Recruiting highs and lows

•February 7, 2013 • 1 Comment

Quinton Powell-USCNational Signing Day may have arrived with a thunder, but it would leave with less than a whimper. The Trojan staff had already secured seven of the nation’s elite prospects before Wednesday’s media extravaganza, and all that remained was to chase big fish that previously swam their waters, and possibly reel another that swims without direction.

Southern California’s day was both success and failure, depending on who you read. With only 13 commitments for the 2013 class, it is the smallest group to be gathered in the past 10 years. The smaller assembly placed the Trojans outside the top-ten of class rankings for the first time since 2002, though it leads the nation with an average star-rating of 4.42.

The average star rating is bolstered by 5-star players Max Browne, Kenny Bigelow, Su’a Cravens, and Leon McQuay III. Each can be found atop the rankings for their positions, and each would enroll at USC before Signing Day’s arrival. They are supported by 4-star players Chris Hawkins and Justin Davis, and also 2012 carry-over, Darreus Rogers.

With seven early enrollees, sanctioned USC had eleven open spots available, and this is where disaster occurred. The Trojans managed to solidify the prior verbal commitments of Nico Falah, Ty Isaac, Steven Mitchell, Michael Hutchings, and Khaliel Rodgers, but the defensive line would take major hits.

The staff was unable to reverse the decisions of former commits Kylie Fitts and Eddie Vanderdoes. And to make matters worse, those players would submit letters of intent to longtime enemies. Fitts committed to UCLA on Wednesday, where they will fulfill his wish for early enrollment. Vanderdoes leaves California for South Bend, Indiana, pledging Notre Dame over USC, UCLA, and Alabama.

Though many thought DE Torrodney Prevot leaned more towards local Texas A&M, USC inevitably lost him to Oregon. Also making the flip were DE Jason Hatcher and CB Jalen Ramsey, with the pair opting to remain closer to home.

But the Trojans did gain a commitment from Daytona Beach prospect Quinton Powell, who will be reuniting with former high school teammate Leonard Williams. Powell is a 4-star defensive end that snubbed offers from local schools to move out west.

In the end, USC may not have addressed the issue of depth, but received a quality package overall. The Trojans finished 13th in the national recruiting rankings, and second only to rival UCLA in conference. National Champion Alabama won the day with 25 commitments. Runner-up Notre Dame placed third, behind Ohio State.

[ USC Class of 2013 ]

 

Sanctioned Casualty: Kylie Fitts Decommits from USC

•January 8, 2013 • 2 Comments

Kylie Fitts-USCSouthern California’s battle with the NCAA may have ended long ago, but the long term effects continue to arise. Now entering the second year of scholarship reduction, the Trojan staff is finding it more difficult to satisfy the interests of all recruits and hold the class together.

Kyle Fitts recently became the fifth commitment to renege on an earlier pledge. In a decision that the 4-star prospect described as emotional and heartbreaking, he has chosen to sever ties with USC and begin a new college search.  The root of the decommitment remains unclear, since the defensive end did not disclose the matter that led to his withdrawal.

“There was a development yesterday at 3:30 p.m.that totally surprised me and I called the USC coaches today to inform them that I’m decommitting and opening up my recruitment”–Kylie Fitts

Fitts was set to enroll at USC on Thursday, and speculation is that the plan was suddenly altered by Leon McQuay III‘s commitment last Friday. The 5-star Florida safety is also scheduled for early enrollment in what has become a crowded room. The newly acquired commitment resulted in a domino effect that may have forced Fitts out of the spring and designated him for the fall.  The situation appears similar to that of the recently departed Eldridge Massington.

Lane Kiffin’s staff has labored to combat scholarship reduction and make everything fit. Unfortunately, there won’t be room for everyone, especially when juggling early enrollment and fall entries. USC still appears on the Fitts list,  but if he remains unwilling to accept the newest proposal that would have him enrolling as a Trojan in the fall, there is a strong chance that he may land at UCLA.

[Kylie Fitts decommits from USC-ESPN]

5-star Florida Safety pledges USC

•January 4, 2013 • 1 Comment
Leon McQuay III | Under Armour All-American

Leon McQuay III | Under Armour All-American

It should surprise no one that a less than harmonious Trojan football team ended the season on a sour note. The descent from riches to rags would not be complete without the humiliating 21-7 Sun Bowl loss to Georgia Tech. The final day of 2012 defined a season that was lost just as quickly as hype was gained, and it left a program with nothing to grasp but hope for the future.

That future became even more important by game’s end. National Signing Day was merely five weeks away, and each day presents a challenge to hold a top rated class together. USC lost another battle on Wednesday, as Sebastian Larue announced his decommitment, becoming the fourth recruit since November to do so. The class had taken yet another hit, and another decrease in rating, but would regain its strength through a 5-star commitment on Friday.

Leon McQuay III (Seffner, FL) committed to USC at Friday’s Under Armour All-American game. The Safety is rated a 5-star by rivals.com, and stands as an equal or better version of  the recently departed Max Redfield. McQuay chose the Trojans over Florida State, Vanderbilt, Michigan, and Oregon, who also appeared on his short list.

McQuay said he was tilted west by USC academics, having a desire to major in music, and the school presenting one of the better programs in the country.  Former USC safety commit, Max Redfield, gave his pledge to Notre Dame on Friday.

WR Sebastian Larue’s recruitment remains open.  And contrary to belief, it wasn’t a sixth loss by USC that turned him towards the exit. The Santa Monica product emphasized his focus on depth charts, and the Trojans are very deep at his position. Southern California remains on his list, but Washington, Oregon, and UCLA are possible landing spots.

Eddie Vanderdoes reopens recruitment

•December 28, 2012 • 1 Comment

eddie-vanderdoesFrom “first come, first serve”, to the incredible shrinking class, Southern California exemplifies the fluctuation and instability of recruiting.

It wasn’t long ago that USC had 18 commitments for 2013, with the group rated as the top incoming class in the nation. Then came November, and the decommitment of Max Redfield. By early December, it was Eldridge Massington. And before the calendar could make its annual flip, a 5-star defensive tackle becomes the third prospect to renege on a pledge.

Eddie Vanderdoes (Placer, CA) is the latest to decomit and reopen his recruitment. The decision opens the door for UCLA, Washington, and Notre Dame, though USC still remains high on his list.  The 6-foot-3, 302 pound defensive tackle will schedule a trip to South Bend before making his final decision on National Signing Day.

The recruiting class now sits at 15, with 5 players already locked by letters of intent. National Signing Day is Wednesday, February 6, 2013.

Eldridge Massington pledges UCLA

•December 18, 2012 • Leave a Comment

UCLA-cheerleader

Eldridge Massington committed to USC just two days after receiving a formal offer from Lane Kiffin and staff. That was in early May, and it set a west coast course for the Texas native. By early December, the 4-star prospect withdrew his verbal promise and reopened recruitment. And it would take just 13 days for the wide receiver to announce a stay to his western course, even if it meant landing in a neighbor’s yard.

Massington gave a verbal commitment to UCLA on Tuesday night, turning the tables on a program with no room to spare, and instantly transforming from friend to foe.

The Bruins gain the 33rd ranked receiver for the 2013 class, as rated by rivals.com, and he plans to enroll in Westwood for the next semester. Early enrollment was the deal-breaker across town, with the Trojans handcuffed by limited scholarships and having no place for early additions. So instead of utilizing the receiver’s talent in years to come, USC will spend the next four seasons defending it.

Massington suffered and ACL tear and is currently in the process of rehabilitation. He also held offers from Notre Dame, Michigan, Tennessee, Alabama, TCU, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State.

Quarterback option sits Sanchez on Jets bench

•December 18, 2012 • 1 Comment

Mark Sanchez | USC 2008

Unlike Palmer, Leinart, Booty, and now Barkley, Mark Sanchez opted to leave Southern California with a year of college eligibility remaining.  It’s a choice that catapulted him into the first-round of the NFL draft, and the awaiting arms of the New York media.

From the first game of the first season, it was clear the quarterback wasn’t the same game-changer that he proved to be at USC. And as the years progressed, Sanchez would regress, becoming the target of frustrated media, fans, and even teammates. The former Trojan was able to deflect the constant criticism for nearly 4 years, continuing to establish himself as the franchise’s offensive leader, while gathering the support of his coach. But then Monday happened, and it was followed by Tuesday’s decisive end.

With the Jets still in the playoff hunt, and appearing before a national audience on ESPN, Sanchez committed 5 turnovers (4 INT) in a 14-10 Jets loss to the Titans. The loss eliminated New York from playoff contention, and forced Coach Rex Ryan’s hand for change.

The Jets announced on Tuesday that Greg McElroy will be their starting quarterback when the team hosts the Chargers on Sunday. It’s a move that may not only signal an end to Sanchez’ stay in New York, but also the stay of Tim Tebow. Ryan chose to skip over the two top quarterbacks on his depth chart, and go to option No. 3. McElroy, now in his second year, will be making his first NFL start.

Sanchez led the Jets to the AFC championship game in each of his first two seasons. but the team has failed to make a postseason appearance in the two most recent campaigns. Through inconsistency and errors, the New York management and staff continued to support their former first round pick, and he responded with a combined 50 turnovers in the past two seasons, including a league-leading 24 in 2012.

The Jets are on the hook for a guaranteed $8.25 million in 2013, after extending Sanchez’ contract last year. That number may force the franchise to retain the quarterback for another season, but his future as a starter remains uncertain. After losing the support of his coach, the Southern California product is forced into an open competition, where a start will be earned on ability, and not appointed by first-round status.

What we’ve learned most in 2012 is that Brian Schottenheimer wasn’t the problem in New York.  The offensive coordinator was often the scapegoat for a woeful Jets offense, and pegged as the man holding Sanchez back. After observing Sanchez in his first season without Schotty in the Jets booth, the conservative play calling suddenly made sense.

Max Browne honored as Gatorade National Player of The Year

•December 18, 2012 • 1 Comment

USC quarterback commit Max Browne has earned the Gatorade National Player of the Year award, which is given annually to the nation’s top high school player, based on athletic achievement, academics, and character. Browne led his Skyline team to a perfect 14-0 record and the Class 4A State Championship.

Browne’s stat  line for 2012 reads 277 completions on 377 attempts, for a total of 4,526 yards and 49 touchdowns. He would throw just 5 interceptions on the season. His 882 career completions is a Washington state record.  He finished his career at Skyline High School with 12,947 total passing yards.

The 6-foot-5, 210 pound senior committed to USC in April, after receiving a local offer from Steve Sarkisian at Washington, and also Oklahoma and Alabama. The Trojans reeled another 5-star player,  Zach Banner,  from the state of Washington last January.

Past recipients of the Gatorade Player of the Year Award include Matt Barkley (2008), Mitch Mustain (2006),  and Jeff Byers (2004).