- Tom Luginbill, ESPN Staff Writer
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When it comes to recruiting, USC might have the edge on the SEC.
Whether you look at the past 10 years or 30 years or however long you want to look back, in the West, there is USC and then there is everyone else. Coaches know it. Players know it. Have the Trojans had their ups and downs, and had competitors pop up on occasion? Yes. But USC is looked at differently than everyone else in the Pac-12.
Now add to that status the fact that the Trojans' home, California, is one of the top producers of top high school players in the country, and it's a lethal combination. If USC wants a guy, it's going to get him, especially if he's a Southern California prospect. Has Oregon or Stanford or Cal made a dent in recent years? Sure, but not a significant one. And the advantage the Trojans have over others in the Pac-12 and even nationally is that they don't have to leave their home to get top players. Other programs in the Pac-12 can't survive without going into California. There is just not enough talent in, say, Oregon or Arizona for those schools to stock their rosters with in-state kids.
Also, USC is one of the few heavy hitters nationally that can offer a prospect regardless of where he's from and usually jump right among the top schools the player is considering. The Trojans have done it in the past with players from Florida, Georgia, New Jersey, Illinois and others on the roster, but the key is they don't have to thanks to their home-state advantage. California is so large and has so many players that USC can pick and choose top players from its backyard. It doesn't have to worry as much about other top programs out west taking the players it wants. The only difference between SC now and the SC of 10 years ago is the Trojans can't stockpile talent like they used to.
That is the big advantage the Trojans have over SEC schools. Yes, Alabama, Florida, Auburn and Georgia can all recruit nationally, but the catch is they don't have a fenced-in backyard like the Trojans do to fall back on if they lose out on a player.
That's not to say the talent in Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina or North Carolina isn't great. It is. But the difference is, while they all have similar top-end prospects, they also have more high-end programs mining those states. So yes, Alabama can go into Louisiana and offer top kids, but it will be battling LSU, Georgia, Florida and other SEC powers, plus some from the Big 12 or even other national programs. Maybe even USC.
So while there are plenty of top prospects in the Southern states, there is much more competition among those SEC schools fighting for them. That is something USC does not face out west. While the gap has closed some, every school that heads out to recruit in California knows it has to beat USC for the player.