With Reggie Bush and LenDale White leaving early for the NFL, and top returnee Desmond Reed recovering from a knee injury, USC's recruiting priority was at running back. The Trojans signed four, including Parade All-Americas Stafon Johnson of Dorsey High in Los Angeles, Emmanuel Moody of Coppell (Texas) High and C.J. Gable of Sylmar (Calif.) High, who may play defense. All will have a chance to play as freshmen, but the most likely standout next fall is Johnson (left), a 6'1" 210-pounder whom Scout.com ranked as the nation's No. 2 running back. "If this were the NFL draft, the Denver Broncos would take him in the first round," says offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin. "He's a lot like LenDale."
Other signees from around the country who could be breakout performers in their first year:
•Ohio State RB Chris Wells. The nation's top-ranked recruit, Wells (below), a 6'1" 225-pounder out of Garfield High in Akron, is a classic power back. He's expected to push Antonio Pittman, a junior-to-be who's more of a slasher.
•Georgia QB Matthew Stafford. This consensus top five quarterback out of Highland Park High in Dallas--he is taking classes in Athens--will get a shot to beat out less heralded upperclassmen Joe Tereshinksi and Blake Barnes.
•Florida WR Percy Harvin. The speedster from Virginia Beach should fit nicely into coach Urban Meyer's offense. "You watch three plays and think he's as good a football player and athlete as there is in America," said Meyer.
•Texas QB Jevan Snead. The top quarterback at last month's U.S. Army All-America Bowl, Snead, from Stephenville, Texas, enrolled in January and will most likely battle redshirt freshman Colt McCoy for Vince Young's old job.
•Florida State S Myron Rolle. An aspiring doctor from The Hun School in Princeton, N.J., Rolle will audition for the vacant starting job at rover in spring practice.
THREE AND OUT
1 Charlie Weis's biggest victory at Notre Dame has been persuading school officials to accept early enrollees, a common practice for years at most other major programs. Running back James Aldridge, a top 50 prospect out of Crown Point, Ind., was one of three signees to take advantage of the new policy.
2Because of upheaval on its coaching staff, UCLA will have a tough time duplicating last year's 10--2 record. Coach Karl Dorrell fired defensive coordinator Larry Kerr, while offensive coordinator Tom Cable, running backs coach Eric Bieniemy and tight ends coach John Embree took NFL assistant jobs.
3 Cal's potent offense gets an intriguing wrinkle with the hiring of offensive coordinator Mike Dunbar, who at Northwestern last year directed a spread attack that averaged 500 yards a game.