-by Braden Gall (@AthlonBraden)
Athlon Sports continues its Class of 2011 national team recruiting rankings today with the No. 4 class in the nation.
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4. USC Trojans (30 signees – 6 AC100)
So much for NCAA violations slowing the Trojan machine on the recruiting trail. So how can a team with 10 less scholarships per season sign 30 prospects? First, nine will count back a year (2010) as they enrolled early. Second, USC only enrolled 14 new players last fall, giving them some extra space for this group. And Lane Kiffin will need it.
The quality and quantity of this class is astounding as Kiffin signed 15 nationally rated recruits – including the nation’s No. 1 wide receiver (George Farmer) and two of the top ten quarterback prospects in Athlon Consensus 100 near-misses Max Wittek and Cody Kessler. Another AC100 wideout, Victor Blackwell (a teammate of Wittek's at famed Mater Dei H.S.), and massive receiver Junior Pomee (6'3", 240) should give whomever is throwing the football for USC plenty of talented targets. Considering the skill class Kiffin landed a year ago (Robert Woods, Dillon Baxter, Kyle Prater, etc), USC should be in no need of playmakers on offense.
Kings Academy's Amir Carlisle is technically the only running back in this class. His big-play ability - he averaged 10.9 yards per carry on 187 attempts for 2,037 yards as a senior - should be a welcome addition to the Trojan backfield.
Six offensive lineman add tremendous depth to the offense. Cyrus Hobbi and the massive Aundrey Walker (6'5", 360) spearhead this group which could be as talented as the Tyron Smith-Matt Kalil group from 2008.
Four highly-touted linebackers and six elite defensive lineman replenish the recently thinned-out defensive front. The front-seven, and subsequent porous rushing defense, might be the biggest reason for the recent downturn in Trojan wins over the last two seasons. This 10-man group, led by AC100 nose guard Antwaun Woods and three nationally rated linebackers, should help restock the cupboard up front on defense.
A trio of athletes will help bolster one backfield – whether that is in the secondary or offensive skill corps. Look for some of these names to get a long look in the defensive backfield as only one true freshman defensive back signed in this class.
After a long run of national success under Pete Carroll, Kiffin appears to have focused his attention inward. Yes, he still plucked star athletes from Kentucky, Florida and Ohio but 22 of his 30 signees hail from inside the Trojan's home state of California.
No. 6 George Farmer, WR (Gardena, Calif.)
No. 35 Greg Townsend Jr, DE (Beverly Hills, Calif.)
No. 64 Marqise Lee, ATH (Gardena, Calif.)
No. 70 Cyrus Hobbi, OL (Scottsdale, Ariz.)
No. 71 Victor Blackwell, WR (Santa Ana, Calif. - pictured)
No. 99 Antwaun Woods, DT (Woodland Hills, Calif.)
No. 103 Max Wittek, QB (Santa Ana, Calif.)
No. 108 Cody Kessler, QB (Bakersfield, Calif.)
No. 121 Amir Carlisle, RB (Sunnyvale, Calif.)
No. 124 Aundrey Walker, OL (Cleveland, Ohio)
No. 130 Tre Madden, LB (Mission Viejo, Calif.)
No. 133 Lamar Dawson, LB (Danville, Ky.)
No. 141 Christian Heyward, DT (San Diego, Calif.)
No. 183 Anthony Sarao, LB (Absecon, N.J.)
No. 266 Javorius Allen, ATH (Tallahassee, Fla.)