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NATIONAL FOOTBALL SIGNINGS

USC remains a top draw

Trojans add to their collection of running backs, including speedster McKnight from Louisiana.

February 08, 2007|Gary Klein | Times Staff Writer

USC's recruiting pitch includes a warning to prospects that they should steer clear of the Trojans if they are afraid to compete for playing time.

The message continues to draw rather than drive away top-level talent.

On Wednesday, the first day that high school seniors could sign national letters of intent, the Trojans welcomed a class of 18 players, including running backs Joe McKnight, Marc Tyler and Broderick Green.

The Trojans already are log-jammed at running back -- C.J. Gable, Emmanuel Moody, Allen Bradford and Stafon Johnson will be sophomores and Chauncey Washington will be a senior -- but that did not dissuade McKnight, a 6-foot, 180-pound speedster from John Curtis High in River Ridge, La., from choosing the Trojans over Louisiana State and Mississippi.

"Sometimes I was saying I was going to Ole Miss, sometimes I was saying I was going to LSU, then I'd say I was going to USC," McKnight said during a news conference. "But I sat down with my mom and said the pros and cons of it and we both decided it would be the best decision to go to USC."

Along with the trio of running backs, USC signed four defensive linemen -- including Everson Griffen from Avondale, Ariz. -- three offensive linemen, two linebackers, two receivers, one defensive back, one tight end and one fullback. Orange Lutheran's Aaron Corp was the only quarterback in the class.

"It looks just as power-packed as any group we've had," USC Coach Pete Carroll said. "But you really can't tell until guys start playing."

Scout.com ranked USC's class third behind Florida and Louisiana State. Rivals.com rated the Trojans second behind Florida, which got offensive lineman James Wilson to switch a commitment from USC to the Gators a few weeks ago and also beat USC for receiver Deonte Thompson.

"Florida has got everything USC's got plus seven or eight guys more," said Allen Wallace, recruiting editor for Scout.com and publisher of SuperPrep magazine. "It was one of those once-or-twice-a-decade-type efforts."

Carroll said Anaheim Servite linebacker Chris Galippo and Griffen helped the Trojans' recruiting effort, which was among the nation's best for the fifth consecutive year.

The class includes five players from outside California -- McKnight, Griffen, Green, who is from Arkansas, offensive lineman Kristofer O'Dowd (Arizona) and receiver/defensive back Ronald Johnson (Michigan).

Defensive lineman Trey Henderson of Vancouver, Canada, is believed to be the first Canadian player offered a scholarship to play at USC, according to school officials.

Martin Coleman, an offensive lineman from Huntington Beach Edison, graduated early and is taking classes at USC this semester. Receiver Damian Williams, a transfer from Arkansas, also is taking classes but will not be eligible until the 2008 season.

The prospects were drawn to a program that is expected to begin the season ranked No. 1 and contend for a third national title in five years.

Carroll said McKnight, Tyler and Green did not shy away from the Trojans because they saw opportunity. McKnight is in the mold of Reggie Bush as a pass-catcher, according to Carroll, Green is a power back and Tyler an all-around threat.

"They all have their own way of looking at it," Carroll said. The fact that last year we didn't settle on anyone. ... No one dominated the position."

gary.klein@latimes.com

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(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX)

USC recruits

*--* Name Pos Ht Wt Hometown Jordan Campbell FB/LB 6-0 225 Norco Brandon Carswell WR 6-2 175 Milpitas Martin Coleman OT 6-5 290 Huntington Beach (Edison) Aaron Corp QB 6-3 180 Orange (Lutheran) Rhett Ellison TE 6-5 235 Mountain View (St. Francis) Chris Galippo LB 6-2 240 Anaheim (Servite) Broderick Green RB 6-2 230 Little Rock, Ark. (Pulaski Acad.) Everson Griffen DE 6-4 265 Avondale, Ariz. (Agua Fria) DaJohn Harris DT 6-4 270 Gardena (Serra) Trey Henderson DE 6-3 265 Vancouver, Can. (College Prep) Ronald Johnson WR/CB 6-0 180 Muskegon, Mich Marshall Jones S 6-0 190 Westlake Village (Oaks Christian) Joe McKnight RB 6-0 180 River Ridge, La. (Curtis Christian) Kris O'Dowd OG 6-4 310 Tucson (Salpointe Catholic) Michael Reardon OL 6-6 260 Villa Park (Orange Lutheran) Malcolm Smith LB 6-2 215 Woodland Hills (Taft) Christian Tupou DT 6-3 275 Sacramento (Grant) Marc Tyler RB 6-1 210 Westlake Village (Oaks Christian)

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