In this week’s mailbag, we talk recruiting and more recruiting, Sunday’s game against Washington State and the development of USC’s linemen.
Q: How many players do you see SC signing? I know there has been some discussion about a lot of early enrollees, some of whom will take spots from the previous class… Exactly how many over 25 has never been real clear. Thanks
A: It’s virtually impossible to put an exact number on it because there’s just no guarantee who is going to sign and coaches typically won’t reach just to get to a specific number. Somewhere around 26-28 seems like it could be likely. An additional bonus to the early signing period is that it allows coaches to regroup and chase other targets for the February signing period if they still need to fill spots. USC is at 20 commitments right now and it’s pretty easy to rattle off five additions — Korey Foreman, Raesjon Davis, Ceyair Wright, Jaxson Dart, a second running back — that USC would like to make. It might be a little unlikely that the Trojans will sign everybody who is committed to them right now, so that could open up some space for new commitments as well.
Q: What’s the latest on Raesjon Davis? Any chance he’s reconsidering his commitment to LSU and perhaps a flip to USC? Thanks.
A: If I had to bet right now, I’d say Davis will wind up in the 2021 USC recruiting class.
Q: Read on TOS that U. of Texas is all in on Urban Meyer. Hypothetically, “if” and this is only a hypothetical question, but if UT and USC both became available and both wanted Meyer, which school do you think would allow Meyer the better chance to win a National Championship and rebuild to prominence?
A: I think it’s USC. Texas has Oklahoma to contend with and while the state of Texas is a major advantage for the Longhorns when it comes to recruiting, the SEC powers have their hooks in there now with Texas A&M in the conference and Ohio State has made massive inroads. At USC, Oregon is the main competition in state, but so much of the Ducks’ success has been based on getting talent out of Southern California (and other West states that USC has traditionally had success), which would be cut off fairly quickly if USC were able to reestablish a dominating recruiting presence.
Texas is more likely to go above and beyond when it comes to financial support, but USC’s commitment when it comes to assistant coaches, the recruiting department and the buy-in with NIL strategies appears to absolutely provide all the help that a USC head coach would need.
I’m glad you included two “ifs” when talking about the hypothetical of Meyer and USC.
Q: I saw that former 5* Safety Jaden Woodbey entered the Transfer Portal from Florida State. He has 2 more years of eligibility left and I know he prepped at St John Bosco. Do you think Craig Naivar, Donte Williams and Todd Orlando would be interested in a player like this and is he interested in USC? He seems like a player who could come in right away and start from day 1 should Talanoa and Pola Mao head to the NFL?
A: USC didn’t reach out right away, which surprised me a bit. I would seem like Woodbey would be an easy call as a grad transfer for USC. I don’t know if both Talanoa Hufanga and Isaiah Pola-Mao will go to the NFL after this season, but it doesn’t appear that the USC coaches are completely sold on the younger guys behind them. If you’re bringing Micah Croom in as a grad transfer from Dartmouth for this year and asking him to contribute, it seems like Woodbey is a no-brainer. Woodbey was very interested in USC the first time around and while it’s clear that he’ll be open to pretty much any school this time, you’d have to imagine that coming back home and finishing his career at USC would be of interest to him.
Q: Would you have any info on how the incoming lineman from the 2020 class, on both the offensive and defensive sides of the ball, are progressing? How much time do they get training under instruction during COVID? It starts upfront.
A: On the offensive line, there was an assumption that Jonah Monheim and Courtland Ford would be the two guys likely to contribute earliest and that’s proven to be true. If those guys don’t get on the field this season, there’s every reason to believe they’ll be there next year. Casey Collier seems to be progressing well and he’s likely a future starting tackle at some point in his career. It was expected that the other three would be more projects. Andrew Milek is playing center this year and it’ll be interesting to see if he stays there. USC has Brett Neilon and Justin Dedich there and now a commitment from Dylan Lopez in the 2022 class, and he’s a true center. On the defensive line, obviously Tuli Tuipulotu has been the standout. It felt like Kobe Pepe would contribute this year and we’ve seen him a bit, but not much. It feels like Vic So’oto is sending a message to the younger defensive linemen with the way he talks about practicing hard being the key to playing time, but obviously we aren’t there at practice to see how those guys are performing.
Clay Helton has spoken at length many times about how the coaches push the younger guys and backups into the starting lineup at times and are working really hard to improve that part of the roster. So these guys are getting a bunch of practice reps and, combined with the extra practice time everybody got earlier this fall, it should benefit their growth.
Q: With the mayor Eric Garcetti of Los Angeles “Public Order under City of Los Angeles Emergency Authority” will the SC game be played this Sunday?
A: There are and have been plenty of exemptions to all of those orders throughout this pandemic, and so far there haven’t been any reports that the game could be in danger. USC has been pretty proactive in dealing with the state and county since the season got up and running again, so I’d imagine (hope) they wouldn’t be caught off guard by a late notice that the game can’t be played in Los Angeles. I wouldn’t expect that to happen, but Helton said this week they’ve been engaged in plenty of conversations relating to forming contingency plans for any situation.
Q: Just saw that Kory Foreman decided to cancel his trip to LSU this weekend as “Leaders Have Emerged” for him. Does this bode well for USC’s chances or is Clemson now the leader again with USC on the outside looking in after last week’s unofficial trip to Clemson?
A: I like USC’s chances for Korey Foreman right now maybe more than at any point in the process, but I also think it’s probably still a long ways from being over. It feels like Foreman has really changed his leaders more than any top-ranked prospect I can remember. I do think there’s a growing chance that he winds up closer to home than it originally looked like he would. Arizona State is making a real push and he’s interested. USC will need to put in work to finish this off. He’s scheduled to be out at Arizona State this weekend.
Q: Is politics hurting PAC 12/USC football (both short and long term)? Seems like other areas of the country have a more open interpretation of allowing football than the West Coast.
A: There’s some frustration, but I wouldn’t go so far as to say it’s hurting it. Had the Pac-12 not had a season at all, I think that would have been very detrimental. But every conference is canceling games left and right, so at this point it doesn’t stand out at all that the Pac-12/West region is acting differently than other regions when it comes to college football.
Q: With the decommitment of Garcia, is this a reflection on Helton and Harrell?
A: No. I don’t see the Garcia commitment as a situation where USC was putting every effort into keeping him in this class and he made a unilateral decision to leave, or another program just recruited him better. I think Bryce Young’s flip to Alabama last year was a situation that showed the difference between Alabama and USC recruiting at that time. I don’t think that’s the case here. USC still has a commitment from Miller Moss and it always felt possible that Garcia could wind up elsewhere to be the only quarterback in a class.
Q: I’m not particularly concerned about Jake Garcia de-committing. Reason being, there seems to be plenty of good young QB’s out there who are flying under the radar (Slovis was sort of an under the radar guy, but I’m suggesting there are other high school QB’s that fit that label even better). Sure, they may present a greater risk, but I don’t think this type of QB is expected to win the starting job outright and be a star. But rather to fill a roll as the #2 or #3 guy. USC is missing that role (save for walk-ons). By going after two 4-5 star QB’s, and with the existence of the portal, they’re asking for a transfer (after year one in many cases). So why not balance the books better by looking for a good, not great QB (who might turn out being a diamond in the rough, fulfills 4 year term)?
A: I understand what you’re saying, but I don’t think USC is going to go after a quarterback that they have to stash for three or four years. They want guys who can play and play early. Last season is a perfect example. They really liked Slovis and didn’t view him as a guy to stash on the bench. And that’s a good thing because he’s called in to play less than 30 minutes into his first game. I think at this point with quarterback recruiting, you go after the best guys you can (either through recruiting or the transfer portal), you pick the best one of that group and you do your best to keep the others. Quarterbacks are going to transfer. It’s an idea everybody has to wrap their arms around because we’re getting to the point where schools are pretty much just as likely to start a guy who began his career at that school as another school.
Q: Do you think that the staff offering a 3rd QB led to Jake Garcia decommitting?
A: I think it was part of it. But there’s no way USC went all in on Jaxson Dart and was surprised by Garcia’s eventual decommitment.