Recruiting had resembled a roller coaster ride for USC heading into the weekend showdown with crosstown rival UCLA. The Trojans experienced very early success in building the 2014 class before a slew of decommitments altered the outlook. The firing of Lane Kiffin, though, was followed by a positive streak that was highlighted by the surprise commitment of ESPN 300 offensive guard Viane Talamaivao (Corona, Calif./Centennial).
The 21-point loss to UCLA might have slowed USC’s recruiting momentum, but current class members saw plenty of positives.
Four-star defensive end commit Malik Dorton (Bellflower, Calif./St. John Bosco), for instance, walked into the Trojans’ locker room following the game and was greeted by many tired faces. USC used only one defensive substitute, which drew the attention of Dorton and recruits.
“What I took away from the game is that those guys need depth,” Dorton said. “Honestly, I don’t believe the loss will negatively affect recruiting. If coach Ed Orgeron stays on staff and, with the guys we have coming in, I would think recruits would like to join us rather than go to UCLA. I know a lot of guys aren’t committed but I talk to a lot of big-time recruits that want to play for coach O and USC.”
The defeat didn’t dampen the spirit of ESPN 300 offensive tackle Jordan Poland (La Jolla, Calif./Country Day School), who became the first member of USC’s 2014 recruiting class in June 2012. The 6-foot-7, 330-pound lineman gained a deeper perspective on the situation he hopes to step into shortly.
“In life, you need true loyalty with people you are around and, at USC, there is a brotherhood,” Poland said. “We will stick together like brothers and let nothing break our bond. Everyone on the team needs to hold the rope.”
The Trojans scored their fewest points since the 14-10 loss to Notre Dame on Oct. 19, and surrendered the most points since the 62-41 loss to Arizona State on Sept. 28 that cost Kiffin his job. Three-star linebacker Uchenna Nwosu (Harbor City, Calif./Narbonne) didn’t think USC looked particularly good in any phase, but he was not disheartened by the setback.
“The team wasn’t hustling enough and they were not fully ready to play,” Nwosu said. “Honestly, I don’t know how the loss will affect recruiting, but I know it doesn’t change my mind.”
Longtime commit hosts USC coaches
The USC coaching staff had no time to sulk in the loss to the Bruins, as the contact period kicked off Sunday. ESPN 300 offensive guard Toa Lobendahn (La Habra, Calif./La Habra), an early enrollee candidate, was the first priority for assistant coaches Mike Summers, James Cregg and John Baxter.
“They spoke about the opportunity in front of me to come in early in the spring and step right into the action,” Lobendahn said. “They pointed out how the team has turned things around and how it has made it even better for next year.”
Lobendahn attended the game along with good friends Talamaivao, Damien Mama (Bellflower, Calif./St. John Bosco), John "Juju" Smith (Long Beach, Calif./Poly) and Jacob Tuioti-Mariner (Bellflower, Calif./St. John Bosco).
“Brett Hundley really owned us,” said Lobendahn, who will have to wear a Bruins jersey sometime this week as a result of a lost bet. “It was really about [Hundley] making the best of their offense and we didn’t have our best game, as Coach O said. It wasn’t on the coaches as much as it was on the players for not executing.”
During the contact period, assistant coaches are allowed six in-person off-campus contacts per recruit from Dec. 1 through Feb. 1, 2014. There is a dead period from Dec. 16 to Jan. 15, when no face-to-face contact is allowed.
WeAreSC recruiting roundup
Following a season-ending loss to Bakersfield (Calif.) on Friday night, ESPN 300 athlete Michiah Quick (Fresno, Calif./Central) was not in the mood to make the four-hour drive south Saturday for the USC-UCLA game. Quick, though, continues to consider both schools. “He’s still waiting to see what will happen with Coach O,” Fresno-based defensive backs coach Tony Perry said.
Similarly, ESPN Junior 300 cornerback Iman Marshall (Long Beach, Calif./Poly) did not attend the rivalry game after his team fell to rival Santa Ana (Calif.) Mater Dei in the CIF Southern Section Pac-5 Division semifinals. Marshall had a dominant junior season, as opposing quarterbacks completed only one pass on him in 13 games. Despite not being on hand at the Coliseum, the local schools figure to play a major role in his recruitment all the way to signing day in 2015. ESPN 300 prospects Jaleel Wadood (Bellflower, Calif./St. John Bosco) and Bryce Dixon (Ventura, Calif./St. Bonaventure) were two other notables who did not attend the game.