WeAreSC staffers Garry Paskwietz and Erik McKinney, along with Greg Biggins from ESPN's RecruitingNation, take a look back at how USC fared as the early signing period opened this week.
Give your thoughts on how USC did during the mid-year signing period this week
Garry Paskwietz: I think you have to call this a good week for the Trojans. With the upcoming scholarship restrictions, the USC coaches have to pay particular attention to the details of their available rides. With fewer rides, you need to fill every available slot -- you can't miss on a few guys and have leftover scholarships that aren't being put to use. Also, any scholarship that can be given during mid-year is a bonus if it can count against the previous class.
These restrictions can sometimes be tough. There aren't a lot of players looking to enroll at the spring semester, and this year the Trojans were hoping to get a few from both the high school and junior college ranks. Of those who are looking to enroll, the USC coaches needed to make sure they were able to contribute if they would be taking up one of the 75 roster spots.
Not only did the coaches fill the available spots, but they did it with some pretty good players. Gerald Bowman (Los Angeles/Pierce College) is probably the guy who can make the quickest impact. He's a physical safety who should have no problem making the transition to the FBS level. I thought the addition of Morgan Breslin (Walnut Creek, Calif./Diablo Valley JC) Wednesday was a pleasant surprise. With the departure of Nick Perry, there was a void of experience on one side of the D-line, but that issue could be helped with the addition of an experienced pass rusher like Breslin.
There are a lot of high hopes for linebacker Scott Starr (Norco, Calif./Norco), and he will be raring to go for his shot at playing for the Trojans. There won't be as many immediate hopes for Chad Wheeler (Santa Monica, Calif./Santa Monica), so for now it's best to stick him in the weight room for a couple years to let him develop. Devante Wilson is also expected to enroll in spring, and he brings another element of speed as a pass rusher.
Erik McKinney: When defensive end Arik Armstead backed away from his USC commitment a few months ago, it seemed as if this early signing period would be something of a dud for the Trojans. As it turns out, Lane Kiffin and staff did about as well as they could have hoped for. The two junior college signees are immediate impact players at positions of need. Gerald Bowman adds another physical presence to the secondary, and Morgan Breslin has a relentless motor from his defensive end position. That was the one spot with the most question marks after Armstead's decommitment, and it's only fitting that Ed Orgeron had something up his sleeve to unveil at the last moment.
It's tough to find someone more committed to being a Trojan than Scott Starr. He won't officially report until the second week in January, but if you see him camped out in front of Heritage Hall beginning tomorrow, don't be shocked, and make sure you say hello. It's tough to project freshmen because of the learning curve involved, but few players will put in more work or go harder on and off the field than Starr. Another benefit to having him on campus early is that he can be involved in both big official visit weekends for the Trojans.
Wilson and Wheeler are both big additions because of the positions they play. With Nick Perry off to the NFL, it will be all hands on deck at the defensive end positions as the Trojans look for a consistent pass rush behind likely starters Wes Horton and Devon Kennard. After only two years of high school football, Wheeler likely won't be called upon to contribute this season at offensive tackle, but his potential is off the charts. He isn't a big talker, but he has the ability to become one of those natural leaders through his work in the weight room.
Kiffin guessed that USC would bring in five or six players for the spring semester, and after Wednesday's haul, it's mission accomplished. Last season, Trojans coaches were on the hunt for bodies that could help them practice during spring ball. This year, it's about bringing in guys who can help them win games in the fall.
Greg Biggins: I thought USC hit a home run on the first day of the early signing period. Morgan Breslin is an impact defensive end who I think can play right away. The fact that you were able to steal him from your crosstown rival is another nice added bonus. Gerald Bowman was another huge pickup and arguably the top defensive back in the JC ranks last season. He's a natural strong safety and will be among the biggest hitters in the Pac-12 next fall.
Having Scott Starr and Chad Wheeler sign early was huge, as well, simply because they'll count as part of the 2011 class as opposed to 2012. With just 15 rides to give out this year, having Starr and Wheeler enroll early frees up two more scholarships to give out.