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Thursday, March 27, 2014
Recruits weigh USC-UCLA differences

By Blair Angulo

Same city, same conference, top-notch academics. Yes, USC and UCLA have similarities that oftentimes cancel each other out on the recruiting trail.

Both schools hold verbal commitments from coveted quarterbacks -- UCLA has No. 1-rated pocket passer Josh Rosen in tow, and USC has No. 2 Ricky Town. It would be safe to assume the rest of these schools' recruiting classes will likely be made up of the top prospects in the West region.

The choice might be easy for some, but other recruits considering the crosstown rivals must find differences between the two.

Ricky Town
USC's pro-style offense was appealing to quarterback Ricky Town.
“There are a lot of elements you must consider,” said Town, who had scholarship offers from both when he flipped from Alabama. “I went to UCLA a lot early in my recruitment. Those are great guys and coaches there. I really like that coaching staff, but it came down to the offense they’re running. USC runs more of a pro-style offense with some no-huddle concepts. I love that. It really stuck out to me, and that’s something I was really looking for.”

USC and UCLA both have young, charismatic coaching staffs that appeal to recruits. The Trojans, for instance, have taken a liking to using the phrase “turn up,” a popular saying among youths, in marketing campaigns and social media. UCLA might have had the upper hand in the swagger department with Jim Mora at the helm, using the hashtag #BruinRevolution to spark interest in the area, but USC head coach Steve Sarkisian and his staff have opened some eyes in their short time in Los Angeles.

The vibe from each coaching staff could prove pivotal in some cases.

“Between those two schools, I want to see how I fit at each,” ESPN Junior 300 defensive end Keisean Lucier-South said. “If I really like it, that’s probably my place. I want to get a great feel for each. They are really hard on me, especially since those out-of-state schools have offered me. USC and UCLA are recruiting me even harder. They don’t want me to leave.”

Talent resides on both campuses. UCLA signed the No. 12 class in 2013, while USC checked in at No. 14 despite its scholarship reductions. In 2012, the Trojans had the No. 13 class, and the Bruins were No. 19. USC ascended 10 spots in February to finish with the No. 14 class in the 2014 rankings, while UCLA came in at No. 26.

“I was going to base my decision off the depth chart, but now I can’t use that reasoning because both programs had a lot of guys sign in 2014,” ESPN 300 cornerback Stanley Norman said. “For me, now it’s about who’s being honest. It’s about which program will really let me come in as a true freshman and make a difference. That’s why I want to come in as an athlete, so I can come in and play both ways. If there are four defensive backs better than me, I’ll play receiver. If in another game there's a good look at receiver, I’ll slide over to defensive back. That’s how it’s going for me right now.”

Though degrees from both universities are highly regarded, variations in majors might continue to be a determining factor. USC offers some concentrations that UCLA doesn’t and vice versa.

“They are different schools, and their environments are different,” ESPN 300 cornerback Iman Marshall said. “On the football side, coaches teach different things, so you have to think about what they’re coaching and how they coach. Those are the little things you worry about, but the academics are huge. UCLA is a public school and USC is a private school; that’s a tremendous difference right there. I like what they’re doing at UCLA. It’s quiet up there in Beverly Hills; you can’t beat the area. There are good people in the area, and you don’t worry about getting in trouble. It’s very low-key. USC is more local, obviously being in the heart of the city, and it embraces the community that surrounds it. I like that a lot, too.”

Said three-star running back Malik Lovette: “I couldn’t pick out a difference, honestly. I’ll have to approach it just how I go about any other school. I look at the academics first and the vibe I get from the school and coaches. I ask myself if I could see myself being there as a normal person, even without football, for the next four years of my life.”

With so many similarities, prospects could find themselves choosing based solely on comfort.

“It could come down to where you want to play, I guess,” ESPN 300 cornerback DeChaun Holiday said. “For defensive backs, the coaching is great at both schools. [Defensive backs coach] Keith Heyward at USC is more of a mellow guy, while UCLA coach Demetrice Martin is way more amped and excited all the time. Really, it’s more about what style you prefer. It depends on which coach you bond with more. It will be difficult for me because I like them both.”