USC football’s top 2023 recruiting targets by position: Setting up a busy summer
LOS ANGELES — From official visits to camps, recruiting takes the spotlight at USC once the calendar flips to June. As of Wednesday afternoon, the Trojans’ 2023 recruiting class sat at No. 9 nationally, per the 247Sports Composite, with a total of seven commitments, including three from five-star prospects.
Lincoln Riley and his staff are looking to add to that this summer, which makes now a good time for a position-by-position look at the main targets and priorities as the 2023 recruiting cycle heats up.
USC is settled here with five-star Los Alamitos (Calif.) commit Malachi Nelson. The Trojans will need to ensure he signs before turning their focus to the 2024 cycle. USC offered 2024 five-star Dylan Raiola and looked like the leader for a minute before he committed to Ohio State.
The Trojans have had their sights set on signing two high school running backs in this class and have hit that quota with commitments from a pair of Texas natives: four-star Quinten Joyner and three-star A’Marion Peterson.
Riley has hit this position hard since his arrival, landing commitments from two five-star prospects, Makai Lemon and Zachariah Branch, within a month of his hire. USC is also recruiting Lemon’s Los Alamitos teammate DeAndre Moore and five-star Florida native Brandon Innis.
Landing early commitments from two five-stars puts USC in a good position. The Trojans would be happy to add either Moore or Ennis, but if the class ends up just being Branch and Lemon, I don’t think there would be any panic on their part.
This position group, along with the defensive line, has been a focus for USC fans amid the program’s multi-year struggle to add elite players on the line of scrimmage.
The Trojans have yet to receive an offensive line commitment in the 2023 cycle. Five-star IMG Academy (Bradenton, Fla.) offensive lineman Francis Mauigoa is still a major priority for this coaching staff.
There are no blue-chip (four- or five-star) offensive linemen in the state of California according to 247Sports Composite rankings, so USC has to take a national approach to offensive line recruiting this cycle. Aside from Mauigoa, here are some out-of-state names to know: four-star Lucas Simmons, Clearwater Academy (Fla.); four-star Markis Deal, Naaman Forest (Garland, Tx.); three-star Elijah Paige, Pinnacle (Phoenix); three-star Micah Banuelos, Kennedy Catholic (Burien, Wash.).
This year’s Southern California offensive line class is not particularly deep to make up for its lack of top-end prospects, either. Two of USC’s main in-state targets hail from Northern California: Grant Union (Sacramento) three-star Aloni Noa and Santa Clara’s Amos Talalele.
The 2024 cycle might be more fruitful with Mater Dei (Santa Ana, Calif.) set to graduate two blue-chip offensive linemen in that class, DeAndre Carter and Brandon Baker.
Five-star Pinnacle (Phoenix) tight end Duce Robinson is the No. 1 player at the position and a major priority for USC. The Trojans have also been in the mix for four-star Folsom (Calif.) tight end Walker Lyons.
There seems to be increasing buzz for three-star tight end Kade Eldridge out of Washington, but landing him would not alter USC’s pursuit of Robinson or Lyons.
USC has to recruit better along the defensive line if it’s going to return to the top of the Pac-12. Five-star St. John Bosco (Bellflower, Calif.) prospect Matayo Uiagalelei would be a major addition to this class. He’s been on campus several times since USC hired Riley, but prepare for an extremely competitive recruiting battle down the stretch, with Oregon defensive coordinator Tosh Lupoi leading the charge for the Ducks.
USC will look nationally to add talent here, but these three-star prospects will be worth monitoring along the way: Sierra Canyon’s (Chatsworth, Calif.) Cameron Brandt, Cy Woods’ (Cypress, Tx.) Terrance Green and Liberty’s (Bakersfield, Calif.) Grant Buckey.
Another position where USC needs to upgrade its talent level. At outside linebacker, four-star prospect Malik Bryant is a target, as is three-star Braylen Shelby, along with a few other national prospects.
Three-star Lincoln (San Diego, Calif.) prospect David Peevy is a bit raw, but he’s been on campus a few times and is a target for USC. On Wednesday, the Trojans added Utah transfer Carson Tabaracci, who will be a freshman this fall. We’ll see whether that has any impact on how many players they add at the position this cycle.
The Trojans have already landed two defensive back commitments in this cycle: four-star prospect Braxton Myers and three-star safety Christian Pierce. USC has recruited this position intensely the past two seasons and will have a very young group in the secondary this fall.
Four-star prospects Christian Gray and Micah Tease and three-star cornerback Maliki Crawford are all slated to take visits this summer. Crawford is a bit raw, but the 6-foot-3, 180-pound corner has an intriguing frame.
Four-star Serra (Gardena, Calif.) cornerback Rodrick Pleasant is turning heads right now with his speed on the track, and he is being recruited by USC, but I don’t know whether the Trojans’ pursuit of the local product is as intense as some on social media and message boards want or are making it out to be.
And as a reminder, this is the first class without the initial counter limit of 25, so the only restriction USC faces will be the 85-man scholarship limit. Strategies such as sticking to certain numbers per position group for each class may be getting thrown out the window now.
The Trojans have been creative with their roster rebuild under Riley, and the summer should provide a key window into how he approaches the final six-plus months of this cycle.
(Photo: Gary Coronado / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)
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Texas Ax26amp;M Extends Lead on No.
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Alabama Pulls in No.Alabama. 24 Verbal Commitments, 13 SI99 Members. ... Texas Ax26amp;M. 25 Verbal Commitments, 11 SI99 Members. ... Georgia. 27 Verbal Commitments, 9 SI99 Members. ... Texas. 27 Verbal Commitments, 6 SI99 Members. ... Ohio State. ... Penn State. ... Notre Dame. ... Michigan.
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