a defensive tackle. The area that the USC coaching staff likely found most intriguing is the athleticism Lynch possesses in his frame. According to Lynch’s Hudl profile, he ran a 4.97 40 yard dash—an excellent time for a 280 lb. defensive tackle that is still in high school. Lynch puts this athletic ability to use with a quick first step. He is able to quickly get out of his stance and get the first punch on his opposing offensive lineman, allowing him to drive his blocker backwards. In addition, Lynch’s impressive straight line speed sees him operate on kickoff coverage as a 280 lb. wrecking ball similar to how the Trojans used former fullback/linebacker Soma Vainuku. Lynch’s athleticism will give the coaching staff the flexibility to play him at multiple spots on the defensive line as well as on special teams.
Operating as a 3 technique in Round Rock High School’s 3-4 base defense, Lynch has a basic familiarity with many of the concepts he will be implementing for Clancy Pendergast. The Trojan defensive coordinator runs a slightly different 5-2 scheme, but the assignments for the down lineman in Pendergast’s defense are similar. As previously mentioned, Lynch has an impressive array of natural abilities that should see him contribute at multiple spots on the defensive line. The defensive end position is usually reserved for slightly smaller players than Lynch will likely become a couple years down the road, but his quickness should allow him to fill both the defensive end and tackle spots.
One downside to Lynch is his slightly thinner frame that could prevent him from becoming big enough to occupy the nose tackle position. The Trojans’ three nose tackles are all about 320-330 pounds, and it is questionable whether or not Lynch has the frame to handle that weight. As a result, Lynch could be placed in a role similar to that of Rasheem Green who primarily plays defensive tackle but can also contribute as a defensive end if needed.
Lynch is not a highly touted recruit as a mid-three star prospect who has not been offered by many Big 12 powerhouses such as Oklahoma, Texas, and Baylor. His lack of an elite rating can largely be attributed to the overall rawness in his game. Lynch’s main form of attack is to simply bull rush his opponents. His quick first step allows him to quickly get leverage and then use his size to easily manhandle offensive lineman. Unfortunately, Lynch will need to do a lot more in college where he will be facing players of equal size that are just as quick off the line. This will require Lynch to develop much better usage of his hands and body to generate leverage. His quickness is a trait that cannot be taught, but the more technical aspects of being a defensive lineman do not appear to be in Lynch’s toolbox just yet. Lynch will require time before he fills out his frame and works on the technique of being a defensive lineman, but with good coaching and a college weight program, these requirements are realistic goals.
Many Trojan fans may be tired of seeing USC receive commitments from multiple three star recruits rather than USC’s usual four and five star commits. However, most of these players appear to be under the radar gems that have the potential to be high quality players. Lynch certainly qualifies as a player of this type where he will need to spend a redshirt year and perhaps another year or two after that before becoming a significant contributor. With the Trojans no longer under sanctions and now up over 80 scholarship players, depth and immediate contributions are no longer a huge concern for the coaching staff. This will allow players such as Lynch to spend time in the program learning how to become an excellent football player before they are required to play important snaps in college. This strategy will likely result in some players that cause you to scratch your head as to why they were offered, but many of them could pay huge dividends down the road if Clay Helton’s staff can do what they are paid to do: coach.
If Lynch can get the coaching he needs, his upside as a defensive lineman with excellent natural ability and technique combined with versatility is an intriguing outcome.