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USC signing-day rewind: Five observations

Here are my top five observations from USC’s wild (and wildly successful) signing day:

1. Mamba musings
The biggest disappointment came at the end of the day when Crenshaw’s De’Anthony Thomas confirmed the rumors and switched from USC to Oregon. It hurts, no doubt, especially since the Ducks have ascended to the top of the conference and have a two-game winning streak against the Trojans (even if some believe Oregon is still just the flavor-of-the-month). But after USC already secured a stream of four-star prospects, losing one five-star didn’t feel like a devastating blow. Missing out last year on Seantrel Henderson — who played a position of such great need — was much more damaging. Speaking of positions, if the 5-9, 160-pound Thomas wants to play in the NFL, he ought to be playing cornerback. Too bad he doesn’t realize it.

2. Kids these days …
The strangest development happened in the afternoon, when Lakewood tackle Torian White shocked even his own family by grabbing a USC hat on‘s live-stream broadcast … and then reverting back to his original choice of UCLA. (White must be a good athlete; not many tackles are capable of running a double-reverse). What I don’t get — and maybe it’s because my teen years were in the ’80s — is how some of these kids can be so indecisive all the way up until the final moment. Where one chooses to go to college — especially if one is an elite athlete — is a critical, possibly life-altering decision. You’d think after having so much time to analyze all the options that there wouldn’t be any doubt. Yet White goes from UCLA to USC to UCLA in the course of an afternoon, and Cyrus Kouandjio commits to Auburn on national TV but feels so uncertain about it that he doesn’t submit his letter of intent. It’s their life, and they should be absolutely certain before signing their names. But how about reaching that conclusion before signing day?

3. Pros > cons
Aside from Thomas, USC cleaned up in California. But where Lane Kiffin and his staff really impressed was out of state. From New Jersey to Ohio to Kentucky to Florida to Arizona, USC proved it’s still a major player on the national scene, even if its win-loss record the past two seasons suggests otherwise. Why would those kids come to USC? Besides the education, the weather and the, uh, scenery, one of the biggest draws remains USC’s prowess as an NFL factory. Players with NFL dreams know that if they want to play in the league, few schools will prepare them better than USC. It also doesn’t hurt that Kiffin’s staff is loaded with NFL experience.

4. Filling the gaps
Not only did he reach far and wide for talent, but Kiffin filled needs along the way. Offensive linemen? Check. Linebackers? Check. Defensive linemen? Check. Although the OL crew lacks a pure left tackle, USC desperately needed an infusion of bodies and talent, and it appears to have secured both. Kiffin was giddy (at least for him) about the prospect of having multiple options in the front seven with which to mix, match and experiment. “That’s something we haven’t had in the last two years here as you look at the classes, so that was very critical,” said Kiffin, adding that the improved depth should enhance the quality of the scout team as well “and make us better all around.”

5. Looking ahead
How much better did USC become Wednesday? Well, the Trojans are unquestionably deeper. They were operating with about 70 scholarship players last season; next season they’ll have 80 (81 if the mysterious case of Steve Dillon gets resolved and he comes aboard). Practices will be more competitive (and might even feature tackling!). The key will be the offensive line. If the line can protect Matt Barkley, the offense has a chance to be potent. If it can’t, all that skill-position talent USC has stockpiled will go to waste. Wednesday’s haul gives the Trojans more parts. How they all fit together will be among the most compelling storylines heading into the 2011 season.




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