It is now generally accepted that Pete Carroll and his hard working staff have once again assembled one of the nation's top football recruiting classes. Depending on what respected or well known source one chooses to believe, the current haul is rated anywhere from number one per ESPNU to number two as rated by our own Scout.com and its chief rival, Rivals.com. Just to be fair and balanced, as that now popular saying goes, the alleged Notre Dame Honk, Tom Lemming, rated USC number four in the recruiting derby behind Florida, Tennesse, and Texas. I am well aware that Lemming has a less than stellar reputation amongst many SC faithful, but the truth is undeniable. Lemming has become a very prominent person in the recruiting business and it is he that has a much watched show on CSTV called Generation Next. Thus, despite the general disdain one tends to get from USC fans when mentioning his name, he still seems worthy of mention. But no matter how Tom rated USC, even he had to admit that in terms of quality of each recruit, nobody, could top the Trojans.
After hauling in a consensus top five recruiting class almost each and every year, did anyone expect anything different from Pete and company this year? I mean, early on, he himself gave indications that if all went as he had hoped, this might actually be the best of the best when compared to all his prior classes while leading the Trojans! By all indications, the process this year started out like gangbusters and amongst some inner circles, the word was out that it looked like the bulk of this year's recruiting was actually done for the most part early in the process. In fact, for the first time since I can remember, even some prominent out of state recruits such as Broderick Green and James Wilson were not dissuaded from making open and public commitments to the Trojans. This seemed to be different from prior years where the unwritten word was to try to keep some of the out of state verbals quiet or Shush, as some internet folks like to say, for whatever reason. By the way, one can only presume, but the reason for keeping those quiet has never been clearly elicited though I have to think it is to keep less pressure on the kids. As we now know all too well, things can get pretty hot for an elite recruit from a place like Arkansas, Florida, or Louisiana who dares to announce allegiance to a school other than the hometown favorite.
Anyway, it does not take a rocket scientist to realize that things don't always go quite as smoothly as one might have hoped. First, the negative publicity regarding what has been called the Reggie Bush situation surfaced once again, and it surface at a time that was what one might call, "interesting" in terms of recruiting. Wouldn't most SC fans love to have been flies on the walls when listening to the spin opposing coaches have been giving that situation? Is there anyone out there who does not believe that topic was used to the utmost to convince kids to stay away from USC? I can't prove it, but I have a hunch that some coaches might have said something like, "if you don't come here, at least stay away from SC, because that school is going down, with Bushgate and everything like that!" And to make matters even more interesting, there was the annual, "Pete is going back to the No Fun League" drama. Only this time, that story seemed to have some legs, at least depending on who one believes or what source one references. It did not help squelch the rumors when it was discovered that Pete Carroll did actually meet with representatives of the Miami Dolphins when vacationing in Central America. Once again, does anyone doubt that the opposition played that tune to the utmost? Of course, Pete did not bolt and he is still at USC, and hopefully he will be here for a long time to come.
As we all now know, there were definitely some bumps along the road during this recruiting season, and the results were somewhat surprising, amazing and disappointing to some, all at one time. How many posts were there regarding the unexpected change of heart by highly touted offensive lineman, James Wilson? And then, how many recruiting diehards were getting more nervous by the day that early commit Broderick Green was going to go elsewhere? And how many, "the sky is falling" type posts appeared on the various SC Boards when Donovan Warren announced for Michigan while criticism after criticism appeared about the mistakes in recruiting Omar Bolden and how he was a must get and the like? In fact, in my opinion, that was one of the most emotional and intriguing issues brought up in this entire process. Some guys who are very well respected posters were seemingly incensed that this kid did not get the "love and respect" that he deserved and SC really screwed up his recruitment. Now don't shoot the messenger here, folks. I am merely stating what actually appeared in print.
Personally, I took a very different view than many others. I decided long ago, to never ever worry or care about the kids that SC did not land. I only care the recruits that do sign with SC. Admittedly, I was very concerned when SC lost Wilson, but not for the reasons that most might think. I was not the least bit worried that he was so good that nobody could replace him. I was much more concerned that SC was a little light on line recruits and I was not sure if there were really a plan B. All the scuttlebutt that I had heard led me to believe that this year the coaches were so confident that their guys would stick, just maybe SC was going to get caught off guard. Adding to the woes on the line were the strong rumors that actually played out that Marvin Austin would also go elsewhere. Once again, I did not care so much about losing him, I was more worried about numbers on the line and who would SC sign?
Well, as it turned out, Pete and staff did come up with a plan and a great one at that. I don't know how in the world this staff does it every single time, but once again, everything came up smelling like a rose. Yes, SC did fill their line needs, very well in my opinion. There ended up being 7 linemen brought in and knowing Pete, I would not be shocked if one more suddenly appears between now and the first day of fall practice, similar to the way that John Drake and David Buehler arrived. Anyway, seemingly out of nowhere, SC came up with Christian Tupou and Trey Henderson and voila, the line class is more than adequate. Call this sour grapes and /or call me an SC Honk with Cardinal and Gold coloring in my eyes, but I love those two pickups. In Tupou, SC has a guy who just might end up being an awesome NG or even an offensive center, whatever the team needs. Why he wasn't recruited earlier is a question some might wonder. Who cares, is my answer. This guy can ball; just ask those who have seen his tape or have seen him in person. As for Henderson, I think this guy has a huge upside. He might not be ready to play right away, and that is a good thing. Let him develop and use his outstanding athleticism and speed to develop into an honors candidate at defensive tackle.
I would also like to bring up the following issue and question. How many SC followers were not worrying, as least at some point during this recruiting season, that Pete finally managed to miscalculate!! I mean, once and for all, had he finally emphasized the out of state kids too much? To some, asking that in public is heresy. But let's be honest. When Wilson decommitted and when things began to look bleak for Austin and Deonte Thompson and Ahmad Page amongst others, and then when D Warren announced for the Wolverines, weren't some just sure that this time, SC was going to pay for the error of their ways? Well, I admit that I was plenty worried. I wondered if SC should have concentrated more on the CA kids. Well, so much for armchair quarterback, self proclaimed know it alls--and put me at the top of that unflattering list.
As it turns out, SC cleaned up with out of state kids and they took care of business in state as well. In the end, USC landed some of the nation's very best out of state players and some with great potential as well. There were Everson Griffen and Kris O'Dowd from Arizona, Ron Johnson from Michigan, Joe McKnight from Louisiana, Broderick Green and Damian Williams (a transfer) from Arkansas, and Trey Henderson from Canada. And as we all know, only "extenuating circumstances" prevented James Wilson from attending SC as well. And then on the in state side of the equation, USC pulled in the top rated linebacker, Chris Gallipo, the top rated receiver, Brandon Carswell, the top rated running back, Marc Tyler and the guy I feel will be the best of the best in this group of quarterbacks, namely Aaron Corp. And of course, that instate groups also includes all the other awesome signees such as Malcolm Smith, DaJohn Harris, Michael Reardon, Rhett Ellison, Marshall Jones, Jordan Cambell, and Martin Coleman. To make things even more complete, SC is also strongly rumored to be getting kickers Jordan Congdon who has left Nebraska and Joe Houston from El Camino is trying to get things in order to come in for next season.
When I sat back and really took a look at this incredible class, I realized that in all the years that I have followed SC, all the way back to 1967, only once did a class seem to have some many guys rated as highly at their respective positions as in this class. That was in 1979 when SC pulled in the likes of Don Mosebar-the top rated Oliner, Rob Hedequist the top rated center, George Achica, the top rated Dliner, Drew Dossett, the top rated linebacker, Joey Browner, a top rated cornerback, and Bruce Matthews, simply one of the greatest SC linemen ever amongst others in that memorable class. Thinking back to that genius Larry Smith who said things could never be the same at SC, one simply has to marvel at Pete Carroll and all that he has accomplished. For all the mumbling and private cursing I personally did during the recruiting season about how this and that did not go right, I think I will simply sit back and watch how this unfolds so long as Pete is at USC. The truth is that he is the BEST THAT I HAVE EVER SEEN, when it comes to recruiting, bar none. And as for the lastest junk about Bush, McKnight and Carroll and some conversation, all I can say is that Pete said it did not happen, so that is good enough for me. I am slow to learn, but even a dummy knows when to sit back and smell the roses.