Since taking the field against Oregon in the Pac-12 Championship Game, whatever positivity might have existed regarding USC football had descended in a slow spiral.
Covid protocols left USC a little shorthanded against Oregon and then the Trojans were outplayed by an average Ducks team. USC then turned down a bowl invitation, abruptly ending an already-shortened season. And recently, it’s been blow after blow of coaching changes and players leaving early. That was, until Saturday afternoon, when USC football got the shot in the arm it so desperately needed.
That’s when No. 1 overall prospect Korey Foreman and four-star cornerback Ceyair Wright announced their commitments to USC.
The term “must-get recruit” gets thrown around quite a bit, but Foreman was that guy for USC in this class. It’s tough to imagine the letdown that would have come had Foreman signed elsewhere and donned a different hat this weekend.
Neither of these announcements came as a surprise on Saturday — and indeed Foreman had signed with USC during the early signing period in mid-December — but both delivered loud statements. When things are going well, this is how USC recruits.
USC undoubtedly benefitted from the pandemic greatly reducing both recruits’ abilities to travel and take visits, but the Trojans also capitalized in two areas where they’ve made concerted efforts.
Foreman specifically addressed USC’s attention to the coming Name, Image, Likeness rules. And in just one day, USC has promoted Foreman through social media as much as it does most Heisman candidates. Foreman also talked about the defensive staff, specifically mentioning how much more comfortable he is with this group and their vision for him there. That’s a big deal, because Foreman was meticulous about the recruiting process and making sure he had a complete grasp of both his fit in the defense and the overall culture of whatever program he selected. Getting the stamp of approval from him in that aspect is a big feather in the cap of those defensive coaches.
In a matter of an hour, USC’s 2021 recruiting class climbed from No. 14 in the nation to No. 8, with a chance to jump higher in the coming weeks. It’s difficult to make big jumps late in the process as so many classes are nearing capacity, but that’s the effect these two can have. This is after USC finished 64th last season. Admittedly, that was with a very small class, but even sorted by average player rankings, USC wouldn’t have been all that comfortably inside the top 30.
Foreman and Wright are now two of the top three players in USC’s 2021 recruiting class. They also give the Trojans three of the top eight prospects in the state, with quarterback Miller Moss already on board. Last year, USC signed two of the top 30 prospects in California.
It’s true that a program doesn’t need highly-ranked recruiting classes to be good. But it’s absolutely true that you need them in order to be elite. The difference between a good, solid team and one that can challenge for a playoff spot are these kinds of elite players. The Trojans had missed more than they’d signed over the past two years.
Now, Foreman’s commitment — and Wright’s as well — is confirmation that the Trojans have found something that works on the recruiting trail. Do questions still exist? Of course.
These additions don’t help the offensive line recruiting or the running game situation or a potential lingering injury to quarterback Kedon Slovis. And any reliance on pure recruiting momentum can be halted as soon as that first kickoff is booted next fall.
But USC coaches showed last spring that offseason recruiting momentum can return results in a hurry, and that was after missing on a potentially-transcendent local defensive prospect in linebacker Justin Flowe. Foreman and Wright carry a lot of water with local recruits in the 2022 and 2023 classes. If USC is going to win big, it can’t be fashionable for Southern California and West region recruits to turn away from USC is looking for the school that will provide the best avenue to success at the next level and beyond.
The “Take Back the West” slogan from the USC coaching staff is going to get them crushed on social media whenever they lose a game like they did to Oregon, or lose a recruit like Ethan Calvert to Utah, but they’re absolutely right to believe it.
USC isn’t going to win all the recruiting battles, but they have to get back to winning the big ones. These two jumping on board gives the staff and program some validation that they’re doing things the right way on the recruiting trail, and should allow them to both finish off the 2021 class strong, as well as really put their foot down in moving ahead with the 2022 class.
There’s still some distance to cover to fix everything keeping the Trojans from joining that group of elite college football programs. But if they’re going to start taking steps forward, part of that will be made easier thanks to recruits like these and moments like Saturday.