The Obvious - The enormous California recruiting artery was officially opened full throttle Wednesday by USC coach Pete Carroll and his energetic football staff, who took complete advantage of an historic "Back to the Future" 2002 football season and transcended it into a motherload of talent featuring 17 All-Americans of the 22 prep players signed.
The Not So Obvious - Hailed as one of the elite national recruiting classes in USC history by the numerous "gurus", the Trojans' recruiting campaign was so complete that the ink had barely dried on the Letters of Intent when internet threads began discussing the few players that DIDN'T sign with the Trojans. Such is the price of Trojan recruiting glory when one virtually runs the West Coast table while mixing in a few nuggets from around the country.
The Obvious - The Trojan recruiting class is heavy in standout two-way performers, many of whom will start their careers on the defensive side of the football. In the annual Tacoma Tribune Western Top 100 covering the states of Alaska, Arizona, California, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, and Washington, 15 of the 22 future Trojans signed on Wednesday could play defense.
The Not So Obvious - SuperPrep guru Allen Wallace told the Tacoma Tribune, "The best defensive players on the West Coast want to go to USC. Why wouldn't you want to play for Pete Carroll? He's shown that coaching is more important than talent." TheInsiders' Jamie Newberg said, "Simply put, this is the best Pac-10 class in years."
The Obvious - While much of the publicity is shaded towards the defensive recruits, it was the late addition of Oxnard St. Bonaventure Parade All-American wide receiver Whitney Lewis that helped balance the spotlight back on a brilliant collection of offensive players that is sure to get Norm Chow's juices flowing.
The Not So Obvious - The Trojans finally plugged the flow of Southern California talent to Florida State, but it was really Lewis' mother, Sherry Laws, who set the record straight when she told the Ventura County Star, "I thought he (Whitney) could play football anywhere, but USC offered advantages that Florida State could not. I believe strongly that USC offers better academics than Florida State. That's so important to us. And by going to USC, he'll be close to his family, coaches, and friends and all the support we can offer." Added Whitney's father Byron, "One of the things that turned me off to Florida State was that they never included me in the decision-making process. This is decision that has to include the parents."
The Obvious - The USC recruits and their national, regional, and local rankings received more than their share of "pub". However, one must take many of these rankings with caution as illustrated by Taft All-American receiver Steve Smith, who was ranked nationally anywhere from No. 2 by Rivals to No. 98 by SuperPrep -not to mention being the only "10" in the Best in the West.
The Not So Obvious -Cynical former USC recruiting coordinator and linebacker coach Artie Gigantino said recently in the San Francisco Examiner, "All these so-called "experts" that rank recruiting classes and proclaim this player or that player to be the best in the nation exaggerate a bit. Not many of them ever go to games and very few of these "gurus" watch tapes. They get their information from college and high school coaches. So beware of the hype. In recruiting, always remember evaluation is more important than actual salesmanship."
The Obvious -The Trojan recruiting class is ranked nationally No. 1 by SuperPrep and No. 3 by Prep Football Report, TheInsiders, and Rivals.
The Not So Obvious - If you think regional bias, just know that SuperPrep's Allen Wallace resides in Southern California, Prep Football Report's Tom Lemming hails from Illinois, Rivals' Bobby Burton from Texas, and Insiders' Jamie Newberg from the Deep South.
The Obvious - The Trojans signed Tustin offensive lineman Sam Baker (6-5, 320), ranked nationally in the Top 100 by ESPN (#66), Rivals (#83), and TheInsiders (#97).
The Not So Obvious -The annual Tacoma Tribune Western Top 100 says of Baker, "Sam has emerged as the star (offensive lineman) of this class." Baker's father, Dave, is the all-time rebound leader as a UC Irvine Hall of Fame basketball player (1972-75), and Sam did play some basketball prior to his senior year at Tustin. Baker's father is also the comissioner of the Arena Football League. In the nationally televised U.S. Army All-American Game in San Antonio, the kid from the run-only Tustin High didn't give up a sack against the vaunted East front the entire game.
The Obvious - The Trojans signed Tustin two-way lineman Chris Barrett (6-5, 230), ranked nationally in the Top 100 by SuperPrep (#29), ESPN (#32), TheInsiders (#43) and ESPN (#99).
The Not So Obvious - Called "The Freak" by Tustin coach Myron Miller for his advanced physical maturity, some question if his physical body is ahead of his playing performance. Nobody argues with his upside, and SC coach Ed Orgeron has a track record of taking "Gold's Gym" bodies and developing them into great defensive linemen. Many wondered during the recruiting process why Barrett kept saying he wanted to consider the Florida Gators. Well, the kid lived in Florida as a youngster. Barrett still needs to qualify according to those at his high school. One of those famous "silent commits".
The Obvious - The Trojans signed La Mesa Helix running back Reggie Bush (6-0, 180), ranked nationally in the Top 100 by SuperPrep (#2), ESPN (#14), and TheInsiders (#27).
The Not So Obvious - The best running back in the nation according to Parade Magazine, and if you have seen film of some of the other touted prep backs, it is hard to argue. Bush was said to be a personal recruit of Tyrone Willingham at both Stanford and Notre Dame. Following this year's Notre Dame game and a very successful USC recruiting visit with his parents, Bush did a complete reversal and rocked the recruiting world by selecting SC during the Orange Bowl game. A combination of great speed, cuts on a dime, and legs that look like they are going in all directions at once. The real deal who reminds some of a combination of former Oklahoma star Joe Washington and O.J. Simpson. His high school coach says he reminds him of Marshall Faulk.
The Obvious - The Trojans sign Long Beach City College offensive tackle John Drake (6-4, 350), a 2002 JC Athletic Bureau All-State Region lV first team selection.
The Not So Obvious - Originally headed for Fresno State, this former Long Beach Wilson Bruin did a late quick recruiting switch. Adds needed maturity and depth to a line that is still awaiting the surgery progress of Eric Torres and Lenny Vandermade. The last great Long Beach Wilson star to play at USC was All-American tackle Sid Smith, who later played with the Chiefs and the Oilers.
The Obvious - The Trojans sign Paso Robles offensive lineman Travis Draper (6-4, 250), a Tacoma Tribune Western Top 100 selection.
The Not So Obvious - In the crazy world of Southern California recruiting, Draper said that originally he was a UCLA fan. However, he has family who attended USC, so it should not come as a total surprise that he commited early to the Trojans. Very fast and impressive in the Nike camp.
The Obvious - The Trojans sign Chino defensive tackle Sedrick Ellis (6-3, 265), ranked nationally in the Top 100 by SuperPrep (#22), TheInsiders (#27), and Rivals (#54).
The Not So Obvious - After taking trips to LSU and Oklahoma, the Trojan fans thought this was a lost cause. Tell that to Pete Carroll and Ed Orgeron. Even some last minute recruiting by some future UCLA recruits couldn't sway Ellis from commiting to Troy on the Coliseum grass during his recruiting visit. Classmates at Chino High say this kid is very well liked and respected on campus.
The Obvious - The Trojans sign Inglewood defensive lineman Lawrence Jackson (6-5, 245), ranked nationally in the Top 100 by TheInsiders (#25), SuperPrep (#26), and Rivals (#80).
The Not So Obvious - A "silent commit", once this kid made the announcement, he went right at helping recruit others to USC at all-star games. He even predicted that Chino's Sedrick Ellis would commit to Troy. Not even a Lear jet recruiting visit to Tennessee could keep Jackson from being a Trojan. May someday line up against his brother, who is a freshman offensive tackle at Arizona.
The Obvious - The Trojans sign Servite offensive lineman Ryan Kalil (6-4, 265), a Tacoma Tribune Western Top 100 selection.
The Not So Obvious - The son of former Arizona center and USFL player Frank Kalil, Ryan is called "a great kid" by Servite principal Ray Dunn. Kailil will try to fulfill the Servite potential that injury- plagued tackle Joe McGuire couldn't. Kalil said it was the recruiting of Trojan line coach Tim Davis that helped make up his mind early in the recruiting process last June. Servite players of coach Larry Toner come disciplined and ready to rumble , and Kalil comes with an attitude.
The Obvious - The Trojans sign Oxnard St. Bonaventure wide receiver Whitney Lewis (6-1, 220), ranked nationally in the Top 100 by TheInsiders (#2), Rivals (#3), ESPN (#11), and SuperPrep (#34).
The Not So Obvious - Who says the Trojans don't get Parade All-Americans from Texas? Whitney was born in Corpus Christi, but came to California when he was two-years old. Almost a prep legend in Southern California, we'll leave it to Professor Paskwietz to fill in the behind the scenes details on his USC commit, but it should noted that he and Taft's Steve Smith are friendly rivals, and Lewis said during a radio interview that he looks forward to competing against Smith in the fall. Competing against Smith in the fall is still up in the air until he hits his SAT score. Florida State coaches called him a bigger Peter Warrick.
The Obvious - The Trojans sign Anaheim Western defensive lineman Fili Moala (6-5, 285), a Tacoma Tribune Western Top 100 selection.
The Not So Obvious - Although the Trojans were unable to sign his cousin Haloti Ngata (Oregon) last year, Fili was the first trojan verbal in this glorious class. Many looked forward to seeing this large Tongan play for the Pioneers, but a foot injury all but destroyed his season. Trojan fans probably will be able to see him in the Orange County All-Star Game in early July should he be recovered enough to play.
The Obvious - The Trojans sign Rohnert Park Rancho Cotate defensive tackle Alex Morrow (6-6, 260), a Tacoma Tribune Western Top 100 selection.
The Not So Obvious - So where the heck is Rohnert Park you ask? It's between Petaluma and Sabastopol just ouside of Cotati. Another kid who says he grew up a UCLA fan, but converted to Trojanism. Figures to play defensive line, but did play offensive tackle his senior year and wore No. 60. Visited Oregon, but never made that visit to Westwood.
The Obvious - The Trojans sign Ventura College defensive back Will Poole (6-0, 190), a JC Athletic Bureau All-American first team.
The Not So Obvious - Kid has just one year of eligibility and will enroll in the fall, but Carroll sees big things for this former Boston College (1999) hitter. In the 2000 Aloha Bowl, Poole had 8 tackles and an interception against Arizona State. Hails from St. Albans, New York, where he attended Christ the King. Okay, he was a 1998 Prep Star All-American. Feel better?
The Obvious - The Trojans sign Mission Viejo offensive tackle Drew Radovich (6-5, 275), ranked nationally in the Top 100 by Rivals (#35) and TheInsiders (#87).
The Not So Obvious - The big debate in Orange County was who was better -Radovich or Baker? Radovich, whose father played linebacker at Arizona State, was coached by the legendary SoCal offensive line coach Marty Spaulding, whose own son, Scott, played for UCLA. Mission Viejo head coach Bob Johnson predicted last spring that when it was all said and done, Radovich would be a Trojan.
The Obvious - The Trojans signed Temple City defensive back Desmond Reed (5-9, 180), a Tacoma Tribune Western Top 100 selection.
The Not So Obvious - The Trojans might have been helped by Temple City head coach Mike Mooney, a former Trojan fullback who also is a Temple City graduate. Reed wore No. 22 in high school and should wear graduated Darrell Rideaux's same uniform number proudly. Trojan fans, who thought the kick return team was weak, will be happy to know that Reed, a four-year starter, returned two kicks of 87 and 85 yards for scores. Coach Carroll is excited because Reed hold the California record for interceptions with 31.
The Obvious - The Trojans signed Moreno Valley Canyon Springs linebacker Drean Rucker (6-0, 230), a Tacoma Tribune Western Top 100 selection.
The Not So Obvious - The son of former Oklahoma Sooner Andre Rucker, this kid comes as a big hitter with speed. The Tacoma Western Top 100 said of Rucker, "Drean Rucker not only has a great name, but he also has good speed that had him on every Pac-10 wish list." Canyon coach Shane Prosser says the kid is the best linebacker in California. Rucker's parents were swept away by the Trojans on their son's recruiting visit. Rucker reportedly still needs to meet academic requirements for entrance into USC.
The Obvious - The Trojans signed Woodland Hills Taft wide receiver Steve Smith (6-0, 185), ranked nationally in the Top 100 by Rivals (#2), ESPN (#7), TheInsiders (#33).
The Not So Obvious - The coverboy for the pre-season Student Sports and Sporting News High School Magazine, there was a moment on Wednesday when some thought he might still opt for Tennesse. Again, we pass that one to Professor Paskwietz for further details. Following his announcement to USC, the kid wore a Keyshawn Johnson Tampa Bay jersey to school. Smith comes from the same high school that produced former Trojan defensive back and coach of the Tennessee Titans, Jeff Fisher, not to mention possible starting Trojan quarterback Brandon Hance.
The Obvious - The Trojans sign Corona defensive tackle Matt Spanos (6-5, 270), a Tacoma Tribune Western Top 100 selection.
The Not So Obvious - Recruited by UCLA in the early going, Spanos says he has always considered himself a Trojan fan. Although he prefers defense, as far has his future position at USC he says, "I just want to play." Prior to his senior season, he played only defense, but this year he also played offense.The word is the kid loves to complete - an underlying theme of this year's class.
The Obvious - The Trojans sign Rancho Cucamonga defensive back Terrell Thomas (6-2,180), a Tacoma Tribune Western Top 100 selection.
The Not So Obvious - Attended football camp at Oregon State last summer. He has a cousin that plays at Boise State. Kid wore No. 9 in high school. With Darryl Poston out, Thomas may get his old high school number in the fall. Another Coliseum grass commit on his recruiting trip. With those long arms, some say this kid has Sunday written all over him.
The Obvious -The Trojans sign Union City Logan defensive back-wide receiver twins Brandon (5-10, 170) and Ryan (5-10,165) Ting, both selected to the Tacoma Tribune Western Top 100 selection.
The Not So Obvioius - These guys are so identical, they have the same post-season honors. Enrolled for spring practice, the surprise is how built these guys are for their size. These are no "fleas" that will pass through Goux Gate. Actually born in SoCal, these two from NorCal actually were rumored to be going to Stanford, but they never waivered from their USC pledge. Their father is noted sports doctor Arthur Ting, who has worked with the Oakland Raiders and is the team doctor for the San Jose Sharks.
The Obvious - The Trojans sign Corona lineman Jonathan Turner (6-3, 242), a Tacoma Tribune Western Top 100 selection.
The Not So Obvious - As ring announcer Michael Buffer likes to say, "Let's get ready to rumble!" This phrase is certainly appropriate for Jonathan, who is a former Youth Heavyweight Boxing National Champion. Kid played tailback on his high school team and ran for 1,083 yards. On film, he looked like a bigger Ricky Bell, but he'll play defensive end and should be quite a force coming off the edge. Comes with teammate Matt Spanos.
The Obvious - The Trojans sign Torrance South running back Chauncey Washington (6-0, 205), ranked nationally in the Top 100 by TheInsiders (#52).
The Not So Obvious - The great mystery back for the Trojans. Some say had he not been injuried, he would have gotten more national acclaim. Hails from the same high school as the Morton boys, Chad and Johnny. A dark cloud covered Washington since it was learned he had an altercation with a soccer teammate. Washington says things are okay, and the Trojan coaching staff believes he will there in August.
The Obvious - The Trojans sign River Ridge, Louisiana, John Curtis Christian defensive tackle Ryan Watson (6-4, 290), ranked nationally in the Top 100 by TheInsiders (#7).
The Not So Obvious - Watson is the first USC Louisiana recruit since tight end Brad Banta from Baton Rouge. Kid played for a state powerhouse program where Watson's defensive line averaged 290 pounds. Where USC lost out to some out-of-area recruits due to family considerations, Watson used family considerations in his decision as he has family in the San Fernando Valley and inner-city Los Angeles. Mother and brother came on his recruiting trip. As was the case with several recruits, give credit to Trojan tight end Alex Holmes who forged a relationship with Watson and exchanged phone numbers during the recruiting process. A special recruit for Louisiana native (Galliano, La.) and Trojan defensive line coach Ed Orgeron. The fiery coach wanted this kid bad for his defensive line toy chest.
The Obvious - The Trojans signed Colorado Littleton-Chatfield running back LenDale White (6-2, 230), ranked nationally in the Top 100 by SuperPrep (#35) and ESPN (#39).
The Not So Obvious - Yep, make sure that "D" in LenDale is upper case. Watching White run in his brief appearance in the U.S. Army All-American Game reminded some of a faster and more aggressive Shawn Walters. White showed great power, lean, and surprising acceleration, plus movement at the point of attack. Kid showed no fear of competition knowing the Trojans were getting Reggie Bush. Although two completely different style of runners, White said Bush would make him better. Picking USC over Pitt, LenDale said, "I just felt more comfortable at USC." His high school coach is former NFL and Colorado star Dave Logan.
The Obvious - The Trojans sign Vacaville linebacker Thomas Williams (6-3, 225), ranked nationally in the Top 100 by SuperPrep (#91).
The Not So Obvious - Many feel either Williams or Drean Rucker was the best linebacker in the state. Notre Dame wanted to see this kid take a visit, but Williams closed the door on the Domers without going to South Bend for a look-see. He also had an offer from Nebraska, and the thing that sticks out in his mind during the recruiting process was the fact that USC was the first school to call him last May 1st. To him, it showed the Trojans wanted him more than the other suitors.
The Obvious - The Trojans sign San Francisco Archbishop Riordan multi-purpose performer Eric Wright (5-11, 165), ranked nationally in the Top 100 by SuperPrep (#8 .
The Not So Obvious - Watching him on film, the San Francisco Player of the Year was a star at running back or defensive back. Riordan coach Frank Oross predicted that once Eric saw the USC tradition, it would be tough to turn down. Wright' s parents came on his recruiting visit and that sealed it. The thing that sticks out for Wright about the Trojans was that last spring practice at Riordan, while other colleges were sending their assistants, USC head coach Pete Carroll showed up in person. It left an impression.
The Obvious - Yes, yes, didn't forget about those "shirts" - fullback Jody Adelwale of Roosevelt and running back-linebacker Salo Faraimo of Vista. They are both headed to Troy in the spring semester. These guys are real team players.
The Not So Obvious - And no, didn't forget safety Darnell Bing. What can you can about Bing other than NOW you can "Release the Cracken" and hide the women and children.
The Obvious - So the letters are in and the Trojans' new horses are in the cardinal and gold barn waiting to run. The fun begins in August when this monster recruiting class arrives and perception becomes reality - the real deal or the bad deal.
The Not So Obvious - In the interlude, Trojan fans will relax by turning their nervous attention to next year's quarterback recruits Rocky Hinds of Playa Del Rey's St. Bernard's and John David Booty of Evangel Christian in Shreveport, Louisiana and safety Randy Estes of Los Alamitos. Crank up the bubble machine and so it goes.