LOS ANGELES (AP) — Although Lane Kiffin had a late start on his first recruiting class at Southern California, he showed off a closing speed to match any of the talented players he kept committed to the Trojans.
The Trojans added an impressive array of offensive skill players in their recruiting class, and coveted offensive tackle Seantrel Henderson announced he had chosen USC as well — although the school still didn't have a signed letter of intent from him by Wednesday night.
"I can't imagine there being as many star players in any class around the country as there will be here by the end of the day," Kiffin said at Heritage Hall.
With just three weeks to keep together outgoing coach Pete Carroll's class, Kiffin and recruiting guru Ed Orgeron say they retained every Carroll recruit they wanted — and apparently added the nation's consensus top offensive lineman as well.
Henderson made a televised announcement saying he picked USC over Ohio State, Notre Dame and Florida, but the New York Times reported Henderson might wait until later in the month to formally commit, perhaps leery of the looming possibility of NCAA sanctions against the Trojans. Henderson was just the biggest name in another deep, balanced USC class that earned a top-10 ranking from most major recruiting services.
"We did have a background with a number of these kids and some knowledge about them," Kiffin said. "They had the sense that things were the same on a lot of fronts here. They weren't going to come in with brand-new offense and defense systems, and it's why I think this class really stayed together. The stars that were in this class are still here today that were here three weeks ago."
USC's class includes three of the nation's top receivers — early enrollee Kyle Prater, Carson's Robert Woods and Georgia product Markeith Ambles — along with top running backs Dillon Baxter and D.J. Morgan, and three elite tight ends. That's a fairly remarkable achievement for a school with no offensive coordinator or skill-position coaches hired yet.
Kiffin attributed his success in keeping together Carroll's class and landing a few extra talents to his familiarity with most of the top recruits from his year at Tennessee. He also credited the tradition at USC, with Kiffin telling recruits he plans to run much the same systems that Carroll put together during Kiffin's six seasons as an assistant coach.
Although USC couldn't formally add Henderson to its list Wednesday night, the Minnesota native was the gem of the Trojans' class.
Kiffin couldn't talk about Henderson when he met with the media, but he acknowledged he hadn't felt much disappointment in losing a few prospective recruits "because I kept thinking about that left tackle that might be coming here a little later in the day."
USC also signed one junior college transfer: linebacker Glen Stanley of Eastern Arizona. Kiffin decided the Trojans needed a quick influx of talent at linebacker, and he succeeded by landing Stanley, who played for Bowling Green in 2007 before becoming a much-desired juco star.
Jesse Scroggins is the Trojans' only new quarterback, with the Lakewood, Calif., product joining high school teammate Dion Bailey. Scroggins attended a quarterbacks camp at Tennessee during Kiffin's tenure with the Volunteers.
USC didn't claim every recruit it hoped to sign in the area. Fontana linebacker Josh Shirley and La Canada defensive back Dietrich Riley both chose UCLA over the Trojans, leaving Bruins coach Rick Neuheisel overjoyed by his class.
Kiffin betrayed no disappointment in any losses to UCLA.
"I've been gone three years but much hasn't changed," Kiffin said of the recruiting tussles between Los Angeles' two programs. "As you meet the kids there is a sense ... of the kids that go to UCLA and the kids that come to USC. I watched it over the weekend just to see if it's the same, and it's really still the same. I guess we waste time continuing to recruit them, (but) we know within the first 10 minutes whether they're the type of guys that want to play here or there."