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Trojans eyeing the D-line as signing day nears

LOS ANGELES -- They are as rare to find in Southern California and the West Coast as Super Bowl XLIX tickets at base price. No question, trying to find a quality prep defensive lineman with future all-star potential is perhaps a recruiter's greatest challenge.

In Southern California in particular, they just don't seem to grow behemoth high school defensive tackles with much quantity and quality. It's not to say that some of the defensive line prospects aren't good enough, but there just isn't an overabundance of them. The best of the best defensive linemen in SoCal can play for anybody, but there aren't enough of them to go around, especially when the country's best recruiters invade the SoCal looking for a stud or two.

That's what makes the recruiting of Gardena (Calif.) Serra High's Rasheem Green (6-foot-5, 290 pounds) such a high priority for the Trojans. Green stands alone as the best defensive line prospect in Southern California, and naturally everybody and anybody wants his services. Steve Sarkisian and staff are giving it their best shot to land the prep All-American.

Looking at past, heralded prep defensive linemen from SoCal, how many can you name that became major factors along the Trojans defensive line? Did you answer Chino High's Sedrick Ellis and/or Los Altos High's Shaun Cody? In their schoolboy days, they made everybody's recruiting list, and they lived up to the billing at USC.

Of course, there are always some lesser known prospects coming out of the local prep ranks that developed into Trojans All-America linemen like Los Alamitos High's Mike Patterson and Los Angeles Verbum Dei's Kenechi Udeze.

The point again is there are defensive linemen here but not like you see in the South, which seems to grow them like there is no tomorrow. Yet, every once in a great while, the Trojans can swoop into SEC country and extract a major D-line prospect. The Trojans seem to get their share of skill players from the South, but defensive linemen are another story.

The latest Trojans defensive tackle All-American, Leonard Williams, hails from Daytona Beach, Florida, and Mainland High School. It took a Herculean recruiting effort by the Trojans to sneak this major blue-chip prep tackle out SEC country.

For many in 2014, Williams was considered the premier defensive lineman in the country and deciding to forego his senior season, No. 94 is a possibility to be selected as the overall No. 1 pick in the 2015 NFL draft.

The Trojans' defensive line class of 2015 shows commitments from Jacob Daniel (Fresno, Ca./Clovis North), Noah Jefferson (Las Vegas, Nev./Liberty), and Christian Rector (Los Angeles Loyola). Currently, only Rector is from Southern California. While the Trojans are pleased with those commitments to be sure, it is Green that makes Sarkisian and defensive line coach Chris Wilson light up.

And while Green is considered the big fish amongst prep defensive tackles, there is also an under-the-radar prospect in rapidly rising Kevin Scott (6-4, 255) from Los Angeles Salesian. Scott could fall into the Mike Patterson/Kenechi Udeze category of the-best-is-yet-to-come.

Obviously out of necessity and the desire to recruit the best not only locally but nationally, the Trojans have not confined their defensive line search to Southern California. Sarkisian and his staff know to achieve expectations, defensive linemen are more valuable than ever.

However, it's not like the Trojans haven't been trying to lure stellar prep defensive linemen from out of the Southern California area. The USC staff put in yeomen efforts to persuade national recruits like Kahlil McKenzie (Clayton Valley, Calif./Charter HS), Trenton Thompson (Albany, Ga./Westover), and Canton Kaumatule (Honolulu, Ha/Punahou). McKenzie has since committed to Tennessee, Thompson to Georgia, and Kaumatule to Oregon.

So, as the Trojans streak toward signing day on Feb. 4, it appears USC will finish at the very least somewhere in the top 5 nationally and perhaps even No. 1. However, like all championships -- even in recruiting -- it starts with defense, especially along the defensive line.