Saturday, January 2, 2010
USC's recruiting future up in the air
By JC Shurburtt and Gerry Hamilton
The departure of Pete Carroll from Southern California starts the breakup of one of the great recruiting dynasties of this decade. Under Carroll, the Trojans were able to walk into any school anywhere in the country and have a great shot at a prospect.
Since 2006, the Trojans annually have had a recruiting class ranked in the top 10. They were No. 2 in 2006, No. 1 in 2007, No. 7 in 2008 and No. 4 in 2009. There were reasons for this. The first, of course, is winning. USC, while it will always be a program rich in tradition, experienced a renaissance on the field under Carroll. The Trojans won national championships in 2003 (Associated Press) and 2004 and played for the title in 2005. They had three Heisman Trophy winners (Carson Palmer, Matt Leinart and Reggie Bush), numerous first-round draft picks and dominance in the Pac-10.
There was also the appeal of Los Angeles. The nation's second-largest city and one of the largest media markets in the world has no NFL football team, so while the Trojans were winning, they indeed were the toast of Tinseltown. That's quite a sell to a 17- or 18-year-old young man from Anywhere, U.S.A.
Also, Carroll and his staff did a great job of coaching with high energy and enthusiasm. That was something that appealed to high-profile recruits. His personality resonated well with parents and players alike and his staff was energetic, professional, excellent at recruiting, and, for the most part, knew a ton about football.
So the Trojans were an easy sell, but a lot of it had to do with Carroll, his ability to win and the overall philosophy within the program.
Now that he's gone, the reaction from the recruits in USC's 2010 class has been mixed. The Trojans are ranked just 11th in the country right now and while it is a small class (only 14 commits, but 10 four-star players), it was poised to make a late run considering USC is still in the mix for several of the nation's best players. Now that is all up in the air.
Four-star wide receiver Kyle Prater (Proviso, Ill./West) has backed off a verbal to the Trojans. The 6-foot-6, 210-pounder was an early enrollee and was only a couple of days away from heading to Los Angeles to start college. Expect him to take a long look at in-state Illinois and perhaps Notre Dame or some other programs now.
"I really don't know what to say. I'm pretty shocked. I'm just trying to get with my family and my head right," Prater said. "I'm not going to be in Los Angeles on Monday. It just hurts. I really don't know what to say. I wasn't told of anything. I just need to sit down with my family."
Junior college tackle Brice Schwab (Palomar Junior College) has reopened his recruitment after hearing the news.
"I am decommitting," he said. "Since I am a junior college guy, I am going to return to my junior college and see what happens. I am sure other colleges will be interested, but I really haven't had a chance to get any information together. I am trying to get living situation and stuff like that done. I want to be a Trojan, so I am going to see what happens with the coaching situation."
Like Prater, Schwab was two days from heading to Los Angeles for the next term. While most of the high school prospects cite Carroll's relationship-building as a main factor, for Schwab it was more of a business decision.
"I looked at the coaching techniques [Carroll] used, things like the competition level was higher in the practice," he said. "As a junior college player who had already been through the recruiting process once, I felt the business aspect of the Division I level. I understand he has to do what he has to do."
But while Prater and Schwab are backing off the Trojans, their top-ranked recruit -- four-star WR Robert Woods (Gardena, Calif./Junipero Serra) -- says he is sticking with USC despite the news of Carroll's departure.
"It's pretty shocking, pretty much out of nowhere. Whatever Pete [Carroll] does is a great decision for him. It doesn't change much for me," said Woods, who is No. 23 in the ESPNU 150. "USC is the school I chose and I think I'm going to stick with it. "
Four-star athlete Anthony Brown (Fontana, Calif./Henry J. Kaiser) is another player who was caught off guard by the news, but isn't switching from USC.
"I'm still going to be a Trojan," he said. "It shocked me. I don't really know what to say."
But perhaps the biggest thing to watch is how the undecided commits who had USC among their finalists react, like the nation's top-ranked recruit, Jackson Jeffcoat (Plano, Texas/West), who is considering USC, Oklahoma, Texas, Florida, Arizona State and Houston.
"Well, It's tough because he had told all of us that are looking at USC that he was going to stay, so some of us are upset about it," said Jeffcoat, a five-star DE. "You can't do anything about it. I'm still going to look at them, but I just want to see who the coach is going to be."
Another prospect to watch is five-star OT Seantrel Henderson (Minneapolis/Cretin-Derham), who is No. 4 in the ESPNU 150. He's considering USC, Ohio State, Florida, Notre Dame, Miami and Minnesota. USC is also in the mix for four-star S Sean Parker (Harbor City, Calif./Narbonne), who's No. 26 in the ESPNU 150; four-star OLB Christian Jones (Oviedo, Fla./Lake Howell), who's No. 27 in the ESPNU 150; and four-star RB Lache Seastrunk (Temple, Texas/Texas), the No. 29 prospect in the ESPNU 150.
JC Shurburtt covers recruiting for ESPN.com. He can be reached at email@example.com. Gerry Hamilton has covered recruiting in Texas and the Southwest for more than a decade. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.