While it’s safe to say signing day didn’t quite go as planned for the Trojans on Wednesday, there are still some positives to take away from it all -- most obviously the fact that although small in numbers, USC’s class is filled to the brim with talent.
With an eye toward the future, there is one more reason to be optimistic if you’re a Trojans fan, and that’s the effort and ability showcased on the recruiting trail by one of the staff’s youngest coaches, Tee Martin.
Lured away from Kentucky in late February 2012, Martin was a hit with just about every player, parent and coach he came in contact with over the past year, solidifying his standing as one of the top up-and-coming recruiters in college football.
It was Martin’s showing in the South that was most impressive. A former college standout at the University of Tennessee, Martin used the huge network of contacts he built up from his days as a player and coach to give the Trojans a serious presence in the area, something Lane Kiffin and his staff had desperately tried to establish in recent years. While he certainly didn’t bat a thousand, missing out on big-time targets like Jason Hatcher, Jalen Ramsey and Matthew Thomas, Martin was a key reason why the Trojans ultimately landed a couple of blue-chippers from the region in Seffner (Fla.) Armwood’s Leon McQuay III and Daytona Beach (Fla.) Mainland’s Quinton Powell.
In McQuay, who has already enrolled, the Trojans have a college-ready safety set to compete for a starting job right off the bat. It was Martin who opened McQuay's eyes not only to what USC had to offer on the football field but also in regard to the school’s music program -- a major factor in the elite defensive back’s decision.
Powell -- a crucial get at outside linebacker -- was once thought to be a lock to remain in the Southeast. Martin helped Powell realize the Trojans had an immediate need for his talents and that maybe branching out west wasn’t such a bad idea.
Closer to home, Martin played a role in securing the signature of some local prospects, most notably Mission Hills (Calif.) Bishop Alemany wide receiver Steven Mitchell, with whom he’ll work directly this upcoming season.
What’s the secret to Martin’s success? An element of star power is certainly part of it, but it’s his down-to-earth personality and ability to genuinely relate to players that has really turned him into an asset for the Trojans. That’s something that isn’t likely to change down the road.
While this year’s recruiting haul will likely be remembered as much for whom the Trojans didn’t sign as for whom they did, there’s reason to believe that with Martin on staff brighter days could be ahead.