Monday, September 30, 2013
Notebook: WeAreSC recruiting roundup
By Blair Angulo
It took USC interim head coach Ed Orgeron less than a minute and a half to utter the word “recruits” during his news conference Sunday following the firing of Lane Kiffin. Given how important recruiting will be for the Trojans the next two years, nobody would have been surprised if Orgeron blurted that word even more quickly.
Ed Orgeron will try to build some recruiting momentum as USC's interim head coach.
Known as one of the nation’s top recruiters, Orgeron figures to play an integral role leading up to national signing day in February. In fact, the energetic, 52-year-old coach had already contacted some top targets Sunday morning.
“We’ve already spoken to our recruits about the value of USC and what’s going on at USC,” Orgeron told reporters Sunday. “Recruiting has been one of our strengths here and it will continue to be one of our strengths. We expect to have a great recruiting class and continue to bring some of the best recruits across the country to USC.”
Orgeron’s pitch, despite his interim status and uncertainty surrounding the coaching situation, will be simple. He will touch on the education, prestige, opportunity and past glory.
“There’s a lot of great things about USC still here,” Orgeron said. “Nothing has changed about USC.”
In this week’s WeAreSC recruiting notebook, we touch on the impact Kiffin’s dismissal could have on USC recruiting and more:
USC offensive tackle commit Jordan Austin (Claremont, Calif./Claremont) was not entirely stunned by the coaching change, but rather by the timing. “I was definitely surprised by how early it was the morning. That was probably the most surprising thing for me, though," the three-star prospect said.
After suffering a scare in his game Friday night that required a precautionary hospital visit, top target John “JuJu” Smith (Long Beach, Calif./Poly) visited Ohio State and indicated the Buckeyes could be a serious contender in his recruitment. “It’s great,” Smith said. “I can imagine myself going to school here.” USC fans might have to sweat this one out, as Smith has four other visits scheduled to Notre Dame (Oct. 18), Oregon (Oct. 25), Alabama (Nov. 8 ) and Michigan (Nov. 29).
Speaking of visits, USC outside linebacker commit D.J. Calhoun (El Cerrito, Calif./El Cerrito) is set to travel to Arizona State in two weeks for the Washington game and also intends to trip to Nebraska and Washington State, according to his father, Derik. UCLA, where good friend and high school teammate Adarius Pickett committed earlier this month, is also a possibility. Calhoun remained committed to the Trojans following Saturday’s loss against the Sun Devils, but given the pursuit of other programs, it would not be entirely surprising to see the four-star prospect open up his recruitment entirely in the coming weeks. “Joe Mixon already put UCLA back in his top schools and I’ve been making a lot of good progress with D.J. It will probably be easier now,” Pickett said.
Another USC commit who will be taking his visits is four-star defensive endMalik Dorton (Bellflower, Calif./St. John Bosco), who said Friday he set an official to Oklahoma for the Oct. 25 weekend when the Sooners host Texas Tech. It will be Dorton’s first trip, but he is expected to use up all five before signing day.
Juco defensive tackle Michael Wyche (Chesapeake, Va./East Los Angeles College) remained solid with this commitment to the Trojans, but will likely continue to entertain other schools. Alabama, Miami (Fla.), Oregon and Troy have been in contact with the 6-foot-4, 325-pound prospect the most since he committed to USC in Kiffin’s old office. “It seems like coach O will stay there, so I’m very happy about that,” Wyche said. “But I am going to take some visits to other colleges.”
ESPN 300 offensive tackle Casey Tucker (Chandler, Ariz./Hamilton), a former USC commit, watched Saturday’s game from home and heard the news of Kiffin’s firing, but did not completely eliminate the Trojans from consideration. Though it appears like a long shot, Tucker has not ruled out rejoining USC’s recruiting class down the line. “I think it really depends on who they hire,” he said.
Could the midseason move pay immediate dividends on the trail? ESPN 300 defensive end Dewayne Hendrix (O’Fallon, Ill./Township) did not need to wait until a new hire to voice his approval. The 6-foot-5, 230-pound prospect added USC to his top list of schools Sunday, in large part to the firing of Kiffin. “My interest was never about the head coach,” Hendrix said. “I have always liked the school, but I didn’t get to talk to him much when I visited there in August with my family. We all loved it. Coach O is a good coach and he can help me a lot. They are definitely in my top three now with Florida and Tennessee. I actually spoke to coach O earlier and he will continue to recruit me hard.” The No. 18-rated defensive end is scheduled to visit Tennessee on Oct. 4 and will look to set up his trip to Los Angeles soon.
ESPN Junior 300 athlete Stanley Norman (Culver City, Calif./Culver City) was at Sun Devil Stadium for the game Saturday night and returned home with an offer from Arizona State. “It was great. The atmosphere was crazy,” Norman said. “I expected Kiffin to get fired, but I didn’t think it would happen this quickly. I don’t know what to expect now, but it’s not major. It will have a bigger impact on me going into my senior season. … It didn’t look like USC cared. I saw no emotions or intensity. That was a bad look.” Norman has also been offered by USC and UCLA, among others, and plans to visit Arizona for the Oregon game in late November.
The coaching change, meanwhile, had no effect on prized ESPN Junior 300 defensive end Keisean Lucier-South (Orange, Calif./Lutheran). The four-star prospect said he liked the Trojans with Kiffin and likes them the same without him. “Honestly, nothing changes with my perspective,” said Lucier-South, who visited the Coliseum for the game against Boston College.
For the Trojans, quarterback recruiting might be one of the murkier areas in the 2014 class. ESPN 300 quarterback Brad Kaaya (West Hills, Calif./Chaminade), who has yet to pick up a scholarship offer from USC, could emerge as an option down the road. “USC has a tradition of excellence,” the Elite 11 finalist said. “They will work it out. I remain committed to Miami and all I’m worried about is having a great senior season. Wouldn’t it be nice to see Miami playing for a national championship against USC in the near future?”
Another recruit who was not at all swayed by USC’s new direction was ESPN 300 running back Royce Freeman (Imperial, Calif./Imperial), who landed a Trojans offer in mid-May. “In no way does that affect me or how I look at them,” Freeman said. “I am solid to Oregon.”
Three-star receiver Alex Van Dyke (Elk Grove, Calif./Cosumnes Oaks) attended Camp Kiffin in June and has been patiently waiting for the Trojans to come calling with an offer ever since. “Now we’ll have to see how the coaching situation shakes out,” a source said.
USC freshman receiver Steven Mitchell, who suffered a season-ending knee injury in the summer, dropped by his old stomping grounds at Mission Hills (Calif.) Bishop Alemany on Friday night. He said he has started jogging and, for what it is worth, appeared to be noticeably bigger in the upper body. “They’ve had me working out like crazy,” Mitchell said. “It’s the only thing I’ve been able to do.”
ESPN Junior 300 receiver Desean Holmes (Mission Hills, Calif./Bishop Alemany) gets much of the publicity on his high school football team, but Class of 2015 defensive back Colin Samuel (Mission Hills, Calif./Bishop Alemany) is a recruit to keep an eye on. The 6-foot-2, 180-pound prospect had a good showing Friday in a victory against Ventura (Calif.) St. Bonaventure. He visited the Coliseum for a USC game a couple weeks ago and has interest in the two local schools. Kevin Summers, a 6-foot-5, 200-pound defensive lineman, is another 2015 standout for Alemany.
Orgeron was busy on Friday afternoon, offering ESPN Junior 300 athlete Taj Griffin (Powder Springs, Ga./McEachern). The No. 5-rated running back and No. 24 overall prospect in the 2015 class has racked up close to 20 offers already. “We plan to visit USC and UCLA this coming summer,” Griffin’s father said.
ESPN Junior 300 defensive end Mekhi Brown (Columbus, Ga./Carver), who is rated No. 3 at his position and No. 35 overall in 2015, landed an offer from USC assistant Tee Martin on Friday. He remains committed to Alabama, though he intends to visit USC before his senior season next year. “It’s a good school and they fit what I do on defense,” Brown said. “Maybe I can get out there in the summer.”
The Trojans also joined the list of heavy hitters for ESPN Junior 300 member Kerryon Johnson (Madison, Ala./Madison Academy), the No. 5-rated safety and No. 62 overall prospect in 2015. Alabama, Auburn, Florida State, LSU, Ole Miss and South Carolina also have offered.