In Monday afternoon’s 21-7 Sun Bowl loss to Georgia Tech, the USC Trojans not only put up one of the truly pathetic efforts of the entire bowl season, but also concluded one of the most disappointing years in recent college football history. After all, it’s not often you see a team ranked No. 1 in preseason finish their year at 7-6 overall. Actually, you never do. The 2012 Trojans were the first team to ever lose six games after starting the year ranked No. 1.
And for USC fans the bad news is only getting worse, as the Trojans not only lost on the field plenty in 2012, but appear to be losing ground off of it as well. In specific, the Trojans vaunted 2013 recruiting class- which at one point was considered by some to be the best collection of high school talent ever assembled (at least on a player-by-player basis, anyway)- is losing players more rapidly than the team did games this past season.
On Wednesday, Santa Monica, Calif., wide receiver Sebastian Larue became the latest player to decommit from the Trojans, joining three others who re-opened their recruitments since pledging the Trojans over the summer. They include five-safety Max Redfield (who appears as though he’ll eventually choose between the Trojans and Notre Dame), four-star defensive lineman Eddie Vanderdoes (who decommitted but will still visit USC for an official visit later this month) and fellow wide receiver Eldridge Massington (who has flipped his commitment to UCLA). Others, such as five-star cornerback Jalen Ramsey have decided to take other visits, even if they haven’t officially decommitted from USC.
The process has left many Trojans fans frustrated, and plenty with extra ammunition in the race to fire Lane Kiffin.
Thankfully though, I’m here as the voice of reason, and here to tell you Trojans fans that everything is going to be ok. Yes, this is a big deal. I understand your frustration. But at the same time, let’s remember there are a number of factors at play here other than ‘SC’s 7-6 record this fall.
For one, the Trojans are in the midst of hiring a new defensive coordinator after Monte Kiffin “resigned” (and I use that term loosely) to return to the NFL back in November. It has led several of the defensive prospects (including Vanderdoes specifically) to publicly question who the new defensive coordinator will be, and open things up until they find out the answer. Now, whether they’re using that as a thin veil to wiggle out of their USC commitment, only they know. But in theory their logic does make sense.
In the same vein, let’s also remember that in the same way a lot of these kids rushed to get on USC’s bandwagon during the summer, they’re now sprinting to get off of it.
Understand that many top recruiting experts believe that a number of USC’s commitments came quickly in the summer, simply because these young kids (and they are young) were afraid that if they didn’t commit on the spot, their scholarship offer wouldn’t be on the table later on.
Well I’ve got to ask, isn’t the opposite of that happening now? Isn’t everyone rushing to decommit simply because they don’t want to be the only one left on the island when Signing Day comes? This is group think at its finest, and I’ve got to imagine that once the memories of the 7-6 season fade a bit, most will calm down and bring USC back into their recruiting fold. They might not all pick USC, but the Trojans will be a factor.
And finally, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that even as this class continues to get smaller by the day, the good news is that a lot of ‘SC’s top recruits have already signed their letters of intent and have enrolled for the school’s spring semester. Five 2013 players who are ranked four-stars are better are at ‘SC now, including the top high school quarterback in the country (Max Browne) and the top safety prospect (Su’a Cravens) as well. First off, that’s a good baseline for any class to start off with right there, but in the bigger picture think of it like this: Who do you think is going to be working the phones harder than anyone over these next few weeks? To quote Jon Gruden, the answer is “Those guuuuuys, right there.”
Besides ‘SC fans, what exactly is the alternative? Is firing Kiffin and his staff a month before Signing Day going to make anything better? Are kids all of a sudden going to reaffirm their commitments to a school that doesn’t have a coach the week before they’ve got to make the biggest decision of their lives? How exactly would that make this situation better? It won’t.
So to Trojans faithful, please take a deep sigh of relief. Things aren’t going exactly as planned and believe me, you have every reason to be upset with that 7-6 record this year.
But if there’s one thing Kiffin has proven he can do through the years, its recruit.
Let him do that over the next few weeks and my guess is everything will work out just fine.
At the very least, hey, at least it can’t be worse than last season was, right?
For all his opinion, insight and analysis on college football, please follow Aaron on Twitter @Aaron_Torres.