The USC Trojans undefeated (shortened) regular season was overshadowed by a loss in the Pac-12 championship game, but bringing home the No. 1 player in the 2021 class is a step in the right direction.

The Trojans are losing key players to the NFL draft, but there are a lot of local athletes that will be ready to fill the spots.

Head coach Clay Helton pulled together a No. 8-ranked class in the nation, compared to last year’s ranking of No. 64 in the nation.

The biggest name leaving for the NFL is the consensus All-American Talanoa Hufanga — the Pac-12 Pat Tillman Defensive Player of the Year as well as first-team selections from ESPN, The Athletic, USA Today, Sporting News, the Walter Camp Football Foundation, and the Associated Press. Pro Football Focus named him to the second-team, but that’s just a horrible snub.

In order for him to receive unanimous All-American honors, he has to be selected to a first-team by both the American Football Coaches Association and the Football Writers Association of America.

He’d be the first from USC since Marqise Lee in 2012. USC has 27 unanimous All-Americans in school history — so he would be in good company.

Also leaving is defensive tackle Marlon Tuipulotu and cornerback Olaijah Griffin.

Tuipulotu was a three-year starter and had 12 solo tackles, 2 sacks, and a forced fumble this past season with his past two seasons showing big numbers as well. Griffin was the Trojans’ top cornerback this season and finished with 12 solo tackles, one interception, and three pass deflections — usually drawing the opponent’s best receiver.

The biggest recruit of the class — Korey Foreman — had many options to choose from. He could’ve gone to Clemson, Alabama, Georgia, LSU, or any of the other 20-plus schools that offered him a scholarship.

The five-star recruit from Centennial in Corona, Calif. — who is also the No. 1 overall player and best overall at the defensive end position — decided that he would rather stay close to home and go to USC.

247Sports compares him to New Orleans Saints’ defensive end Cameron Jordan. The scout Charles Power said Foreman “has the skill set to be an ideal edge-setting strong-side defensive end but could potentially reach the size where he could play multiple spots along the defensive line depending on scheme and down and distance.”

They also rank his athleticism and frame at a 10 out of 10.

The 6-foot-5-inch edge rusher made the MaxPreps Junior All-American first team, All-California first team, as well as the All-CIF Division 1 and LA Times All-Area teams as a junior in 2019. He finished the season with 32 tackles, 5 sacks, a forced fumble, and a deflection. He was a part of the fifth-ranked team in California and a top-20 in the nation and helped them to a 9-3 overall record and a CIF Southern Section Division 1 state semifinals appearance. Two of the team’s losses came from top-two-ranked teams in Mater Dei and St. John Bosco.

Since California isn’t likely having high school football this season, he won’t be playing his senior year and will be on the football field with the Trojans sooner than everyone else.

Foreman tweeted that he signed his letter of intent on December 16th but didn’t want to make the decision public until January 2nd at the All-American Bowl.

Foreman will be joined by three others in his class on the defensive line — Jay Toia from Grace Brethren, Colin Mobley from DeMatha Catholic in Hyattsville, Maryland, and Ishmael Sopsher, who is coming to USC as a transfer from Alabama.

Sopsher spent the past two seasons as a defensive lineman but only appeared in one game. He was able to redshirt his freshman season so he still has three years of eligibility left. He made the 2020 SEC First-Year Academic Honor Roll, so his grades are a good selling point, but his stand-out 2018 senior year at Amite High in Louisiana shows some upside.

The linebacker position is in good hands with current players on the rosters, but Julien Simon from Lincoln in Tahoma, Washington can be a good addition to the squad.

The 4-star recruit is ranked eighth among outside linebackers and 247Sports compares him to Jacksonville Jaguars’ Myles Jack and says he has position versatility to play linebacker or safety on defense similar to Hufanga’s role late last season.

The 6-foot-2 linebacker was selected to the MaxPreps Junior All-American second team as a junior in 2019 playing linebacker, receiver, and running back. He had 55 tackles — five for a loss and two sacks — plus four interceptions — two pick-six — 10 deflections, and a fumble recovery on defense.

Like Foreman, and others in California entering their senior season, Simon will likely not be able to play football until he gets to USC.

The defensive back positions are pretty loaded in this class, and all of them are four-star recruits.

Prophet Brown from Monterey Trail in Elk Grove, Xamarion Gordon from Warren in Downey, Ceyair Wright from Loyola in LA, Calen Bullock from John Muir in Pasadena, Anthony Beavers, Jr. from Narbonne in Harbor City, and Jaylin Smith from Bishop Alemany in Mission Hills are all California athletes joining the USC team — and all from LA except for Brown who is from the Sacramento area.

Wright, who hasn’t signed his letter of intent with USC yet, is the only player in the defensive backs bunch ranked in the top-100 at No. 77 in the nation. Wright, Bullock, and Beavers are the only three to be ranked in the top-10 in their positions.

Wright is ranked sixth among cornerbacks in the class and 247Sports compares him to Minnesota Vikings’ cornerback Xavier Rhodes due to his frame and top-end speed. On top of his experience on the football field, Wright is a track standout with a 10.84 time in his 100-meter dash and ran on Loyola’s state-winning 4-by-400-meter relay team last season as a junior.

Wright’s Loyola Cubs finished the season with a 6-7 overall record and played tough opponents in the Mission League. They were able to pull together some playoff wins in the Southern Section Division 4 but lost to San Juan Hills in the championship game at home.

Bullock is ranked ninth among the athlete position and 247Sports compares him to New Orleans Saints’ safety Marcus Williams because of his length and jumping ability as well as his ability to make plays as a defensive back.

Bullock’s John Muir Mustangs finished the season at 11-3 overall and 5-1 in the Pacific division. They put together wins to reach the Southern Section Division 11 championship but lost in the final game on the road. He finished his junior year as a member of the Cal-Hi Sports All-State Juniors second team and on the All-CIF Divison 11 team with 45 tackles — one of them a sack — plus six interceptions and three deflections on defense.

Beavers is ranked tenth among the athlete position and 247Sports says he’s a smart, high IQ hybrid type of player who has the frame to form into a linebacker.

Beavers is a Baldwin Hills native that started playing high school football at Serra in Gardena before transferring to Narbonne in Harbor City for his junior year. As a junior, he had 13 tackles — two for a loss — plus one interception, three deflections, a fumble recovery, and a forced fumble.

Beavers is a part of the 2020 PrepStar Dream Team and transferred to St. Bernard in Playa del Rey for his senior year but might not be able to play football until he gets on campus at USC.

Another addition to the team with this recruiting class is Xavion Alford, a safety transferring to SC from Texas.

Alford appeared in four games for the Longhorns last season and finished with 4 solo tackles. In high school, he was an All-American and All-State honoree at Shadow Creek in Pearland, Texas, and he was selected to participate in the 2020 All-American Bowl. He missed all of his senior year due to an injury in the first game of the season.

He can contribute right away to the USC defense as soon as he gets on campus.

Former USC linebacker Palaie Gaoteote IV — also known as EA — hit the NCAA transfer portal towards the end of last season after playing three seasons with the Trojans — and with two years of eligibility left in his career. His career thus far has been plagued with injuries.

Among the nationally ranked top-200 players on the 247Sports list, only a handful haven’t signed their letter of intent.

EA’s younger brother Ma’a Gaoteote — who is an outside linebacker in the 2021 class and ranked No. 155 nationally — committed to USC in 2018 but de-committed in 2020 and signed with Michigan State soon after.

Five-star recruit J.T. Tuimoloau from Eastside Catholic in Sammamish, Washington is a top-three ranked player and the second-best defensive end in the class. He hasn’t made a decision on where he’s committing to, but Alabama and Ohio State are at the top. Among the 20-plus offers he’s received, USC is on the list but not really in the mix.

247Sports compares him to Pittsburgh Steelers’ defensive tackle Cameron Hayward.

Four-star recruit Raesjon Davis from Mater Dei in Santa Ana is a strong outside linebacker for the Trojans to add to the team, and as 247Sports predicts, he is likely to commit to USC soon. They are comparing him to Kansas City Chiefs’ linebacker Darron Lee due to his versatility and ability to cover like a safety.

Other four-star recruits still up for grabs are defensive tackle Tywone Malone from Bergen Catholic in Oradell, New Jersey, and safety Terrion Arnold from John Paul II Catholic in Tallahassee, Florida.

Malone has interest from Ole Miss, Texas A&M, and Florida State, among others, and 247Sports predicts he will land at Ole Miss, but USC is still in the mix. Arnold has offers from over 40 schools, including Alabama, Florida, and Georgia — with 247Sports predicting he’ll end up at Florida — but his offer from USC is still valid and he could change his mind.

The list is likely to change, whether someone on the list decides that they want to find something better, or more defensive weapons will be added to the list. It’s unlikely that it’ll change before the official signing day for high school athletes.

It looks like the Transfer Portal is getting some good names on it as well, so additions can come from there. All of the options are open.

National Signing Day is on February 3rd. Expect the four-star and five-star athletes who haven’t signed a letter of intent to announce their picks in a big way.

Ahmad Akkaoui

Author Ahmad Akkaoui

Ahmad is a sportswriter from Pasadena, Calif. who has been a fan of LA sports for as long as he can remember. He has some pretty unpopular opinions – Kurt Warner is overrated, Reggie Bush didn’t deserve to lose his Heisman, and the best high school athletes in the nation come from Los Angeles. Prove him wrong. Right now is the best time to be a fan of sports in Los Angeles, and the teams are just getting started. Ahmad plays almost every sport, but despite his confidence, he’s not very good at any of them.

More posts by Ahmad Akkaoui

Join The Discussion!

LAFB Network 2020