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Ten key recruiting targets the next USC coach needs to land

Devin Brown
Devin Brown (Nick Lucero/Rivals.com)

With Clay Helton out at USC, interim coach Donte Williams and his staff will have a lot of time and work to do to keep elite prospects in the Trojans’ recruiting class and the new coach will have top targets that USC needs to lock up in 2022 and beyond. Here is a look at 10 of the most important prospects.

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Santa Ana (Calif.) Mater Dei has been fruitful for USC in years past and Bailey is one of those players that the Trojans’ current and potentially new staff cannot let out of town. The four-star is an outstanding edge rusher, long, physical and rangy who does his best work when he’s blitzing off the edge or playing in space. Washington and many others are involved but the feeling is that he stays in the Pac-12 and USC has to wrap him up.

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USC has long been a favorite for Barnes but other schools have emerged, including Florida State. Still, the four-star running back from Las Vegas (Nev.) Desert Pines has liked the Trojans for a long time, he sees an opportunity in USC’s backfield and he has the physical presence to make an early contribution. He’s been to campus numerous times and there is definitely high interest there.

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The dream school for Branch growing up was USC and that’s important but it’s only one consideration as Ohio State especially but also Alabama, Clemson and Oklahoma battle for the high four-star safety. His relationship with Williams could carry the day here but if a new head coach decides to not keep him on staff then the Trojans would have a tougher time. Whatever happens will also be important to Branch’s brother, Zachariah, who’s a four-star receiver in the 2023 class.

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Keeping Brown in the USC class is imperative because even after moving up to No. 48 nationally, the Draper (Utah) Corner Canyon standout might still not be getting the respect he deserves. Brown, originally from Arizona, had an outstanding performance at the Elite 11 this summer and then has exploded on the stat sheet to start his senior year. Brown could be the next star quarterback for the Trojans so keeping him locked up is crucial.

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An interesting discourse is going to happen over the next couple years because right now Arch Manning and Oklahoma commit Malachi Nelson are the two five-star quarterbacks but Detroit (Mich.) Martin Luther King’s Dante Moore could be in the discussion and Iamaleava is off to a phenomenal start this season as well. The high four-star already has an offer from USC, he’s all of 6-foot-6 and a dynamic playmaker with a volleyball background and he has numerous highlight-reel throws so far this season. The top target now in USC’s 2023 class at quarterback, UCLA and others are also battling, but the Trojans have to get him locked in.

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Jackson continues to be steadfast in his USC commitment and I’ve been told as long as Donte Williams remains on staff that the five-star cornerback will most likely stick with the Trojans. It will get even more interesting once it’s determined who gets the job on a full-time basis but Jackson definitely had a fantastic visit to Michigan this past weekend hanging out with friend and fellow five-star Will Johnson and Alabama is pushing as well.

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Originally from Germany and now playing at Rancho Santa Margarita (Calif.) Santa Margarita Catholic, Kanu is not beholden to a certain area of the country to play his college football but USC has recruited him hard and he’s been interested at least for a year. The 6-foot-5, 293-pound Kanu is bigger than most West Coast defensive linemen and that’s why Ohio State, Texas A&M, Alabama and others are showing so much interest. It could be tough to keep him at USC but the new staff should make him an absolute top priority from Day 1.

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USC, Ohio State and others continue to heavily pursue the 2023 four-star defensive end who had a great showing against East St. Louis’ massive offensive line this past weekend and has emerged as one of the top players in his class. The word is that Uiagalelei very much likes the Trojans and they could be one of the leaders in his recruitment even after the Helton news. With that being the case, Williams and his staff and then the new staff needs to lock up Uiagalelei and build around him in the 2023 class.

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It would make sense if the four-star cornerback from Tulsa (Okla.) Booker T. Washington chose Oklahoma. Arkansas is also a very real contender. But USC has intrigued him as well, his relationship with Williams and others is definitely a strong consideration and it wouldn’t be shocking if the Trojans won out in his recruitment. But with the uncertain future at head coach, USC needs to do everything possible now to keep the four-star highly interested especially with more-settled situations also involved in his recruitment.

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Williams came, he saw, he committed. The five-star defensive end from Columbus (Ga.) Hardaway visited USC in the early summer and basically committed days later to the Trojans over numerous SEC powers. Well, Georgia and many others have not given up recruiting Williams and so now with Helton out and change coming, with Williams living more than 2,000 miles away, he could be a perfect candidate for another school to pick off. USC has to make the skilled defensive end a top priority from Williams and his staff to whatever happens next at head coach.