Clay Helton has proven to be an adept recruiter in his three full seasons in Southern California, annually bringing in loaded recruiting classes.
His 2018 class may be the best of the bunch.
Headlined by a quartet of five-star recruits, Helton and the Trojans signed 17 players Wednesday in a class that was ranked sixth nationally by 247Sports.com. Helton’s haul comes a day after he signed a contract extension through 2023.
“It’s very important when you’re at SC to acquire the best talent and the best young men ... and the 18 young men we signed today represent that,” Helton said.
USC may have filled its quarterback need after Sam Darnold declared for the NFL draft, signing five-star quarterback JT Daniels of nearby Irvine.
Daniels, who played at Mater Dei High School, was the Gatorade national player of the year as a junior and committed to the Trojans over the summer for the class of 2019. He is now in the process of graduating early so he can reclassify for 2018.
Daniels will have a familiar target to throw to after Amon-Ra St. Brown, a five-star receiver from Mater Dei, signed with USC. His brother Equanimeous recently left Notre Dame early for the NFL draft and his other brother, Osiris, will be a redshirt freshman at Stanford next season.
A third Mater Dei player, four-star linebacker Solomon Tuliaupupu also signed with the Trojans.
The recruiting class also includes five-star cornerback Olaijah Griffin, son of rapper Warren G. Griffin’s announcement had a Hollywood flair to it, with his father and Snoop Dogg in attendance.
Five-star linebacker Palaie Gaoteote IV, of Bishop Gorman High School in Las Vegas, signed with USC during the early signing period.
Other signing day tidbits from around the Pac-12:
HUSKIES HAUL: USC may have had the Pac-12’s highest-rated class, but Washington was not far behind with the best recruiting class of coach Chris Petersen’s career.
The Huskies signed a pair of four-star players to finish off their 2018 class, which was ranked No. 13 by 247Sports.com
Washington landed 11 four-star recruits, including four-star defensive back Julius Irvin from Anaheim, California, and four-star defensive lineman Tuli Letuligasenoa from Concord, California. Letuligasenoa originally was a verbal commit to USC.
The Huskies did lose out on one prospect when defensive end Jeremiah Martin from Southern California committed to Texas A&M.
STANFORD’S QB: Stanford may its quarterback of the future after Tanner McKee from California picked the Cardinal over Alabama, Texas A&M, BYU and Texas.
But the Cardinal will have to wait two years to see him in uniform.
McKee, the highest rated quarterback still uncommitted entering signing day, is a Mormon and will do a two-year LDS church mission before attending college.
Stanford was No. 38 nationally in 247Sports.com’s rankings.
QUICK WORK: Oregon and UCLA both changed coaches during the offseason. Neither seemed to be hurt in recruiting.
Oregon and coach Mario Cristobal had the nation’s No. 17 overall recruiting class, which included 10 four-star players. Among those was offensive guard Penei Sewell, who chose the Ducks over Alabama and USC.
Sewell, from Saint George, Utah, was considered one of the top offensive linemen in the nation.
“It’s a great example of the type of battles that Oregon is capable of winning. He’s an ultimate difference maker,” Cristobal said.
Right behind the Ducks were UCLA and coach Chip Kelly at No. 18 after signing a class that has nine four-star recruits.
Cristobal was promoted from assistant coach after Willie Taggert left for Florida State and Kelly, a former Oregon coach, replaced the fired Jim Mora.
SLOW START: The Pac-12’s two other new coaches did not fare quite as well as Cristobal and Kelly.
Arizona and former Texas A&M coach Kevin Sumlin had the nation’s No. 59 recruiting class after being unable to land a single four-star recruit. Sumlin was not hired to replace fired Wildcats coach Rich Rodriguez until Jan. 14, leaving a short recruiting window.
Arizona State and coach Herm Edwards also had no four-star recruits, checking in at No. 67 nationally. Edwards, a former NFL coach and ESPN analyst, was hired on Dec. 3 after the Sun Devils fired Todd Graham. Edwards has not coached since being fired by the Kansas City Chiefs in 2008 and last coached in college as a San Jose State assistant in 1989.
BEAVERS LOSE ONE, GAIN ONE: Oregon State lost one potential recruit to Nebraska, but lured another one from the Huskers.
First-year Beavers coach Jonathan Smith recruited receiver Andre Hunt, who instead decided to play under new Nebraska coach Scot Frost. The three-star prospect from Lancaster, California, had previously committed to USC.
But Smith did land Matthew Tago, a four-star outside linebacker from Palmdale, California, who was also considering Nebraska.
UTAH TANDEM: Utah should have a nice offensive tandem with the addition of receiver Solomon Enis, one of the top recruits from Arizona. The Ute signed Jack Tuttle, the nation’s No. 5 pro-style quarterback, during the early signing period.
“We’re high on both of those guys,” Utah coach Kyle Whittingham said. “Went right down to the wire with Solomon today, it was us and one other school. We didn’t know until late last night that we were the ones.”
AP Sports Writer Anne Peterson in Portland, Oregon, and Kareem Copeland in Salt Lake City contributed to this report.
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