As The Recruiting World Turns

With one week to go before signing day the Trojan coaches are busy paying last minute visits to recruits across the country while preparing for one final weekend of hosting prospects before the NCAA dead period begins on Sunday night.

What happens in the next seven days will go a long way toward determining where the Trojan Class of 2007 is ranked nationally against other top classes such as Florida and LSU. There's no question that USC has garnered the most impressive list of star power in terms of quality of player but with less than 20 rides to give those other schools could position themselves ahead of the Trojans on the basis of sheer quantity by bringing in a full contingent of 25 players.

So far the Trojans have 14 commits and 13 of them appear to be very solid. The 14th, Arkansas running back Broderick Green, has long been saying the right things about being good with his USC verbal but recent trips to Penn State and Ohio State over the past two weekends has many recruiting experts believing that a de-commit is certainly possible. The Nittany Lions would appear to be the more likely destination if indeed Broderick were to change his mind but the Trojan coaches will make one more in-home visit this week in an attempt to bring him West. Green fought off recent advances from Florida about possibly taking a trip to Gainesville this weekend and, according to his coach, Green will probably make a final decision early next week. My Trojan pride says Broderick sticks with his USC verbal but there's definitely a chance he could end up in Happy Valley too.

USC is also in on another running back, Joe McKnight from Louisiana, and this is another one that could come down to the wire. Joe has been the subject of one of the most intense recruiting battles of the year as it has become a matter of state pride for LSU fans looking to keep him home, or Southern pride for Alabama fans who simply want him to cross a couple state lines to play for the Tide. Joe has long cast a glance toward Los Angeles and the Trojans, inspired in part by the play of his idol Reggie Bush. Both players bring similar skill sets to the table and you can be sure the Trojan coaches are reminding Joe that they are the only ones who can claim to have coached Reggie to a Heisman Trophy. At the Army game in San Antonio there was very little doubt that USC was the odds-on favorite to land McKnight based on numerous statements and reports from other players. Joe even said he already knew which school he would be attending even though he wasn't ready to announce it yet. Well, since that time he took his trip to USC and ever since then he has been extremely hard to read. He says he is now completely open, that his earlier claim of knowing where he wanted to go is no longer the case. Is it a smoke screen to keep the local pressure off until an announcement is made? That's possible. Pete Carroll advises out of state recruits to wait as long as possible before making an announcement in order to avoid such scrutiny. Carroll will visit Joe on Wednesday with the hopes of finalizing this amazingly talented player and our thought is that, when all is said and done, McKnight will be a Trojan.

There are a pair of receivers still in the picture with Deonte Thompson and Ahmad Paige. With Brandon Carswell already committed it would stand to reason that we would only take one more receiver at the most. Both players will receive a visit this week from Pete Carroll (Thompson on Wednesday, Paige on Thursday) while Ahmad still has an official visit to take this weekend to USC. Ahmad originally committed to Florida State but has since backed off and now lists Florida, Tennessee and the Trojans. Most observers consider the Gators the favorite although it's hard to know where the Trojans stand since he hasn't been on his visit yet. Thompson has been a real possibility for USC since an impressive official visit in mid-December (he called it "my best visit") and he now lists the Trojans in his top four along with Florida, Miami and Ohio State. Deonte recently became a father and it's unclear at this point how that will affect his college choice. Of the two receivers, our chances are better for Thompson at this point.

The top remaining defensive player on the board is Donovan Warren and we will all know his college destination on Thursday (February 1st) when he announces his choice on the FSN Prime Ticket high school spotlight show. Warren, who saw his stock rise as much as any player at the Army bowl with a terrific week of practices and solid performance in the game, is down to USC and Michigan as his top two choices with much speculation that the Trojans have been the team to beat for some time now. Donovan considered taking a trip to Ann Arbor this week for one last look at the Wolverines, that visit never happened but the Wolverines have made this a genuine decision for Warren. By the time Thursday evening rolls around, however, I would be awfully surprised if Donovan is not the latest player to follow the famed Poly-to-SC pipeline with a verbal to the Trojans. I just think that the allure of playing for championships at his hometown school will be too much for him to turn down.

Another defensive back who is still on the board is Anthony Gildon, the talented corner who had given a verbal commit to Oregon last summer only to see that followed shortly by a USC offer. Anthony originally said he was 100% solid with his commit to the Ducks but after the season ended, and his Oaks Christian team finished off a 15-0 season with a state title, he began to seriously consider the Trojan offer to the point where he said his official USC visit was "as close to perfect as you can get." This one is still too close to call as Anthony is said to be torn between honoring his earlier commitment to Oregon or taking advantage of the opportunity which has been presented to him at USC.

It remains to be seen what will happen with Michigan star Ronald Johnson as he entertains a final list of choices that include USC, Ohio State, Florida and the two in-state schools Michigan and Michigan State. Top players rarely leave the state of Michigan to play college football elsewhere but that hasn't stopped the Trojans from making a run. The USC coaches paid Ronald an in-home visit earlier this week.

Where things could get really interesting for the Trojans in this class is along the defensive line. With commits so far from Everson Griffen and Da'John Harris (with the assumption that Michael Reardon will begin his career on the o-line) it is vital for the Trojans to add at least one more, if not two, defensive linemen. The name which has long been mentioned as the top choice in the middle is Marvin Austin, a big-city type of guy who seemed to enjoy his visit to USC in November. Since that point, the Trojans appear to have been overtaken by Florida State and North Carolina in the lead position but Pete Carroll was scheduled for an in-home visit on Tuesday night and nobody is more persuasive in the living room than the Trojan head coach. If anybody can get USC back in the Austin sweepstakes, it is Carroll. The Trojans have also recently extended offers to a pair of interior linemen who have made a rapid climb up the wish list. Christian Tupou is a 260 pound tackle who played defensive end up until his junior year. One former USC player who lives in the Sacramento area and saw Christian play at Grant HS says he is "a real force in the middle, a guy who just eats up the guys across from him. He's so strong and has a chance to eventually play at 290 pounds." Christian is holding offers from schools such as Fresno State, Nebraska, BYU and Arizona but a solid trip to USC this weekend could go a long way in making him a Trojan. Trey Henderson from Vancouver has been a verbal commit to Washington State but he has always been a player the Trojan coaches were interested in since his performance at the USC summer camp. Trey was only 15 at the time of the camp and showed good raw skills, enough to grow into a 6-4, 265 pound frame and earn a late USC offer. Trey will also trip to the USC campus this weekend.

At this point offensive lineman Kevin Bryant will not be making a trip to USC this weekend. Pete Carroll will pay a visit to Nease HS in Jacksonville on Wednesday to see James Wilson and to check if there is any chance for him to end up a Trojan. Top Stories