first_imgIt’s not quite as important as the Super Bowl. Though the association is easy given how close they fall on the calendar, it’s not like a championship is actually won today. It probably feels like Christmas morning for college head coaches — when they find out whether they got the shiny new toy they wanted all year, or coal — walk-ons. But much like my attitude toward the consumerist nature of the holidays, I don’t like the objectification of student-athletes, so I won’t make that comparison either.Instead, I’ll say that today is the start of a very early Welcome Week for Trojan fans. Today is National Signing Day — the day we can start to search, follow and Facebook stalk a group of our next classmates. They’ll be the life of the party every Saturday in the fall, part of a cooler fraternity with a more grueling pledge process than the most exclusive houses on The Row; we’ll secretly Snapchat the back of their heads if we are so lucky to be in class with any of them.The Trojans already have a great list of commits before today’s deadline for high school seniors to sign. Twenty-one recruits have already signed national letters of intent with USC, and 13 of those recruits are on ESPN’s Top 300 recruiting list. The list is currently headlined by Chuma Edoga, one of the top-ranked offensive linemen, out of Powder Springs, Georgia, and Ronald Jones II, ESPN’s top-ranked running back, from McKinney, Texas.The question for coach Steve Sarkisian is if he can close out local talent on the final day as well as he did last year. Sarkisian’s first major accomplishment as the head coach of the Trojans was getting five-star recruits and Southern California products Adoree’ Jackson, Damien Mama and JuJu Smith to all commit to USC. All three featured prominently in this past season—Mama as a starting offensive lineman, JuJu Smith as one of the team’s best receiving targets and Jackson a cornerback with some time as a receiver and special teams threat—proving the importance of strong recruiting.The biggest potential target left undecided on the Trojan’s list is Iman Marshall, a five-star cornerback out of Long Beach Polytechnic. Though he doesn’t have the classic apostrophe in his first name like Jackson or Su’a Cravens, the star             defensiveback/linebacker hybrid who committed two years ago and is going into his junior season, Marshall certainly would fit right in with those two and make up maybe the best secondary in the country.Speaking of the All-Name Team — which is actually a list on the Sports Illustrated website — I would be really excited if the Trojans could land commitments from either Soso Jamabo, a running back/all-around athlete from Plano, Texas, or Equanimeous St. Brown, a receiver from Servite High School in Anaheim. Not only would I get a kick out of hearing those names on the loudspeakers at the Coliseum after plays, but Jamabo is apparently leaning towards UCLA and St. Brown’s mom wants him to pick Stanford, so stealing those commitments from conference rivals would be great.On a more serious note, National Signing Day serves as a chance to validate Sarkisian’s first calendar year as the director of the program. Contrary to some national commentators or columnists for this publication, I still have full faith in Sarkisian leading this program forward. His in-game decision-making has come into question, but I give criticism of that very little weight, and I think he should be judged much more by the general progress of the program.The biggest complaint was that overly cautious strategy cost the team in one-possession games. Those detractors seem to forget that SC won more one-possession games — Stanford, Arizona, Cal and Nebraska — as it lost — Boston College, Arizona State and Utah. The Boston College loss had more to do with pregame preparation than late-game strategy, but not even the legendary Pete Carroll could figure that out how to keep his team mentally an edge above an opponent every single week. If you really want to blame the Hail Mary loss to ASU on the coaching staff, then you probably didn’t watch the replay enough times.Speaking of the legendary Pete Carroll, the Super Bowl this weekend goes to show how hard certain           in-game decisions are and how easily the execution of those plays can skew the media’s judgment on the strategy of those decisions.Nobody would argue that he isn’t fit to lead the Seahawks. He turned around a USC program into a national title winner, then he did the same thing in Seattle. In 20/20 hindsight, yes, he should have overruled his offensive coordinator’s pass call, but it was not a completely irrational decision not to run it on the goal line. The Patriots had stacked the line of scrimmage to protect against the run, the Seahawks had single coverage with a rookie cornerback and nobody would have guessed that that rookie would make a game-saving interception. In fact, there’s a great article on ESPN’s sports statistics blog saying that statistically speaking, Patriots coach Bill Belichick’s decision not to call a timeout the play before the interception was even more irrational than Carroll’s call to throw, but “winning erases all sin.”The most common explanation for the Trojans’ struggles this year has been the lack of depth from recruiting sanctions—which honestly explains a lot of the conservative strategy used by Sarkisian. But for the first time in years, USC can finally recruit a full class and offer 25 scholarships. This really should make a huge difference for the program in the next couple of years, and we should even see the fruits of it this year, with some writers projecting that USC will finish in the Top 4 and make the playoffs next year.With four open scholarships still on the table, signing day should be a very exciting day for the Trojans. The NCAA has tested the patience of fans for a long time, but the Trojan Family may finally be rewarded with a consistent national contender. The Trojan recruiting class is ranked No. 6 by ESPN, but I think that will climb by the end of the day.Maybe today really is Christmas for USC fans. And we can really celebrate it this year, because finally, we’re off the NCAA’s naughty list.last_img