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Monday, November 11, 2013
Notebook: USC commits like turnaround

By Blair Angulo

Recruits have taken notice of a resurgent USC football team under interim head coach Ed Orgeron, but none have been happier than those already committed to the Trojans.

The latest eyebrow-raising victory came Saturday when USC throttled Cal behind an inspired effort, and the consensus feeling among commits was one of pride. he Trojans have seemingly salvaged their season heading into the final stretch.

Wins and losses might not be the most important factors for recruits, but the impressive three-game winning streak and accompanying buzz has undoubtedly helped USC’s efforts on the trail.

Three-star receiver commit Shay Fields Jr. (Bellflower, Calif./St. John Bosco) was a particularly interested observer Saturday after picking up a scholarship offer from Cal earlier in the week. He received a congratulatory text message from Golden Bears receiver Bryce Treggs, who told him to watch the game intently. Fields did as he was asked, though Treggs, who also starred at St. John Bosco, probably didn’t expect the game to turn out the way it did.

“I’m impressed with how they [USC] are acting like a family,” Fields said. “Everybody is having a lot of fun playing. I’m not surprised that they turned their season around. I knew it was just a slow start and they were going to rebound with Coach O.”

Recent results have apparently helped USC reel in ESPN 300 offensive guard Toa Lobendahn (La Habra, Calif./La Habra). Lobendahn’s commitment had softened following the firing of Lane Kiffin as he wondered about the future of Orgeron and the program. On Sunday, Lobendahn said he probably won’t take his scheduled official visits to Texas A&M, Florida, Wisconsin and Utah.

“I was very proud of them and just excited for the way they are playing,” Lobendahn said. “I’m excited by how Coach O and the entire staff have turned it around.”

ESPN 300 defensive end Malik Dorton (Bellflower, Calif./St. John Bosco) committed to the Trojans a week before the start of the season and, though initially shocked by the Kiffin departure, has solidified that pledge in recent weeks. It also doesn’t hurt that he has been seeing the third-best scoring defense in the Pac-12.

“I was impressed with how the defense played and has been playing,” Dorton said. “Some of the young guys they have are making plays. I am not surprised with how they are playing now. That blowout victory is Trojan football.”

Effort, passion and a blatant boost in camaraderie have not been lost on recruits, either.

“What impressed me was the intensity and the motor USC had all the way through the end of the game,” said linebacker commit Uchenna Nwosu of Harbor City (Calif.) Narbonne. “I knew they had it in them, so for them to turn the season around like this doesn’t surprise me. There are too many amazing athletes there for USC not to dominate.”

Two more tests await the Trojans as home matchups with Stanford and UCLA loom in the final three weeks. Yet, with a spot in the conference championship game up for grabs, optimism abounds among recruits.

“I’m impressed with everything,” said offensive line commit Jordan Austin of Claremont (Calif.). “What I’m really excited about is that everything is starting to come together, which doesn’t surprise me at all. This is USC.”

Tight end target turns down Trojans

Juco tight end Jean Sifrin (Torrance, Calif./El Camino College) saw enough during an official visit to Oklahoma in late August that he knew it was the place for him. It took nearly two months for him to formally commit to the Sooners, but Sifrin said Saturday he is only waiting to gain academic clearance to enroll.

“If I had my grades how I needed them to be, I would have already been at Oklahoma last semester,” said Sifrin, a 6-foot-6, 245-pound prospect. “Hopefully by the end of next semester, I’ll be out there. When I went out for the visit, I felt like I was home. I fit in with everybody and I felt comfortable.”

Sifrin, who also holds offers from Arizona State, Fresno State, Kansas and USC, said the Trojans were at one point in contention, but communication stalled when Kiffin was fired.

“I haven’t really talked to them recently,” Sifrin said. “There was a situation at my school where some players’ phones were stolen. I lost a lot of contact numbers. I haven’t talked to them and they haven’t gotten in contact with me. I have gotten letters, but nothing major since the whole Kiffin situation. Coach Tee Martin and I were cool. I could talk to him about anything, but we have barely talked.”

The Miami native made an official visit to Kansas in the summer and took an unofficial to nearby USC during the spring.

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