USC is coming into the home stretch before the early signing period next week, when the first wave of 2020 football recruits can put pen to paper and make their commitments official on National Letters of Intent.

In the days leading up to it, the Trojans have undergone a bit of a shuffle at the offensive line position for their 2020 class. USC lost the commitments of two linemen in three days, with St. Margaret’s Kyle Juergens joining Bishop Manogue (Nev.) lineman Joey Wright on the open market.

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But the Trojans recovered quickly with the pledge of Cedar Hill (Tex.) three-star lineman Courtland Ford, a one-time LSU commit. The 6-foot-6, 305-pound lineman gave his verbal quickly to USC after an official visit over the weekend.

The shuffle has USC’s 10-person class currently ranked 80th nationally and last in the Pac-12, according to 247Sports.com, with a week to go before Wednesday’s early signing day and limited scholarship spots left. But 247Sports national analyst Greg Biggins thinks that USC could close the 2020 class out strong.

Biggins spoke with Southern California News Group to share his perspective on where the USC class stands, how it might look when it all shakes out and how the elongated Clay Helton rumor mill affected USC’s recruiting efforts:

Question: Just big picture, how do you feel the week of rampant speculation about Helton’s future as USC’s head coach and his return for 2020 affected USC’s recruiting both in terms of perception and what they’ve been able to accomplish practically?

Biggins: “It might surprise some people, but the buzz from recruits has been really positive. We can maybe sit back here and think a year from now they might be in the same position, if Helton doesn’t win 10 games, what’s going to happen? But I think a lot of kids, they look right in front of you versus long-term. Beginning of the year, the biggest issue for them is they don’t know who the coach is going to be next year.

“Now they know it’s going to be Helton, so it’s been real positive. He’s a very well-liked coach. Kids like him, families like him a lot. They’re doing a good job the last week of getting in homes, talking to kids. They’re selling the fact that, ‘We’re close. We’re really close. We could have won 9-10 games this year. We got everybody back minus a few guys for next year’s team.’ Kids, I think it’s been a positive reaction. I could actually see them closing kinda strong. We’ll see, but I think they could depending on how things break.”

Question: When you say closing strong, what does that mean to you with this class considering how small it is?

Biggins: “I just think some of the names they could end up with could surprise some people. I feel like they think that now that Helton’s back, no one’s going to want to go there, no one’s going to want to play for him. I think there’s going to be a pretty decent amount of quality players that are going to end up there that people might not have thought were going to go there. I honestly think they have a chance to pull off a couple of surprises. They’re really pushing hard this last week. It’ll be really interesting to see how it all comes together.”

Question: One of Helton’s favorite sayings is ‘USC recruits itself.’ Do you think part of the reaction from recruits is due to that?

Biggins: “Yeah, I think so. I was just talking to a coach from the Big 12 a couple days ago and he said, ‘Man, they need to get a recruiter.’ USC starts leading off for pretty much every SoCal kid and then you have to basically lose the kid, whereas other schools have to sell the kid. Most of these top kids are ready to go [to USC], just give them a reason why. And I think the reason they weren’t looking at USC this past year is because there was so much uncertainty about who the coach was going to be next year. I think they’re in a position where if it was any other school, kids would have written them off a long time ago. But USC, the brand is so strong that there are a lot of kids that are just waiting around and now they still have a high interest just because of the USC brand and the name.”

Question: USC is still looking for a quarterback commit after losing Mater Dei’s Bryce Young to Alabama. The Trojans offered Rancho Cucamonga QB CJ Stroud last week. What kind of prospect is Stroud?

Biggins: “I love him. I’ve seen everybody in Texas, I’ve seen some kids from Georgia. For me, I’ll sound like a SoCal homer, but he’s the No. 3 quarterback in the country behind Bryce and D.J. Uiagalelei. That’s never happened before, but CJ was the MVP at the Opening finals. And then this season, he was incredible with the pads on, too. I can’t find a weakness in his game and he just keeps getting better and better. He’s still young, he’s still not even close to being tapped out. He’s only been playing for two years as a starter. But he’s really good.”

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