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5 Newcomers to Watch for the USC Trojans in 2018

USC Trojans

USC Trojans

USC coaches have excelled at finishing out recruiting cycles with a flourish, and 2018 is no exception. Clay Helton and company landed the Pac-12 Conference's highest-rated signing class, a crop ranked No. 4 nationally according to 247Sports, and did so with a huge National Signing Day.

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Instant impact newcomers have made their presences felt at USC routinely, and from the latest crew of incoming talent are several fresh faces ready to continue that trend.

JT Daniels, QB

The competition to replace quarterback Sam Darnold will be the talk of the offseason around USC, thanks to 5-star signee Daniels' decision to reclassify for 2018.

Once ranked the No. 1 quarterback of the 2019 class, Daniels opted to graduate early and reclassify for this year's signing class. That will put the product of nearby Mater Dei — a prep powerhouse that produced other USC quarterbacks like Matt Leinart and Matt Barkley — into immediate competition with returning reserve, Matt Fink.

Palaie Gaoteote, LB

USC's crop of linebacker signees in 2018 has the potential to match some of the outstanding units that powered the Trojans in the late 2000s. The crown jewel of that group is Gaoteote, a 5-star prospect and the top-rated linebacker recruit in the nation out of top-flight Las Vegas high school program, Bishop Gorman.

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Gaoteote is an ideal understudy to returning captain Cameron Smith, but the freshman could also help fill some of the massive void 2017 star Uchenna Nwosu left with his departure.

Olaijiah Griffin, DB

Secondary coach Ronnie Bradford scored a huge win for USC's position in local recruiting, keeping Griffin at home. Griffin played at Mission Viejo in southern Orange County, one of the premier public school programs in the state. He drew heavy interest from the SEC during this recruiting cycle, paying visits to both Alabama and Auburn in the days prior to National Signing Day.

Griffin bolsters a secondary that was inconsistent in 2017, due primarily to depth issues. That will no longer be the case, with Griffin headlining an impressive corps of new defensive backs joining returners Iman Marshall and Jack Jones.

Amon-Ra St. Brown, WR

Mater Dei High School was good to USC in this recruiting cycle. Along with a 5-star quarterback, the Orange County-based school also sends a 5-star wide receiver into the mix.

St. Brown has the potential to be the same kind of playmaker as outgoing star Deontay Burnett. He joins Tyler Vaughns and Michael Pittman Jr., two breakthrough performers a season ago, adding some speed as a potential slot threat.

Isaac Taylor-Stuart, DB

There's some symbolic sentiment to be drawn from Taylor-Stuart's National Signing Day commitment to USC. The highly touted cornerback comes from Helix High School in San Diego, the same prep program that produced 2005 Heisman Trophy winner Reggie Bush.

Taylor-Stuart chose USC over Alabama, marking another milestone win for Bradford and the secondary. Taylor-Stuart's size (6-2, 190) gives the Trojans' defensive back rotation another big body in the vein of Marshall, which will help USC against opponents with physical pass catchers like those employed at Stanford.

— Written by Kyle Kensing, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and a sportswriter in Southern California. Kensing is publisher of TheOpenMan.com. Follow him on Twitter @kensing45.