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Signing day an important test for Trojans coach Clay Helton, new staff

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How good could USC's recruiting class be? (1:33)

Jeremy Crabtree breaks down where USC's recruiting class could rank in the Pac-12 and how important signing day will be for the Trojans' coaching staff. (1:33)

LOS ANGELES -- The clock is rapidly ticking towards Wednesday's National Letter of Intent Day, a festival of euphoria and/or depression when all those multi-starred high school and junior college football players put their names on a piece of paper, for the most part ending all the recruiting speculation and suspense.

By mid-week, all those months and months and sometimes years of recruiting "bonding" will be put to the supreme test. However, for the USC Trojans, it has not been recruiting business as usual, and the fallout of this most unusual situation has yet to be determined. Wednesday could provide some good and not so good answers.

Named the Trojans interim head coach last mid-October and permanent head coach in late November, Clay Helton has nearly done a complete overall of the 2015 staff that started the season with Steve Sarkisian as the Trojans head coach. Upon Sarkisian's dismissal, Helton has guided the program to where it stands today.

For the record, only wide receivers coach Tee Martin and former running backs-turned-linebackers coach Johnny Nansen remain from the Sarkisian's original 2015 staff.

You don’t have to be a recruiting guru to figure out the potential recruiting quandary after the Trojans lost to Stanford in the Pac-12 title game and Helton jettisoned three assistant coaches the following day.

The great purge continued after the Holiday Bowl when other coaches went their separate ways -- including recruiting coordinator and linebackers coach Peter Sirmon -- and the process of rebuilding a new staff became deliberate and at times downright painstaking for Trojans fans.

From his perspective, no doubt Helton was looking at the biggest of big pictures and wanted to make sure he had done his due diligence regarding staffing, even seemingly waiting to the very end and just a couple of week before signing day to formally announce the last addition to his staff -- former Trojans All-America defensive end Keneche Udeze as defensive line coach.

To put it bluntly, the new faces on Helton’s staff have been given very little time to do what normally takes a high school lifetime to make recruiting inroads. The good news, however, is that some the holdovers from Helton’s staff are considered outstanding recruiters.

The outstanding recruiters?

Start with Helton, a former Trojans quarterback coach, who now must be the closer -- the Kenley Jansen -- for USC. Helton has received strong recruiting kudos in his career and has brought in his fair share of talent to Los Angeles. One of those former blue chippers is potential 2016 starting quarterback Max Browne, once the National Prep Player of the Year from Sammamish, Washington.

Martin, who some media outlets call the best recruiter in America, has brought in a boatload of standout talent in the past, including cornerback/wide receiver Adoree' Jackson, and is on the verge of completing another recruiting coup with prep All-American wide receiver Tyler Vaughns of La Puente (Calif.) Bishop Amat.

Nansen, who recruited All-Pac-12 receiver Juju Smith, is perhaps the Trojans' jack-of-all-trades. Helton has put his faith in Nansen by naming him recruiting coordinator, replacing Sirmon. Nansen now becomes the liaison and organizer of the Trojans' recruiting efforts for the future. In other words, the spotlight is on "Here’s Johnny."

But will Helton, Martin, and Nansen be enough to offset the many coaching changes?

The newbies completing Helton's staff include Clancy Pendergast (defensive coordinator), Tyson Helton (quarterbacks), John Baxter (special teams/tight ends), Ronnie Bradford (secondary), Neil Callaway (offensive line), Tommie Robinson (running backs), and Udeze.

Pendergast, Baxter and Robinson have been at USC before, so they know the recruiting drill, and Udeze is a former USC recruit and superstar. Callaway, Tyson Helton, and Bradford are the unknowns, and whether they have been able to sell enough USC football that it translates into Wednesday signatures deserves scrutiny.

The good news for Trojans recruiting fanatics is that generally speaking, those players who grew up USC football fans, in all probability, will remain so and sign with the cardinal and gold no matter the situation. Those who don’t have USC running through their veins will probably not sign anyway.

The real test, however, will come from the players who truly are undecided and honestly don’t know where they will sign. It will be interesting to see just how much Helton’s staff was able to accomplish before Wednesday’s recruiting day of reckoning.

Will there be some surprises come Wednesday?

The cardinal and gold answers are nearly here.