But seven in one offseason? That is not a coincidence. That is an exodus.
Amir Carlisle, Kyle Prater, Brice Butler, Armond Armstead, Patrick Hall, T.J. Bryant and Dillon Baxter are all leaving the Trojan football program to enroll at various universities across the country.
We knew Brice Butler played his card last season but decided to stay at the last minute. This year was too big a gamble for the redshirt junior not to hit the road and try his luck elsewhere.
Baxter had never really adapted. Armstead never medically cleared. Bryant never performed. Prater never injury-free. And maybe Carlisle was never comfortable.
While an individual's reasons for leaving vary, the results are the same:
One player gone means there is room for another one to come in.
For USC and it's NCAA-mandated maximum of 75 total scholarships, the players' faces don't become as important as the numbers.
Zero sum gain.
The D.J. Shoemates, Blake Ayles and Broderick Greens of the world—all former Trojans and transfers--always come as a surprise, but are rarely missed (see: Jordan Campbell). Perhaps the loss of Malik Jackson stings a little, but overall USC does fine with the players that want to be there.
Being a likely preseason No. 1 with a slew of top-tier talent and unbeatable chemistry makes for a great season in 2012. But what about beyond the immediate future? Will the impact of limited scholarships, including the departure of these seasoned players, affect the program years from now?
And what if one of those players ends up being the one that got away?
So be it, the administration has likely resolved. That's just the risk Lane Kiffin and his staff has to take under these sanctions. They have to bring in fresh legs and untainted minds for the future of their program to maintain its momentum. Matt Barkley can't come back another year.
For the most part, it's not as if Kiffin opened up the door and wore a big ol' boot leaving these players on their backs. They chose their designations. Now did he do a good enough job coercing one to stay? More were believed to be on their way out, like quarterback Jesse Scroggins, but stayed put.
Regardless, if the staff didn't have a "there's plenty of fish in the sea" approach to these transfers then the overall team chemistry might suffer. The younger players need to be burgeoning leaders, so Kiffin has to focus on bringing in top-tier talent in 2012 and fostering the 2011 class.
The sanctions' impact will hit most heavily beginning in the post-Barkley era. Thus, the coaching staff doesn't have time for a lukewarm player eating up a scholarship. Passion is derived from love or hate; you're either in or out. The ones that love this program are the ones that will stay and keep it thriving.
Every fan appreciates the committed scholarship player who had limited playing time but remained at a school for his entire football career, á la USC's Ross Cumming. If a student-athlete wants to have a great college experience without worrying about the longterm, what Cumming did works just fine. On the other hand, if a player is looking for a means to the NFL but isn't getting the opportunity, he should switch schools.
Every player has different goals. And a coach simply can't accommodate everybody.
Currently the USC administration (and fan-centric USC sites) is knee deep in Scholarshipology, trying to determine who is most deserving of a paid private education and will successfully play football at a high level. Kiffin has the sword, and only he and his staff do the knighting.
So we can question their methods of dropping players or be concerned about USC creating another Departed movie during this offseason. But in the end, the players will come and go like they graduated early or never enrolled.
And "75" will remain. Tatooed on these Trojans for the next few years. Until then, Hotel USC has limited occupancy.