Football

USC football sees recruiting success after dead period

USC added two top recruits in the 2022 recruiting class and a couple of transfers that will bring experience and depth.

The opening game of the 2021 football season against San José State is still three months away, but USC football has made the news with its efforts on the recruiting trail in the past week.

When the NCAA dead period, which bans players from taking official visits to schools and interacting in-person with coaching staffs, was lifted on June 1, USC quickly got to work bringing top recruits to Los Angeles for official visits.

The Trojans instantly capitalized off the increase in recruiting access.

On June 15, USC received commitment from five-star defensive lineman Mykel Williams from Columbus, Georgia. Williams, who visited USC on June 11, is the second five-star commit for USC in the 2022 recruiting class along with Domani Jackson, a cornerback from Mater Dei High School in Orange County.

The commitment comes just days after William’s official visit to campus where he got to meet with the coaches, tour campus and spend time with current Trojans.

“One, the coaching staff, I love the coaching staff,” Williams said to 247 Sports on what convinced him to commit to USC. “Two, the players on the team. They want to be great and want to win and do something big. Three, the fans and the atmosphere; it’s electric. Every time I talk about USC on Twitter and Instagram it just feels great.”

Williams’ commitment was not easy for USC to land. Also vying for Williams were top SEC programs including Alabama, Florida and Georgia — the in-state national title contender. Williams marks only the second five-star recruit from outside of California to commit to the Trojans since 2016.

USC continued its success in recruiting out-of-state players just five days later on Sunday when four-star cornerback Jaeden Gould from Oradell, New Jersey committed to the Trojans. Heading into June it seemed almost certain that Gould was headed to Penn State, the other finalist in Gould’s recruitment process. But after his official visit to USC on June 4 and a visit to Penn State a week later, the 247 Crystal Balls for Gould flipped from Penn State to the Trojans, and his commitment to USC followed on Father’s Day.

Gould said his official visit made a huge impact on his commitment.

“Hanging out with the players and things like that, I really could see myself fitting in,” he told 247 Sports. “I really felt like California is a great place to live, and USC is a very good place as well.”

Two days after Gould committed, three-star running back DeAnthony Gatson out of Newton, Texas chose the Trojans. The three commitments in the past eight days contribute to a 2022 recruiting class that is now ranked 12th nationally and first in the Pac 12.

The additions of Williams, Gould and Gatson highlight the increased effort USC has placed in recruiting. Since 2020, when the Trojans’ recruiting class was ranked 64th nationally and last in the Pac-12, they have increased their recruiting staff with the hires of Jeff Martin as director of scouting and player relations and Armond Hawkins Jr. as director of high school relations. USC has also added coaches who are strong recruiters like cornerback coach Donte Williams and defensive line coach Vic So’oto.

With recruits finally allowed to visit campus, the coaches and recruiting staff are getting an opportunity to show their full ability to attract top players.

Four-star defensive lineman Christen Miller could be the next recruit to commit to the Trojans this summer. Miller currently has four 247 Crystal Balls pointed toward USC after he took an official visit with Williams on June 11.

While the recruiting news has stolen the headlines throughout June with official visits, USC also made news in the transfer portal on June 14 when it added redshirt sophomore running back Darwin Barlow from TCU.

Barlow, who is also from Newton, Texas, ran for 428 yards and four touchdowns during the 2020 season and will provide depth and talent at the running back position, a place where USC struggled during the 2020 season. Last season the Trojans rushed for 97.3 yards per game and just 3.2 yards per carry both lowest in the conference. Barlow and senior running back Keaontay Ingram, who transferred from Texas, should help with both of those stats.

Over the weekend USC also picked up an Oklahoma State transfer, redshirt freshman quarterback Brendan Costello. With the starting quarterback spot already filled by junior quarterback Kedon Slovis, Costello will battle for the backup spot against freshman four-star quarterbacks Jaxson Dart and Miller Moss.

Costello marks the ninth transfer that has committed to USC, as they look to add pieces that will help them contend for a Pac-12 title and potentially a playoff berth.