Carroll can sell the NFL dream

When Tony Mason was coaching football at Arizona, he once compared his situation to John Robinson's at USC. '' I'll sell cactus, he sells Heismans,'' said Mason.

True. Robinson had two Heisman winners – Charlie White and Marcus Allen.

Pete Carroll has had three – Carson Palmer in 2002, Matt Leinart in 2004 and Reggie Bush in 2005.

But Carroll also sells something else these days when he's recruiting here and there, and hither and yon around the country.

He sells the possibility that the prospect might become a first-round selection in the National Football League draft.

``We don't recruit an out-of-state kid unless we project him to be a first-round NFL choice,'' Carroll says with conviction.

We have to go back nearly three quarters of a century to get a lead-in to the Carroll come-on. Prior to the 1934 World Series between Detroit and the St. Louis Cardinals, Tigers pitcher Lynwood (Schoolboy) Rowe was appearing on the Eddie Cantor comedy radio hour, when he sneaked a message into the microphone to his lovely girl friend, later his wife. ``How'm I doin', Edna?'' he said in a half-whisper.

Whenever Rowe stuck his head out of the dugout during the World Series, the Cardinals, led by cackling Dizzy Dean, would shout, ``How'm I doin', Edna?'' It was a long Series for the Schoolboy.

And Carroll may begin hearing some ``how'm I doin'? cackles from opposing coaches if he doesn't begin producing more first-round NFL draft choices.

As politicians love to say, let's look at the record.

In fairness to Carroll, we should throw out the 2001 recruiting class since Pete wasn't hired until Dec. 15, 2000, about seven weeks before letter-of-intent day. He picked up two players from out of state, David Kirtman from Mercer Island, Wash., and Frankie (The Flash) Candela from Peabody, Mass. Kirtman served Carroll and the Trojans splendidly as a fullback, but wasn't selected until the fifth round of the 2006 NFL draft by Seattle. Candela had left his flash back in minor-league baseball or somewhere, and was gone after a year with the Trojans.

Carroll's next out-of-state crop in 2002 included wide receiver Mike Williams from Tampa, Fla., safety Mike Ross from St. Petersburg , Fla., offensive lineman Kyle Williams from Dallas, Tex., tight end Dominique Byrd from Minneapolis, Minn., and defensive lineman Travis Tofi from American Samoa. Williams left USC after his sophomore season, and, after his right to enter the NFL was delayed by court proceedings, was taken on the first round of the 2005 draft by Detroit. Ross left school after being declared medically unfit and Byrd was a third-round NFL choice by St. Louis in 2006. Kyle Williams was a starter for the Trojans in 2006, but was not likely to be a high draft selection. Tofi never started a game during his five years at the school.

The two out-of-staters in the 2003 recruiting class were running back LenDale White and defensive tackle Ryan Watson from River Ridge, La. With a stronger work ethic, White might have been a first-round choice when he left school early and was taken in the second round of the 2006 draft by Tennessee. Watson was a good, ol' boy who didn't fit into the the surf and sand of California, leaving USC after a year and enrolling at Southern Miss.

As Carroll began amassing the nation's top recruiting classes, the quality of his out-of-state players improved and the number of first-round choices should increase. In the 2004 class, he landed wide receiver Dwayne Jarrett from New Brunswick, N.J., linebacker Keith Rivers from Lake Mary, Fla., offensive lineman Jeff Byers from Loveland, Colo., and JC offensive lineman Deuce Lutui from Snow College in Ephraim, Utah, and tight end Fred Davis from Toledo, OH. Jarrett was almost certain of going in Round One of the upcoming draft, but went in the second. Lutui was a second-round choice in 2006 by Arizona, while Rivers, Davis possessed the talent to be taken on the first round when he was ready to make the move, but went to the Redskins in the second round.

The 2005 out-of-state class: linebacker Brian Cushing from Bergen, N.J., defensive end Kyle Moore from Warner Robbins, Ga., wide receiver Patrick Turner from Madison, Tenn., Kaluka Maiava from Wailuku, Hawaii, and defensive tackle Walker Ashley from Eden Prairie, Minn. Cushing and Turner possess first-round ability. In fact, when Turner arrived at USC in the summer of 2005, receivers coach and recruiting coordinator Lane Kiffin claimed Turner's talents were superior to those possessed by Jarrett. Maiava and Moore were never likely to be high picks and were drafted mid round. Ashley left school after one year and has enrolled at the University of Minnesota.

Certainly, the out-of-state class of 2006 has some first-round possibilities, safety Taylor Mays from Seattle leading the way. Wide receiver Vidal Hazelton from Chatham, Va., had the ability, but transferred to Cincinatti. Offensive lineman Butch Lewis from Aurora, Colo., is another possibility, while Carroll also likes the abilities of linebacker Mike Morgan from Dallas, Tex., fullback Stanley Havili from Salt Lake City and running back Emmanuel Moody from Toppell, Tex. Safety Antwine Perez has left school, as has Moody.

All you can say is ``wow'' when you look at the out-of-staters of 2007 – running backs Joe McKnight from River Rouge, La., and Broderick Green from Little Rock, Ark., (transfeffed to Arkansas),wide receiver-cornerback Ronald Johnson from Muskegon, Mich., defensive end Everson Griffen from Avondale, Ariz., offensive lineman Kristofer O'Dowd from Tucson, Ariz., and tight end Trey Henderson from Vancouver, British Columbia. Henderson reportedly had tremendous potential, but his football career ended with an injury. But the others?

In 2008 Carroll brought in out-of-staters in defensive end Nick Perry from Michigan, wide receiver Brice Butler from Norcross, Ga., T.J. Bryant from Lincoln High in Tallahassee, Fla., and this year the Trojans signed defensive end Devon Kennard, linebacker Jarvis Jones from Columbus, Ga, safety Jawanza Starling from Tallahassee, center John Martinez from Salt Lake City, linebacker Frankie Telfort (career ending heart condition) from Miami (medical red shirt), fullback Simione Vehikite from Hawaii and cornerback Torin Harris from Las Vegas. Perry, Butler, Starling and Kennard are already major impact players for USC.

The 2010 class won't sign until February, but Carroll has verbal commits from Scout.com's No. 2 wide receiver Kyle Prater (January enrollee) from Chicago and No. 1 tight end Xavier Grimble. It's extremely likely the Trojans will end up with at least two more 2010 out-of-state kids. The list of candidates are offensive lineman Seantrel Henderson from St. Paul, defensive end Jackson Jeffcoat and running back Lache (pronounced 'Lake') from Texas, linebacker Jordan Hicks from Ohio, linebacker Ricky Heimuli from Salt Lake City, offensive lineman Chaz Green from Tampa, defensive tackle Shariff Floyd from Philly, linebacker Christian Jones from Winter Park, Fla, safety Marquis Flowers from Phoenix, linebacker Khairi Fortt from Stamford, Conn., and T.J. Leifheit from North Carolina. There could be more, but that is a preview of which out-of-state prospects have interest in the Trojans. Floyd has already taken an official. Expect most of these kids to visit, if they take an official to USC after the season so the coaches can spend quality time with them.

Hopefully, Carroll will still be around to say, ``I told you so.''

Matt Barkley is the latest future Heisman candidate, and also a potential NFL first-round draft pick from USC. Perhaps not a Heisman candidate this year, but in the upcoming years? ***USC Hall-of-fame-columnist Loel Schrader contributed to this article.


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