Monday’s announcement that Clay Helton is out as USC’s head coach sent shockwaves throughout the college football landscape.
The quick dismissal marks an end to a seemingly endless back-and-forth that has spanned several years. While USC struggled in an ugly loss to Stanford on Saturday night, the Trojan roster and commit list is dotted with promising young talent and potential difference-makers.
Helton and his staff inked a top-10 class in the 2021 cycle and have a few five stars in the fold in the 2022 recruiting class.
Despite recent on-field struggles, there is a nucleus of talent that should be attractive to potential candidates. With the transfer portal and the one-time transfer rule in effect, it goes without saying that keeping these players and commits in the fold should also be of importance for USC’s next head coach.
QB Jaxson Dart, Freshman
On300 Ranking: No. 6 in 2021
Jaxson Dart is on track to be USC’s quarterback of the future. Could he be the quarterback of the immediate future? Given how Kedon Slovis has played through two games, it’s not out of the question.
The freshman from Draper (Utah) Corner Canyon won the back-up quarterback job in fall camp. He’s impressed with his arm talent and playmaking ability since arriving on campus in January.
Dart made a meteoric rise in his final year of high school. He had a monster senior season in 2020 after entering the year as a little-known prospect. When the dust settled, Dart had turned in one of the best senior seasons we’ve seen from a quarterback prospect in several years. Keeping Dart in the fold would be the utmost priority for the new USC head coach.
EDGE Korey Foreman, Freshman
On300 Ranking: No. 5 in 2021
Landing Korey Foreman in the 2021 class was the biggest recruiting win of the Helton era, at least on paper. The one-time Clemson commit was the top-ranked prospect in the state of California and chose the Trojans over a number of national powers. We’ve seen top college football programs poach talent from the top SoCal high school programs at an increasing rate in recent years. Keeping the Corona (Calif.) Centennial product in Los Angeles was a huge win for Helton and his staff.
A naturally powerful edge rusher, Foreman would be a key defensive piece for the new Trojans staff. At 6-foot-4, 265-pounds, Foreman is both physically and technically advanced. He was not an early-enrollee but should be expected to make an impact for USC throughout the remainder of this season.
DL Mykel Williams, Commit
On300 Ranking: No. 9 in 2022
Going deep into SEC country to land Mykel Williams was a statement recruiting win for USC. The five-star defensive lineman from Columbus (Ga.) Hardaway is the type of prospect every program covets. He’s a big, long athlete who is already a dominant high school player, despite having considerable upside. We’ve seen the 6-foot-5, 260-pounder continue to improve. He’s young for the class with a late birthday and is playing well as a senior.
Williams is the type of defensive lineman you see trot out for programs like Alabama, Georgia and Clemson. An interesting wrinkle to his recruitment is the fact that Trojan freshman tight end Michael Trigg is his step-brother. Programs like Georgia and Florida have continued their pursuit of Williams since he committed to USC back in June.
CB Domani Jackson, Commit
On300 Ranking: No. 10 in 2022
Domani Jackson is another example of the type of prospect that the Trojans need to keep in their backyard. The five-star cornerback plays at national powerhouse Mater Dei down the road in Santa Ana, Calif. In the 2020 cycle, another five-star corner from Mater Dei, Eli Ricks, ended up at LSU. Former Trojan quarterback JT Daniels and one-time quarterback commit Bryce Young both come from the Mater Dei program. They’re both starting for Georgia and Alabama, respectively.
Jackson, who is likely out for the remainder of his senior season with a knee injury, is among the most athletic prospects in the nation. Back in the spring, he tied the California record in the 100 meters with a blistering 10.25-second mark in the state track finals. The 6-foot-1, 180-pounder was also off to a strong start to his senior season, with a pick-six in a national game against Duncanville, Texas. Michigan and Alabama are heavily pursuing Jackson.
DL Tuli Tuipulotu, Sophomore
On300 Ranking: N/A
Through two games, you could make the case that Tuipulotu has been the Trojans’ most impactful defender. The sophomore from Gardena (Calif.) Lawndale has been an active defender on the USC front, building on a promising freshman season.
Tuli is the younger brother of former Trojan defensive lineman and 2021 NFL Draft pick Marlon Tuipulotu. The feeling is the younger Tuipulotu has the chance to develop into one of the better defensive linemen to come through the USC program in recent years. Strength in the trenches is paramount to compete at the highest level in college football. Players like Tuipulotu go a long way in that regard.
Additional blue-chip true freshmen at USC: S Calen Bullock, LB Raesjon Davis, CB Ceyair Wright, WR Joseph Manjack, WR Michael Jackson, CB Jaylin Smith, TE Michael Trigg