The Not So Obvious – Not since the glorious era of the 1970's and early 80's have recruiting mapmakers seen such a large scale USC transcontinental invasion. National, regional, and traditional national powers such as Tennessee, Georgia, Penn State, and even Oklahoma now find themselves in the rare position of having to confront the USC Trojans on their home turf. It is now a struggle to keep their nuggets from heading to the new Mecca of college football, Los Angeles, California.
The Obvious – The majority of this year's Trojan commitments are from the fertile California recruiting grounds, with emphasis, of course, in the Southern California motherland.
The Not So Obvious – With the addition of five more out-of-state players from this recent recruiting haul, it appears the Trojans now have a total of 13 separate states outside of California represented on their roster. And did we mention America Samoa? To show how close the Cardinal and Gold were to sweeping their recruiting goals, the Trojans were in the final two for Oklahoma-bound DB Reggie Smith of Edmond, who said at his announcement that things might have been different if Los Angeles was closer to Edmond, Oklahoma.
The Obvious – Okay, so this recruiting class isn't a consensus No.1, but the quality over the quantity is almost breathtaking.
The Not So Obvious -Without too much reservation, it is safe to say that the Trojans have now cashed in on back-to-back national championships and a 22-game winning streak by convincing some of the finest prep stars from the East and the South to "Westward Ho." Taking into account their mantra to play any adversary, anytime, your place or mine, and bolstered by another seasonal delivery of victorious national television exposures, this is probably a modest assessment of USC's recruiting muscle. All this despite the loss in crunch time of recruiting coordinator Ed Orgeron, who has since been replaced by "new" coordinator Lane Kiffin. Oh, you hadn't heard?
The Obvious – Trojans fans got a sneak preview of this week's signings earlier with the annual WeAreSC recruiting dinners, which were a big success both at Papadakis Taverna and at a local sports restaurant in Anaheim.
The Not So Obvious – At the Anaheim dinner, aside from the usual outstanding job of co-hosts Garry Paskwietz and John Jackson in discussing and answering recruiting questions, dinner guests were treated to some insight to Trojan recruiting by respected Saddleback JC coach and former Trojan Bill Cunerty. Cunerty said, "Pete Carroll has built a program based on ability and character. If the No. 2 player has better character, the Trojans will pass on No. 1 and see the upside of No. 2." Cunerty also said, " You can watch all the film you want, but you have to see a player in person to really see what he's all about. There's that little something that you can only tell in person."
The Obvious – There are now so many evaluation services in the world of recruiting, it's amusing to compare and contrast all these rankings and "stars." Whether you're a Scout.com subscriber, a Tom Lemming disciple, Rivals.com believer, Parade Magazine worshiper, or Best in the West constituent, there is no lack of opinion.
The Not So Obvious – So, it's now appropriate for the O/NSO to chime in with our "annual" Trojan recruiting viewpoint. So, here they are the class of 2005 in the world of Trojan recruiting. Listed are the rankings of the "homeboys" of Scout and to be fair and politically George Carlin correct, the other dudes. For the purpose of identification, we'll simply refer to the Best in the West as just plain BIW.
The Obvious – The Trojans sign Eden Prairie, MN, DL Walker Ashley (6-5, 285, 4.8), ranked in the Top 100 by Lemming (#88).
The Not So Obvious – The Minneapolis Star-Tribune Player of the Year and a finalist for the Mr. Football award in the state of Minnesota, it certainly didn't hurt that the cousin of Trojan tight end Dominique Byrd was Walker Ashley's best friend. It also didn't hurt that Walker's father, Walker Lee Ashley, played for Pete Carroll in the NFL. It also didn't hurt that California isn't Minnesota in January, if you get my "drift." The Trojans overcame Ashley's trip to Happy Valley where Walker's dad played for the JoePa in Nittiny Lionville.
The Obvious – The Trojans sign Pomona Diamond Ranch TE Charles Brown (6-6, 250, 4.9), an All-CIF selection.
The Not So Obvious – Don't let anybody fool ya, there was no way that Pete Carroll was going to let UCLA have ANY inroads on the USC highway. Carroll reassured Brown he would get his chance to play tight end, even if the offensive line is the kid's future Sunday position. Perhaps the thought of losing a nugget to Westwood brought out the best in the Trojans staff's competitive recruiting nature. There is nothing like the thought of UCLA coach Karl Dorrell announcing he bagged a Trojan verbal to get your attention.
The Obvious – The Trojans sign Lakewood LB Luther Brown (6-2, 230, 4.7), ranked in the Top 100 by Scout (#31), Rivals (#32), Parade (#6-LB), and regionally in the BIW (#5).
The Not So Obvious – In many ways, this may have been the most introspective moment in Brown's athletic career. By choosing the Trojans, he places himself in Pete Carroll's ultimate competition ring, a ring that has left some recruits asking for the early exit to other outposts. If Luther had selected Arizona, he would have done the proverbial competition by-pass and taken Easy Street his freshmen year in the Pac-10. The Trojan selection was also impressive considering his Lakewood linebacker buddy, Adrian McCovey, decided on Arizona providing Brown a potential Tucson companion.
The Obvious – The Trojans sign San Bernardino Arroyo Valley QB Michael Coleman (6-1, 220, 4.6), ranked in BIW (#27).
The Not So Obvious – After New York's Jason Gwaltney played the Trojans in the "Manhattan" shell game to West Virginia, Coleman becomes another wildcard for Pete Carroll's mad scientist experimentation's. Spin the wheel of position fortune. Buy a gridiron Pat Sajak vowel and you may have a Marcus Allen clone. Say what? Yep, after careful Trojan coaching staff consideration and having enrolled at Troy early, the kid will start spring practice as a tailback, having made the switch from quarterback just like Mr. Marcus. Yes, yes, so did legendary tailback Anthony Davis, a QB at San Fernando HS. The best in the Inland Empire.
The Obvious – The Trojans sign Oradell Bergen Catholic, NJ, LB Brian Cushing (6-3, 230, 4.5), ranked in the Top 100 by Lemming (#14), Scout (#19), Rivals (#53), and Parade (#7-LB).
The Not So Obvious – Saying he "wanted to challenge myself at the best school in the country," it was almost painful to follow the recruiting stress on Brian and his family as they were enduring the recruiting process. It says here that Cushing, however, may be the most intriguing recruit of the Trojans marvelous haul, perhaps the big version of Matt Grootegoed. While there is the natural talk of strong safety and linebacker, this kid showed in his New Jersey championship game, which was telecast into Los Angeles, that he can do it all defensively AND offensively, just like Groots. Where he starts out playing may not be where he ends up playing. Think of this kid as a Servite High type of physical player coming from a high school of 799 boys. For map enthusiasts, Bergen Catholic is just ten miles outside of New York City.
The Obvious – The Trojans sign Redondo Union LB Kevin Ellison (6-1, 215, 4.6), an All-CIF selection
The Not So Obvious – In recent times, Redondo Union has been a bastion of future college basketball talent. Okay, King's Harbor is always a young stud's romantic Disneyland. However, there's no Fantasyland in Ellison's game as he easily passes the eyeball test. Another put'em where you need him, an interchangeable part that could end up a fullback. The kid passes the eyeball test and we get to watch him compete this spring as a member of the Trojans Early Enrollment Club.
The Obvious – The Trojan sign Sherman Oaks Notre Dame DB Cary Harris (6-0, 180, 4.5), ranked in the Top 100 by Scout (#53) and regionally in the BIW (#9).
The Not So Obvious – After the DeSean Jackson's rejection announcement on Fox, Trojan fans were holding their breath for the "live" Harris announce. Not only were Cardinal and Gold fans thrilled with the USC selection, so was his father, Cary Sr., who once attended Troy. How ironic that this "lock down" DB would follow WR Jackson's Cal declaration. They may very well see themselves matched up o a different "set" in the future. In some programs, the kid would have been considered a real talent at running back, but Pete Carroll sees this San Fernando star as the final piece to his restocking of secondary talent. This was battle of Nike University ,er, Oregon, and the national champs.
The Obvious – The Trojans sign Charter Oak DB Will Harris (6-2, 195, 4.6), ranked in the Top 100 by Rivals (#46), Scout (#81), and regionally by the BIW (#10).
The Not So Obvious – You've got to love it that this kid is a multi-sport athlete, a real star in basketball for Charter Oak. All CIF in B-ball, he also was the league MVP. The last hoopster with such grace was Trojan stellar receiver Steve Smith, a hero in the Orange Bowl. A big "hitter," he was also selected to the Papadakis Taverna All-Verbal commitment team, having announced at the Trojans Greek "Julies" in San Pedro. The kid credits Trojan coach Brennan Carroll for his positive recruiting. Oh, and he wants to have a career in sports management after college. Better get to know of the prime beef the next four years, they could be your first clients.
The Obvious – The Trojans "re-sign" Los Angeles Fremont HS OL Thomas Herring (6-6, 315, 4.9).
The Not So Obvious – For all those Trojan fans that lamented over the likes of Illinois prep tackle Dace Richardson (Iowa), there was an early Christmas treat. Oh boy, the biggie news is the big man from Fremont HS asked to be moved from defense to the offensive line and suddenly the feeling the Trojans didn't sign a national offensive lineman becomes a moot. Maybe it was the incoming and current defensive line talent or the year off gave Herring a different big picture perspective to his chances of playing on Sundays, but this is a major personnel move that is a win-win for both the kid and the team. Least you have forgotten, the kid is a 2003 Parade All-American. Smile Coach Tim Davis, spring ball gets a little bit more exciting for you and your deepening offensive line unit.
The Obvious – The Trojans sign Fresno Bullard OL Nick Howell (6-5, 260, 5.1), a Tacoma Tribune Top 100 selection and a 2004 Super Prep All-Farwest selection.
The Not So Obvious – Hard to believe that this kid didn't even receive any recognition in the voting of the prestigious Long Beach Press-Telegram Best in the West. Of course, in this year's BIW, the Press-Telegram went with college scouts and gurus and not Pac-10 coaches as the voters, so draw your own conclusions. If you have viewed any film on this kid, you would know that the son of former Trojan All-America Pat has that proverbial "upside." Impressive at the snap, this kid shows the type of "finish" on blocks that left many Trojan fans smiling when viewing film of lineman Jeff Byers, last season's recruiting plum. A quick first step and he loves to "finish" on his blocks. This the kid will be fun to follow.
The Obvious – The Trojans sign Wailuku Baldwin, Maui, HI, LB Kaluka Maiava (6-0, 225, 4.6), ranked in the Top 100 by Scout (#72) and regionally in the BIW (#22).
The Not So Obvious – Right after watching the Trojans beat Cal on television, Maiava put the dagger to the Westwooders by switching his commitment from the Bruins to the eventual national champs. So, how many times has a recent prep nugget been influenced by a stunning Trojan performance on national television? Well, just ask Reggie Bush. Mother works in the airline industry, so free flights to the mainland to watch games at Colorado St. and Notre Dame didn't hurt in the recruiting process. Kid is the nephew of wrestler/actor Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson. A 3.6 GPA ain't bad either. Kid understands pursuit angles as a linebacker and this will give him an advantage as he enters Troy.
The Obvious – The Trojans sign Eureka LB Rey Maualuga (6-2, 235, 4.5), ranked in the Top 100 by Rivals (#5), Parade (#2-LB), Lemming (#16), Scout (18), and regionally in the BIW (#4).
The Not So Obvious – The Trojans super freshman Keith Rivers may be wearing No. 55, but there is a host of experts that say Maualuga is the closest thing to Junior Seau since, well, Junior was crunching Trojan opposition back in the 1980's. Rey Rey was also a devastating fullback for Eureka and his future has three letters beside his name… N-F-L. Hey, if you like him as a linebacker, trust me, No. 33 was a pretty powerful fullback with moves, as well. A master blaster when he comes in contact with anybody holding the pigskin, his kick block in the U.S. Army All-American game has become mandatory video viewing for any highlights of this kid. Just ask the poor East team lineman that tried to block him as he hit and hurdled his way to the kicker.
The Obvious – The Trojans sign Houston County Warner Robins, Ga., DL Kyle Moore (6-6, 250, 4.7), ranked in the Top 100 by Lemming (#28), Rivals (#40) and Parade (#11-LMN)
The Not So Obvious – Announcing on the Fox South recruiting show, the kid faked almost everybody out with the "Miami" hat trick. Even for Trojan insiders who knew he was coming, it still caused a skipping of the aorta. With family in San Diego and Inglewood, he says his immediate family may move to the "west side" and they are in the discussion stage of moving back to Southern California. The last great ones the Trojan took from the Peach State played on the championship teams of the 1970's. Perhaps you young shavers don't remember the likes of linebacker Chip Banks and August Curly. And let's not forget DT Walter Underwood or the Browners. Georgia fans may be excused for checking "between the hedges" for signs of Tommy Trojan and Pete Carroll. In the end, apparently Manhattan Beach won over South Beach. You can tell by the way he plays, he loves the physical aspect of a defensive lineman and pursues like a leopard.
The Obvious – The Trojans sign Mission Viejo QB Mark Sanchez (6-3, 215, 4.6), ranked nationally in the Top 100 by Scout (#1), Parade (#1-QB), Rivals (#7), and regionally in the BIW (#1).
The Not So Obvious – More than one old timer has said he has a physical resemblance to Stanford quarterback immortal Jim Plunkett. Appears to be the heir apparent to Alex Holmes for his ability to recruit for the Trojans as Sanchez helped seal the deal with the likes of WR's Patrick Turner. Kid carried a 3.85 GPA. Once a ball boy at Santa Margarita HS (Calif.), where he got to bond with Heisman Trophy winner Carson Palmer. Another athlete that holds his own the basketball court for Mission Viejo. What more can you say about the kid? He is The Truth.
The Obvious – The Trojans sign Rancho Cucamonga DL Averell Spicer (6-2, 265, 4.6), ranked in the Top 100 by Lemming (#36), Rivals (#43), Scout (#45), and regionally in the BIW (#7).
The Not So Obvious – For a player with so many stars attached to his name, there are some that say that this kid will need to be more consistent on a down-to-down basis. Nobody questions the ability. This may be the first true challenge for newly-hired defensive line coach Jethro Franklin, the former Green Bay Packers' DL coach. In the end, both these newcomers may be intertwined in their progress. He had 14 sacks during the season. Not bad having missed two games with a rib injury.
The Obvious – The Trojans sign Oxnard Rio Mesa DB Kevin Thomas (6-0, 180, 4.4), ranked in the Top 100 by Scout (#58), Rivals (#70), and regionally in the BIW (#12).
The Not So Obvious – Part of the Trojans' in-coming "Secondary Axis of Evil," Thomas showed in the U.S. Army All-America game that he indeed has "game." A big hitter, this is kid is a Carroll favorite, a player that is probably even better than his pub. It should be noted that he "averaged" 15.9 yards per catch on offense and was a major threat with the ball in his hands. You have to also like the fact that he had five interceptions his senior year and with Carroll's "It's about the ball" theory, he fits in nicely.
The Obvious – The Trojans sign Goodpasture Madison, Tenn., WR Patrick Turner (6-5, 210, 4.5), ranked in the Top 100 by Rivals (#2), Scout (#4) Lemming (#5),, and Parade (#4-WR).
The Not So Obvious – Oh, baby, they ain't playin Rocky Top at Neyland Stadium after the Trojans literally tackled the Vols in their own orange checkered end zone. Film of this kid absolutely reminds the Trojan coaching staff and USC followers of Mike Williams. Having defended him twice during the prep season, Tennessee recruit Austin Rogers said, "He creates problems because he can do it all. He's got the speed to run past you and he's got jumping ability to go over you. He can catch the quick 5-yard stops, make a move and get around you. You have to be on your toes at all times when you're playing him." A Pete Carroll in-home visit finally got mom and dad on the Trojans' express. Of course, you probably knew that, but did you know he wore No. 88 for Pasture Christian?
The Obvious – So, the USC drumbeat continues and Trojan fans are again worked into a lather over the scintillating recruiting display by Pete Carroll and staff.
The Not So Obvious - However, there is always a recruiter's "Buyer Beware" attached to any such recruiting exercise. From the No. 1 Trojan recruiting class of 2004, three highly-acclaimed members did not make it through last summer's national championship beginnings. While defensive lineman Thomas Herring returns with renewed enthusiasm, the likes of tight end Eugene Germany and wide receiver Derrick Jones are faded Trojan memories. However, for now, the 2005 class walks tall with Tommy Trojan and Traveler, and Trojan fans across America know this year's class is more than just "Mission Accomplished."