How important is California high school football to Lincoln Riley's recruiting strategy?
Look no further than the 62 former CIF football players on USC's roster.
SBLive Sports reporter Lance Smith took a closer look at the number of former California high school football stars on USC's roster, and the number is staggering.
Here's the rundown, in alphabetical order:
DL Sinjun Astani – R-Sr. – Loyola
After playing 19 games for San Jose State from 2017 to 2021, Astani is now a walk-on at USC. He spent his freshman and sophomore years of high school at Saint John's Military Academy in Wisconsin before he was a 2-star DE prospect at Loyola.
DB Anthony Beavers Jr. – R-Fr. – St. Bernard
Formerly a four-star ATH prospect, Beavers has cracked USC's secondary rotation this year with 11 tackles. He played at Serra (Gardena) for two years in high school followed by Narbonne and then St. Bernard.
DL De'jon Benton – R-Jr. – Pittsburg
Benton recorded 11 tackles for loss as a senior in 2018, when he was a three-star prospect. He's made 7 tackles this season.
DB Mekhi Blackmon – R-Sr. – Menlo-Atherton
After breaking out as a senior at M-A in 2016 with 6 interceptions to go with 9 touchdown catches and 620 yards receiving, Blackmon played a year at College of San Mateo. There, he helped lead CSM to the state finals and went on to play four years at Colorado, where he totaled 87 tackles, 13 PBUs, and 2 interceptions and was named all-conference last season. Blackmon is second on USC with 3 interceptions and fourth with 52 tackles.
DB Prophet Brown – R-Fr. – Monterey Trail
A four-star DB who was known more for his offense in high school, Brown totaled 1,112 yards of offense at RB as a senior for a Mustangs team that made an underdog run to the CIFSJS D1 finals. Brown played in four games in 2021 and has appeared in 11 this season.
RB Raleek Brown – Fr. – Mater Dei
One of the best California-grown RB prospects of his time, Brown has both run and caught for 2 touchdowns and over 150 yards as a true freshman. The high four-star recruit and No. 3 RB in his class totaled 2,684 yards and 34 touchdowns rushing plus 1,408 yards and 18 TDs receiving in his first two years of high school, playing at Edison (Stockton). He transferred to Mater Dei before his senior year and helped lead the Monarchs to an undefeated section, state, and national title running for 1,123 yards and 15 TDs.
WR Gary Bryant – Jr. – Corona Centennial
A high four-star prospect, Bryant was one of the top receivers and return specialists in the state as an upperclassman at Centennial. As a senior, he caught for 1,134 yards, ran for 138 yards and 2 touchdowns on 2 carries, and had 2 punt return touchdowns. Bryant cracked USC's receiving corps early on and caught for 579 yards and 7 touchdowns last season.