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IMHO Sunday: Reflections of a lifetime recruitaholic

In my humble opinion, cardinal and gold thoughts on what I see, what I hear, and what I think from Los Angeles.

The recruiting magazines: This Wednesday, February 3, is another National Letter of Intent Day for football, and I don’t know about you, but I’ve been following football recruiting for a little under 50 years, and I’ve seen the “industry” of football recruiting magazines/guides come and go. In the past, I’ve bought them, studied them, wrote or contributed to some of them, and verified a number of them by attending recruiting camps and clinics. Over the years, it became much easier to verify the player evaluations of these publications by attending the USC Rising Stars Camps, Nike camps, 7-on-7 passing tournaments, and the traditional attending of high school football games.

Open book: In the very old days, National Letter of Intent Day was pretty much a surprise to the general public, regarding who was signed. In today’s recruiting world, there is almost nothing hush-hush, thanks to the Internet. So much of the excitement and anticipation is no longer part of the celebration. The air is out of the recruiting balloon. Yesteryear, recruiting was kept more secret than CIA and FBI information combined. Today there are nationally televised announcements and hours of coverage leading up to and including signing day. ESPN and all the various conference networks have wall-to-wall-coverage. From commitments to decommitments to recommitments, nothing comes as a shock.   

The education: One of the reasons I wanted to subscribe to the various national publications early-on was to see who was feeding these publications the player info. Sometimes it was sportswriters, and sometimes it was just zealous fans. For me, my recruiting education went all the way back to the late 60s when a player on my Alhambra High School team, Tim Caropino, a fullback/linebacker, was being recruited by UCLA. I remember all the trips I took with Tim and my dad to the Coliseum, and we would go into the Bruins locker room after games.

My first exposure to college football recruiting was when I was a senior at Alhambra (Calif.) High and my friend Tim Caropino (photo above) was being strongly recruited by UCLA.

I then remember my senior high school year seeing in person the future top running back in the country at the time, Pasadena (Calif.) Blair HS running back James McAllister, who ended up as a good player at UCLA but would have been a superstar tailback at USC. He and his running back teammate, Kermit Johnson, known locally as “The Blair Pair”, also went to UCLA. The irony was that their Blair coach, Pete Yoder, would soon become an assistant on John McKay’s USC staff.   

One of the greatest power running backs I ever saw was James McAllister (photo above – No. 32) from Pasadena (Calif.) Blair HS, who, had been in a huge recruiting battle between USC and UCLA, became a Bruin. If McAllister had attended USC had been a John McKay tailback in the I-formation, he may have won the Heisman.

Did you know: Back in the late 70s, I used to help select the Parade All-America team for our region of the country both in football and basketball. Yep, a gentleman named Haskell Cohen, who started the prep All-America teams for Parade, would call me after the prep football and basketball seasons to discuss All-America selections for what at the time was the ultimate prep All-America honor. To this day, Parade still publishes its AA teams.

One of the the ultimate honors a high school player could receive was being named a Parade All-American (photo above). I had the honor of voting for the Parade teams for a number of years.

Did you know – Part 2: When USA Today was born in 1982, I was honored to be selected by the new national publication to not only vote for its weekly Top 25 football/basketball teams, but its national sports prep editor, Dave Krider, would enlist me to vote for the best players/All-Americans on the West Coast. It was a labor of love at the time, but those early Sunday morning phone calls from the East got to be annoying. And, yes, I did get paid, which was a good deal at the time.     

Raise your hand… if the first national recruiting guide you purchased was the original Joe Terranova report out of Michigan, which was the first publication to rank players by stars. “Joe T’s” report was really just a handbook and was more a list of rankings with stars. Joe did have a post-signing handbook, which was more in depth.

The first recruiting publications were the Handbook of College Football Recruiting from Joe Taranova from Detroit, Michigan. Joe created the first “star” systems that are used today in ranking recruits.

Raise your hand – Part 2…
if the first recruiting magazine you purchased was the legendary Blue Chip Yearbook out of Oklahoma, which covered the country’s best players by region. I’ve never forgotten one of the first Blue Chip mags that featured a cover of two running backs, Wrightsville (Georgia) Johnson County High School’s Herschel Walker and Huntington Beach (Calif.) Edison’s Kerwin Bell. Both were heavily recruited by the Trojans and actually attended the 1980 Rose Bowl Game together, but each eventually signed elsewhere. Walker went to Georgia and Bell attended Kansas.

During its time, Blue Chip Magazine (photo above) was as good as it gets. Can you recognize some of the players on the front cover? Look closely and you can see Dan Marino, John Elway, and a future USC offensive lineman named Don Mosebar.

Raise your hand – Part 3…
if the first recruiting guide you bought was G&W out of Pennsylvania, which covered the nation. These folks were basically a Penn State publication that grew into a nice national product.  

Raise your hand – Part 4…
if the first recruiting guide you bought was Tom Lemming, which also covered the nation. Lemming had a good rise in the recruiting mag industry and would literally get in his car to travel the country visiting recruits and their high schools. I thought he did a good job with pictures and prospects in the publications he printed. His preseason guide was his best work, a large volume of regional and player information. Lemming made some extra money by having a recruiting phone line and charging by the minute for information that was pre-recorded region by region. Yep, you could run up quite a bill for info.

A Midwesterner named Tom Lemming started his own recruiting publication (photo above), which was quite successful at the time, and Lemming was one of the first to have a phone service to get recruiting info by regions of the country.

Raise your hand – Part 5…
if the first recruiting magazine you bought was SuperPrep, a slick publication from Allen Wallace that covered the nation. Allen did a great job during his time in the industry. The publication was slick, and I enjoyed my time in talking with him during those years. He was very dedicated to providing accurate information.

A new challenger was Allen Wallace’s SuperPrep Magazine (photo above), which was a slick publication that gave opinions and rankings that were well received.

Raise your hand – Part 6…if you continue to follow the PrepStar publications and its recruiting and All-America and All-Area teams. They still are providing input with All-America and All-Regional teams.

From the press box…

And raise your hand…if you remember Joe Namath’s National Prep Magazine. This was a great attempt to shine the light on all high school sports and recruiting. Although it seemed short lived, it was a nice effort. This was a publication that wasn’t by subscription but purchased at newsstands.

Although it had a short shelf life in the recruiting world of publications, Joe Namath’s Prep World (photo above) was a nice effort to cover high school sports.

And raise your hand…if you remember the name Max Emfinger from Texas, who had his own publication and credibility. Max definitely hit the publicity jackpot for a while, but like the other aforementioned, could only hold his grip on the national recruiting spotlight for a moderate period of time. The recruiting market was by this time over saturated, and it was tough to make a living.

And raise your hand…if you would trek to a newsstand in the Long Beach Press-Telegram circulation region to pick up the paper’s nationally acclaimed Best in the West selections, which gave great photos and bios and recruiting info on the very best players on the West Coast days before National Letter of intent Day. Originally started by staff writer Gary Rauch and later orchestrated by Frank Burlison, these two would talk to recruiting coordinators of the major West Coast conferences and would rank players through a point system. The coverage was as good as it gets during its heyday.  

For many years during his time with the Long Beach Press Telegram, highly respected writer Frank Burlison (photo above) was in charge of the paper’s nationally acclaimed Best in the West recruiting edition, which ranked the top senior high school football players in the West.

And raise your hand…if you dropped some or all of the above media publications when the Internet came along, and you could get instant recruiting information for a subscription or for free. Needless to say, the recruiting publication industry was turned on its head when the volumes and volumes of recruiting information came down the information highway. For good or bad, recruiting has never been the same since the advent of the Internet. The big boys like ESPN, CBS, and FOX jumped into the recruiting info business.   

The drive: And how many recruitniks out there would drive into the Long Beach Press-Telegram territory during the halcyon days of legendary columnist Loel Schrader to learn from his column who the Trojans were recruiting and the chances of landing such blue-chippers? Schrader had a direct pipeline with John McKay and was given info that was truly exclusive.

One of the early recruiting writers, the legendary Loel Schrader (photo above) of the Long Beach Press Telegram and also a member of the USC Athletic Hall of Fame, had a direct pipeline to the Trojans legendary head football coach John McKay, who would provide exclusive Trojans recruiting information to the scribe.

The lists:
And how many recruitniks still download the Tacoma Top 100 list and yearn for the old days when the Long Beach Press-Telegram would release its Best in the West rankings of the top high school stars in the West prior to Letter of Intent Day?

The lists – Part 2:
And how many of you recruitniks would cut out all the ranking articles of players, put them into a neat little scrapbook of your own, and either mail or hand a stapled version to your friends and fellow USC recruiting fanatics?

The post-game show…

The Davis list: With the second national letter of intent day almost upon us, the biggest available name on top of the Trojans’ wish list class of 2021 list is Santa Ana (Calif.) Mater Dei inside linebacker Raesjon Davis, who was once committed to LSU but is now a “free agent.” Should Raesjon cast his signature for the Trojans on Tuesday, he would become, according to the USC Football Media Guide, the 19th Davis to be part of the cardinal and gold. 

Will Santa Ana (Calif.) Mater Dei linebacker Raesjon Davis (photo above) sign with the Trojans on Wednesday and follow a long list of players at USC that have had the last name of Davis?

The Davis list – Part 2:
Now you ask yourself, were all the previous Davis performers household names? Not unless you are familiar with the likes of RHB Thomas Davis (1914/Long Beach Poly HS), E Robert Davis (1922/unlisted HS), G George Davis (1934/Los Angeles Poly HS), QB David Davis (1934,35,36/Martinez Alhambra HS), RE Joe Davis (1940,41,42/Bountiful (Utah) Davis HS), S Jesse Davis (1944,45/Los Angeles Jefferson HS/ Mt. San Antonio CC), C George Davis (1944,47,49/Redwood City Sequoia HS), CB Michael Davis (1981/San Bernardino HS), and DT Steve Davis (1998/Torrance HS/El Camino CC).

Now that we’ve got some of that Davis housekeeping in order, let’s take a look at the Davis brand that were notable nationally, regionally, or support players during their Trojans career. All players below are from California unless listed otherwise.

The Davis list – Part 3: TB Clarence Davis (1969, 1970)/ 5-11, 185/ Los Angeles (Washington HS/ East LA JC). A 1970 All-American who went on to have a very successful NFL career.

All-America tailback Clarence Davis (photo above) was another attacking and physical runner.

The Davis list – Part 4: TB Anthony Davis (1972, 73, 74)/ 5-9, 183/ San Fernando HS. A 1974 unanimous All-America tailback, who started on two national championship USC teams, and was perhaps the greatest opponent to face Notre Dame.

All-America tailback Anthony Davis (photo above) was one of the Trojans great All-America tailbacks under John McKay’s I-formation.

The Davis list – Part 5:
OG Joe Davis (1973,74,75)/ 6-3, 244/ Claremont HS. A workmanlike, physical offensive guard, who was a solid backup on the 1974 USC national champions.

Joe Davis (photo above) was a tough offensive guard out of local Claremont High School.

The Davis list – Part 6: ILB Keith Davis (1984,85,86,87)/ 6-1, 235/ Santa Monica HS. Keith led the team in tackles and participated in two Rose Bowl games.

The Davis list – Part 7: DT Ennis Davis (1997,98,99,2000)/ 6-4, 300/ Reseda HS. All-Pacific-10 and USC’s Defensive Player of the Year in ’98.

Ennis Davis (photo above) left his mark as a talented defensive tackle during his time at Troy.

The Davis list – Part 8: PK David Davis (2001,02) / 5-11, 160) / Hawthorne Bishop Montgomery HS/El Camino JC. A reliable placekicker for Pete Carroll.

The Davis list – Part 9: TE Fred Davis (2004,05,06,07)/ 6-4, 250/ Toledo (Ohio) Rogers HS. Winner of the 2007 Mackey Award as the nation’s top tight end.

Fred Davis (photo above) is the Trojans only winner of the Mackey Award given to the nation’s top tight end.

The Davis list – Part 10: TB Justin Davis (2013,14,15,16)/ 6-1, 200/ Stockton Lincoln HS. Justin had a productive USC running back career and eventually played in the NFL.

Tailback Justin Davis (photo above – No. 22) was a smart and hard runner who eventually advanced into the NFL.

The Davis list – Part 11: WR-CB-TB Dominic Davis (2015, 16, 18,19)/ 5-9, 195/ Mission Hills Bishop Alemany HS. A utility player who was a solid team player.  

The Davis list – Part 12: ILB Raesjon Davis (2021)?

The call-in show…

Caller No. 1: G-Katz, do you expect any surprises for Wednesday’s National Letter of Intent Day?  

Caller No.1 there certainly could be a surprise or two depending on who doesn’t sign. By that I mean if linebacker Raesjon Davis doesn’t sign, is there a Plan B? We may know before Wednesday’s signing day what Raesjon plans to do. I would say if he doesn’t sign with the Trojans on Wednesday, there is probably a recruiting dogfight with Ohio State.   

If linebacker Raesjon Davis (photo above on right) doesn’t sign with the Trojans on Wednesday, will there be a surprise or two to replace the Mater Dei HS standout?

Caller No. 2: Greg, if the Trojans make a head coaching change during or after the 2021 season, what is your greatest fear?    

Caller No. 2, my greatest fear(s) is that the USC administration will not spend the money to bring in a national championship coach or is concerned with control over the program, and I am also concerned about the financial attachments or pressure to keep assistant coaches under contract. I believe a new head coach should be able to select his own entire staff, which may or may not be possible.   

Caller No. 3: G-meister, are you concerned that many of the past legends of USC football feel detached from Clay Helton’s program?  

Caller No. 3 don’t kill the messenger, but with the “legends” that I know and legends that my contacts and sources know are not pleased with the football program as it is today. For whatever reasons, many of the all-time legends feel detached from the program, and many of those legends are household names in USC football lore. I thought that Pete Carroll did a masterful job of bringing back the great ones to practice and getting them involved again. It seems since Pete’s departure, the Trojans football complex has slipped in keeping the alumni spirit up and part of any given program.  

There are a number of former USC football legends that would like to see more Pete Carroll-like interaction with Clay Helton’s (photo above) program. (Photo by Jordon Kelly)

Caller No. 4: GK, will you again have your special O/NSO recruiting bio column for next Friday?

Caller No. 4, Yes, I have been preparing that labor of love column, and since this is an especially large class, a lot of bio work has already gone into it. Hopefully, the fans will enjoy it, and I hope to have pictures of every recruit and transfer for the Class of 2021. My goal is for Trojan fans to forward the O/NSO 2021 Recruiting Special Edition to their friends.  

Caller No. 5: Sir, do you play or have any musical instruments?  

Caller No. 5, I’ve been playing both the electric guitar and the piano since elementary school with a brief junior high encounter with the trumpet. I was blessed to get musical genes from both my parents. My mother, who played the violin, was a musical prodigy and as a little girl played in the Hollywood Bowl and actually cut a 78 vinyl. Her brother had his own brass band in the 1940s. Like my mom, I can play music without reading the sheet music. I just hear it in my head and play it. I have four electric guitars with my two favorites being my Fender Stratocaster and along with my 12-string electric.

I like playing old surf instrumentals like Pipeline, Apache, Penetration, Wipeout, and Miserlou, although I also like playing 60s and early 70s American and British rock. My son is a professional musician (guitar and singer) who has played nationally and locally (The Troubadour), and he owns his own music management company. One of his clients co-wrote and co-produced the hit song “Broccoli” and later the Grammy nominated megahit “Sicko Mode,” which was part of the Super Bowl LIII halftime show.  

One my favorite “quiet” moments is playing my Stratocaster guitar (photo above) and pretending I am either Dick Dale, the old surf guitar legend, or the Rolling Stones Keith Richards, who also plays the Strat.

The last word: You will be happy to know that Notre Dame announced this past week that they are returning to their status of playing as an independent in 2021, although they will play five ACC games. For Trojans fans, it should be noted that the Men of Troy will play the Irish on Saturday, Oct. 23, in Notre Dame Stadium. Of course, we’ll see if COVID allows for a true Notre Dame Weekender.   

Greg Katz

Now entering his 59th season of either writing, broadcasting, or just plain watching USC football, WeAreSC columnist Greg Katz began his affiliation with the website back in 2001, introducing his well-received O/NSO (The Obvious/The Not So Obvious) column and later adding his respected IMHO Sunday opinion and tidbits column. Greg, a former ESPN.com college football columnist covering USC, is also a member of the Football Writer's Association of America. He is also known in Southern California as a professional public address announcer, having called the the 1996 Rose Bowl Game between USC and Northwestern. Greg also holds a master's degree in athletic administration and was a former varsity high school coach of 27 years.

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