Numbers Game – USC athletic director Pat Haden threw everyone for a loop last month when he indicated the Trojans would sign only 15 players to letters of intent as mandated by NCAA sanctions in the Reggie Bush case.
Those numbers flew in the face of the facts as Lane Kiffin and his staff continued to offer and visit recruits even with what would be a full class of commitments already in place.
Reading between the lines, all indications have USC bringing in, if not a full class, at least 20 players in addition to the nine early enrollees already in school. A class of 20 recruits is what the university sought in its appeal with the NCAA last month, halving the initial penalty of 30 lost scholarships over three years.
However, if the appeal is rejected, Kiffin would have some flexibility by essentially taking a full roster into the heart of those penalties, after some undersigning under former coach Pete Carroll.
Back to Basics – USC wants to own Southern California recruiting again. Based on the distribution of commitments, that plan is working.
After Carroll ceded many top players to other Pac-10 schools while trying to sign elite out-of-state recruits in his final few seasons, Kiffin came in determined to keep the best local players at home, especially after NCAA sanctions were handed down.
"USC is still USC," said Brandon Huffman, Scout.com West Regional Recruiting Manager. "This is the school that Southland kids grew up watching, winning Rose Bowls and Heismans. What Southern California kid doesn't remember that? It's still the program that all the kids know."
With commitments from top players in the Southern Section (Serra WR George Farmer, Beverly Hills DE Greg Townsend), Orange County (Mater Dei QB Max Wittek and WR Victor Blackwell) and City Section (Taft DT Antwaun Woods), the approach that put the Trojans back on top seems to be back in action…
Black Mamba– That is if Crenshaw RB/CB De'Anthony Thomas remains in the fold. Sharing the same moniker as Lakers guard Kobe Bryant, Thomas is electric with the ball in his hands.
The biggest question was whether or not he would play running back or corner for the Trojans, until a last-minute visit to Oregon threw the status of Thomas' commitment into question.
While Thomas could still sign with USC, a late change of heart would be a major shocker, representative of the sea change for the Ducks under coach Chip Kelly. Said Huffman: "It would rank as the biggest Signing Day shocker in my eight years covering recruiting. The magnitude would be huge. It's USC's signature recruit, one of the most high profile recruits to EVER come out of Los Angeles, proof that the sanctions aren't stopping USC, and he goes to the reigning champ. It would make a major shift of power seem like it's happening in every facet, to Eugene."
Now with the loss of Tyron Smith to the NFL and Michael Reardon to early retirement, the Trojans are looking for numbers – addressed with early enrollees David Garness and Jeremy Galten – and quality – Cyrus Hobbi of Scottsdale AZ.
USC is hoping to land UCLA commit Torian White of Lakewood and Ohio's Aundrey Walker, but the most intriguing battle to watch Wednesday will be for Servite standout Troy Niklas, who is down to the Trojans and Notre Dame.
And as if the Trojans needed another reason to win their appeal, the 2012 crop of West Coast offensive linemen is loaded. Among the names to note are USC commit Arik Armstead, Jordan Simmons of Crespi and another Arizona product, Andrus Peat.
And here are four storylines to watch around the Pac-12…
Feeling Blue? – UCLA enters signing day with 10 verbal commits, but already has its top prospect, QB Brett Hundley, in the fold addressing its major need.
Given the small number of available scholarships to hand out, the rest of the class still has fans grumbling. Aside from Hundley, no other recruit is rated higher than three-stars by Scout.
The Bruins are still in the mix for some elite players, but UCLA's class of 2011 is another sign the pressure is on Rick Neuheisel to win now.
Sturdy Bears – Not that anyone on the West Coast needed to be told at this point, but Cal defensive line coach Tosh Lupoi must now be considered among the best closers in all of college football.
He showed it last year by landing dynamic receiver Keenan Allen, but Lupoi has put his stamp on the Bears' 2011 class by hauling in three of Scout's top 12 defensive tackles, including five-star Viliami Moala, plus defensive end Brennan Scarlett.
The influx couldn't come at a better time as the Bears must replace a likely first-round draft pick in defensive end Cameron Jordan. Cal must also contend with the rushing attacks of Oregon, Oregon State and rival Stanford (the Cardinal ground game was within five yards per game of 2009, even without Toby Gerhart last season) in the new Pac-12 North.
The Utes are relying heavily on in-state prospects, complimented by a handful of players from Texas and California, but the upgrade to BCS status clearly didn't hurt when in came to keeping star running back Harvey Langi home.
New coach Jon Embree wants to go back to what worked for the Buffaloes in the 1990s, recruiting California, but has just five commitments from the Golden State.
"Utah is doing well, though they have lost a commit to one Pac-12 school (Derrick Brown to Washington) and could lose another (Ryan Henderson to USC), but right now, they're in the top half of the conference. It's not as pleasant for Colorado, though. A small class, coupled with a late start will likely keep them last in the conference."
The turnaround class – If Steve Sarkisian's third recruiting class at Washington is half as strong as Carroll's third at USC, the Huskies will be back in the Rose Bowl in no time.
The Dawgs have secured the top two players in the state of Washington, among the best in the nation at their position, in tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins and receiver Kasen Williams, and this class should also provide much-needed depth at multiple positions.
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