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WeAreSC Mailbag: The 2020 season, Covid recruiting and other questions

This week, WeAreSC readers asked questions about the upcoming season–whether or not it will happen and what it might like–how the coronavirus pandemic has affected recruiting, a hypothetical playoff and other topics.


Q: Any feedback from recruits if CV has been a factor in verbal commitments?

A: Recruits haven’t specifically said it’s playing a part, but when you look at the numbers, there is a huge increase in verbal commitments to this point in the cycle compared to this point in year’s past, so how can you not attribute it to that?

It’s going to be fascinating to see what happens with the fall and early signing day this season. Senior season tape will mean as much as anything, and I could see a huge number of decommitments and flips nationally.


Q: Did Rector or Richmond sign with anyone yet? If not, do you think they will at least get a tryout?

A: No, nothing bout Christian Rector or Drew Richmond signing with any NFL teams yet.


Q: Heard a rumor that 2020 WR Gary Bryant has been very active and effective in recruiting his friends to USC (also I think it’s been mentioned in the past that Jake Garcia is actively recruiting for SC). If true, a “Fight On” to Gary. Can you elaborate at all on this?

A: Gary Bryant and Drake Jackson are former teammates of 2021 No. 1 overall recruit Korey Foreman and the three have spent plenty of time working out together of late. Foreman is eventually going to make his own decision, but he’ll hear plenty from those two.

Jake Garcia is an outspoken recruiter for USC, as is Anthony Beavers, but nobody is as visible doing it as running back commit Brandon Campbell. He is everywhere on every target’s social media pages constantly pushing USC. He’s absolutely going to benefit this class in a big way.


Q: If the NCAA granted a one-time exception for players to transfer with no penalty as a result of the Coronavirus, and if JT Daniels left to pursue a different path, do you see this as a possible situation where Bryce Young could have a change of heart? Same question with DJ Uiagalelei?

A: The numbers simply say that a quarterback is likely to transfer at some point. And if the one-time transfer without penalty exception is adopted, that will make quarterback transfers even more frequent. That being said, it’s difficult for me to imagine a scenario where these guys aren’t the starters at Alabama and Clemson in 2021–and Young potentially in 2020. If they aren’t starting, though, I could see it happening. The last three years have shown that quarterbacks have to be constantly looking for the best situation for themselves.


Q: Two questions for you Erik.

To me Coach O was one BIG recruiter that was a Huge loss. Erik who do you feel is another that was an impact person from the past or on the current staff.

Second I want to know your thought on Coach Drevno and his capabilities to transform this group. I feel like there was a huge difference in the look of our OL as the season went on. The current class and incoming one is going to be fun to watch in my opinion. I just feel like they are going to be big athletic types. Hoping they get to that physical nature as well. Anyhow your thought would be greatly appreciated.

A: There’s no doubt Tee Martin was a great recruiter. Keary Colbert is earning some positive reviews so far, so we’ll see if he can completely fill that role.

I think Drevno can get it done with the offensive line. He helped Austin Jackson get into the first round and I’d bet that Alijah Vera-Tucker winds up there as well. I’m really interested to see what he does with this incoming class, and beyond that, I want to see what kind of offensive line group USC signs in the 2021 class. But I have a lot of faith in what Drevno can do after getting accustomed to what was very much a new offense for him.

SC ForLife

Q: Do you think there will be college football this fall?

A: Yes.


I think the next couple weeks/months will determine a lot about sports in the fall and ultimately I do think it’s possible that some conferences/schools play while others don’t. I think we’re somewhere around 0% chance that college football this year looks exactly like it did last year. I don’t think stadiums will be at full capacity and I’d be more than a little surprised if every game on every schedule will proceed as planned. But there are too many people who feel that football is an absolute necessity for it to be put completely on hold nationwide for the year.


Q: Do you think there will be on campus college classes this fall?

A: Yes.


I think a lot of classes–and almost certainly a majority–will be online, but USC is exploring the idea of having in-person and virtual learning this fall. I would anticipate USC and other schools wanting to make an announcement somewhere in late June or early July. I think some of the decision could be in line with how robust the test-and-trace program USC can have in place is and how it can handle on-campus housing.

Touchdown For USC

Q: How many of the 2021 commits are scheduled to be early enrollees?

A: At this point I don’t know of any of the 2021 commits who are scheduled to enroll early. That’s not to say none of them will.

(Update: I haven’t confirmed with them, but have seen mention that both DT Jay Toai and S Xamarion Gordon plan to enroll early).


Q: If the Pac-12 canceled its 2020 football season…..1. Would it kill all the wonderful momentum that USC’s coaches have accomplished on the recruiting trail; and 2. Would there be a mass Exodus of players from the Pac-12 transferring out to other conferences?

A: The answer to those questions–just like the answer to almost every question right now–is, “It depends.” If the 2020 season is canceled in the Pac-12, it would definitely put a big dent in the recruiting momentum USC has, because the coaches wouldn’t have any on-field information to use in recruiting players who absolutely will want to see overall results and defensive performance from the new staff. I don’t know if it would derail it permanently, because that 2021 class isn’t going to be on the field this fall. The issue would be that every recruit in the Pac-12 footprint will be hit by every coach at a program that plays this fall and will pitch that football means more there and that there’s no telling if football will ever come back to the Pac-12. That would be really difficult to recruit against.

The second question, it depends on what the transfer rules were. If the Pac-12 season is cancelled and seniors could transfer to other programs without having to sit out a season, I can’t imagine any of them with real NFL aspirations sticking around. And it’s likely that it wouldn’t just be seniors. That being said, if the scholarship limit for those schools remains at 85, how many spots are realistically open?


Q: do you think we will see an eleven game season pac12 vs pac12 only? With a bye week that could take only twelve weeks with no conference playoff and one week off for practice and Rosebowl jan 1 (or no RB)
we can start 1st game way late this way.

A: It’s definitely one of the routes being explored but I think it only works if you can install conference-wide rather than state-wide mandates on the programs. If USC is going to be diligent about waiting until later to begin practicing, wearing masks constantly, social distancing and quarantining the football program, and Utah is able to do whatever they want in terms of all of those things (just using teams and concepts as hypothetical examples there), then what’s the difference between USC playing Utah and USC playing Notre Dame?

Ultimately I think two big pieces of this will be testing and liability. If USC is getting ready to play New Mexico to open the season and one of the New Mexico athletic trainers (or coach, or player, or player’s mom who visited practice) tests positive in the week leading up to it, what kind of testing ability is there to ensure that it isn’t being brought to the Coliseum? And would schools be making themselves open to lawsuits if there was some kind of spread that could be traced to a game or practice?


Q: OK there are a LOT of hypotheticals on the table for the season to say the least. Here is one I thought was interesting. If most of the conferences limit or eliminate non-conference games and go to say 11 game schedules, there is a VERY high likelihood that we may have more than 4 undefeated teams. Also, we keep hearing a lot about how many in the industry think an 8 team playoff is likely after the next contract gets established. I wonder if it would be possible to get a “dry run” at the 8 team playoff this year if we have this scenario.

A: If more than four teams are going to be involved in a playoff, I say do it now. It makes so much sense to go to 8 teams, where you have 5 automatic bids from the Autonomy Five conferences, one bid for the highest-ranked Group of Five team, and then two at-large selections.

Would there be years the SEC gets three of the eight teams? Absolutely. Would there be years that a three-loss team would get in there? Yep.

And I’m sure there would be arguments about who should get to play the Group of Five team but none of those complaints would bother people as much as the fact that heading into every single season right now, you know that at least one conference will not have a chance to win a national championship.


Q: Erik, It seems like the Power Five is being called the Autonomy Five more often lately. Is this part of a concerted effort to eventually break away from the NCAA?

A: I think it might have less to do with breaking away from the NCAA and more to do with separating from the Group of Five. They were tired of bringing up ideas they felt would help student-athletes only to be blocked by smaller schools that would be unable to do the same. USC athletic director Mike Bohn is very specific about referring to them as the Autonomy Five and it’s noticeable. That group knows they can do things financially (hopefully after all this) that the Group of Five schools can’t, so more clearly drawing that line that they truly can play by their own rules makes sense.

Erik McKinney

Erik McKinney began writing for WeAreSC in 2004, during his junior year at USC, covering the Trojans football team and recruiting. He then moved on to ESPN.com in 2011, where he served as the West Region recruiting reporter and then the Pac-12 recruiting reporter. He took over as publisher of WeAreSC in January, 2019.

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