USC Trojans: Adarius Pickett

Shifting power: Los Angeles 

January, 23, 2014
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It's tough to imagine one college football player changing the fortunes of his program and its closest rival over the course of more than a decade.

But that might just be the case with Reggie Bush, whose on-field actions helped USC become the dominant recruiting force in Southern California between 2006 and 2012, and whose off-field actions largely led to the NCAA taking 30 scholarships away from USC for the 2012-2014 seasons and creating a hole in the Southern California recruiting scene large enough for UCLA to climb through.

When the heavy sanctions were brought down upon USC in the summer of 2010, it was thought to be a now-or-never situation for UCLA. The Trojans were 10-1 in the previous 11 games against the Bruins and had the virtual first pick of just about any recruit in the region.

Pac-12 recruiting storylines: Dec. 19 

December, 19, 2013
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The dead period runs through Jan. 15, and some recruits have said they will use that to take a break from recruiting, but that doesn't mean it will shut down for everyone. Coaches are still able to contact recruits during the dead period -- just no in-person contact -- and a number of recruits will be making commitments during this time. Over the next few weeks and through the holidays, Pac-12 recruiting fans will have a number of things to keep an eye on, including these five topics.

Who sets January visits?

With the dead period wiping out an entire weekend normally dedicated to official visits, recruits will have just three January weekends available to take visits -- the 17th, 24th and 31st -- if they'd like to commit and sign on signing day. Every Pac-12 program is looking to load up on official visits during those weekends. Stanford and USC look as though they will be very busy on Jan. 17, and Oregon is always able to grab a few late official visitors -- ESPN JC 50 WR Eric Lauderdale (Fayetteville, Ga./Saddleback College) is scheduled for Jan. 31. There are plenty of Pac-12 targets saying they will likely set up January officials to various schools.


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USC, UCLA differ in recruiting strategy 

November, 29, 2013
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When USC enters the Coliseum Saturday to take on crosstown rival UCLA, it will do so with some of the area’s top recruits looking intently from the stands, many of which hold scholarship offers from both schools.

Some had to wait longer than others for the option to attend college nearby. More often than not in recent years, UCLA has been quicker than USC in sending out offers to mutual targets. In fact, of the 12 in-state prospects from the 2015 class that the Trojans have already offered, only four-star offensive tackle Zach Robertson (Bellflower, Calif./St. John Bosco) added USC to his list of suitors before the Bruins joined the chase.

Yet USC’s recruiting efforts are not necessarily harmed by this seemingly cautious approach. UCLA beat USC in offering the likes of Viane Talamaivao (Corona, Calif./Centennial), Malik Dorton (Bellflower, Calif./St. John Bosco) and Toa Lobendahn (La Habra, Calif./La Habra), but the Trojans added them to their recruiting class nonetheless.

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Notebook: USC will get shot at Wadood 

November, 25, 2013
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USC entered the picture for ESPN 300 athlete Jaleel Wadood (Bellflower, Calif./St. John Bosco) fairly late, given that the four-star prospect had to wait a while longer for a scholarship offer than other top locals.

Yet, following their in-season resurgence, the Trojans appear to be in great shape for the two-way standout as the end of the 2014 recruiting cycle nears. Wadood, who had five receptions for 141 yards and three touchdowns Friday in a second-round victory against Las Flores (Calif.) Tesoro, said he intends to take his fifth and final official visit to USC on Jan. 24. The 5-foot-11, 165-pound athlete decommitted from Cal last week and officially visited UCLA over the weekend.

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Erik McKinney/ESPNESPN 300 prospect Jaleel Wadood hopes his third commitment will be the charm, and it looks like it will come down to USC and UCLA.
Wadood also attended USC’s upset of Stanford at the Coliseum two weeks ago, and that experience played a role in his decision to reopen his recruitment.

“It showed they aren’t the pushover USC that everyone thought they were,” Wadood said. “They have turned the program around. There’s some great stuff going on at USC under coach Ed Orgeron.”

Washington is set to receive a visit from Wadood as well -- likely for the Jan. 17 weekend -- but this has shaped up as another local recruiting battle between USC and UCLA. Wadood is extremely close with his father, Haamid, and has all but scratched initial plans to leave the area for college. The Trojans might benefit from a lack of depth at defensive back. Whereas the Bruins seem to be loading up in the secondary with verbal commitments from ESPN 300 cornerback Adarius Pickett (El Cerrito, Calif./El Cerrito), three-star prospects Denzel Fisher (Compton, Calif./Centennial), John Plattenburg (Houston/Lamar) and Ron Robinson (Corona, Calif./Santiago), USC has none and signed only one cornerback in 2013. A source close to the situation said the logjam could negatively affect UCLA’s chances with Wadood.

Though USC is recruiting Wadood as a cornerback, he said he has no preference for the next level. Other factors will be far more important.

“The feel and comfort with the coaching staff,” Wadood said. “How the academics are, whether it’s somewhere I can see myself. And playing time, too.”

Having previously committed to Arizona State and Cal, the dynamic playmaker hopes his next choice will be final.

“I’m trying to take my time,” Wadood said. “This will be the third time I commit, so I’m trying to make sure it’s the right one. I’ll consider every factor and make a decision sometime in mid-January, closer to signing day after I take all of my trips.”

WeAreSC recruiting roundup

  • USC defensive line commit Austin Maloata (Corona, Calif./Centennial) took his first official visit to Washington State over the weekend, but returned home still a member of the Trojans’ recruiting class. With cousin and teammate Viane Talamaivao now committed to USC, it would be surprising if Maloata ended up anywhere else.

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Weekend recruiting wrap: Pac-12 

November, 25, 2013
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The weekend didn't offer as much recruiting action in the Pac-12 as the hectic days of early last week, but there were still several commitments in the conference and a number of big performance's from Pac-12 programs and recruits. Despite Arizona State grabbing the most important win and sending a message to recruits across the region, UCLA was a big winner on the recruiting trail, getting a number of top prospects to the Rose Bowl and reeling in a commitment from a 2015 standout that ranks No. 1 at his position.


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It has been well documented over the past few years that programs have little choice when it comes to some aspects of the college football recruiting process.

Whether it is extending offers to juniors, sophomores, freshmen and eighth-graders, or the first 100-piece bundle of mail that chokes a prospect's mailbox, coaches across the country have rushed to catch up and join the race.

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Ron Chenoy/US PresswireCoach David Shaw and Stanford have limited in-season official visits and have a "Big Visit" weekend in January for recruits.
But while the unofficial visit and recruiting mailings become more and more important to the process, the official visit remains a significant tool, and one of the few remaining recruiting tactics that can be wholly personal to a coaching staff and program.

When most recruits begin thinking about what official visits they want to take, the first thing they discuss is what big games they'll be able to attend. In the Pac-12 this season, there won't be any official visitors for two of the biggest games recruits will be watching -- when Oregon visits Stanford and USC hosts UCLA -- because the Cardinal and Trojans have decreased in-season official visits.

"For a long time, there was kind of a lore that the official visit is about getting to see a game -- a notion that has been in movies, on television, in books and magazines," said Mike Eubanks, Stanford Assistant Athletic Director and Director of Football Administration. "The official visit is about going to see a game, see what the campus is like afterward and then sitting down in the coach's office."

But as Pac-12 coaching staffs dissect exactly what they want to showcase during an official visit, several schools are continuing to focus visits around a game weekend, while others have targeted the offseason as the best time to bring in official visitors.

Oregon, Utah and Washington State have combined to host 33 official visitors this season, compared to 27 for the rest of the conference combined.

It's not surprising to see those three programs hosting visitors during the fall. Not only could weather concerns in late January put a damper on bringing a majority of recruits in then, but Oregon specifically can take advantage of its game-day atmosphere.

"They're really cool either way and encourage you to go up and see a game," said Oregon quarterback commit Morgan Mahalak (Kentfield, Calif./Marin Catholic) of the Ducks' coaches and visits. "It's a pretty fun game-day atmosphere to experience."

Mahalak said the policy has paid dividends already this season, as Oregon grabbed verbal commitments from ESPN 300 running back Tony James (Gainesville, Fla./Gainesville) and four-star receiver Jalen Brown (Phoenix/Mountain Pointe) after official visits.

"[Brown] had a great visit for the Tennessee game," Mahalak said. "I think that was huge for him to see what it'd be like to play there. You definitely leave Oregon after a visit with a better sense of the program."

Last weekend, Arizona had its first opportunity to host official visitors. The Wildcats went two-for-two with their uncommitted targets, grabbing commitments from offensive linemen Layth Friekh (Peoria, Ariz./Centennial) and Levi Walton (Cape Coral, Fla./Ida Baker).

Friekh, like more than a few recruits, said taking an official visit at this stage was a priority for him.

"Since I was planning on committing early, they said to come in whenever I wanted," Friekh said of the Arizona coaches. "It was really important for me to take an official visit now because I wanted to see if the school is behind the team and if all the fans are behind the team. I didn't want to go to a school where nobody supports the team, so that was cool to see."

While Friekh said he felt he had enough time with the Arizona coaches, that seems to be the biggest worry among schools -- Arizona included -- looking to push visits into the offseason.

"You want to be able to spend the whole 48 hours with them," said Matt Dudek, Arizona's Director of On-Campus Recruiting and Player Personnel. "You don't want to be worrying about a football game and you don't want to waste it, because we believe that you'll fall in love with our coaches when you get some extended time hanging out with them. That's our No. 1 selling point."

Dudek said an official visit on a game-day weekend is "more hectic than crazy or difficult," but they will always try to get official visitors to come after the season in order to spend more time with them.

"Every kid is different and we're never going to say no if a guy wants to come on an official during the season," Dudek said. "Some want to come on a game day, and if that's your deal breaker, you come on game day. There's a little less time to hang out and ask a bunch of questions at each stop. Out of season, it's no big deal to be five or 10 minutes behind schedule, but if there is a game scheduled for 7 p.m., that's not going to change."

For USC, Dec. 13 seems to be the first big recruiting weekend -- though what happens with the coaching staff could determine the true schedule of events. In the 2013 class, USC didn't host a visitor before Dec. 7, which was the big weekend for early enrollees. But the Trojans also found out the hard way this season that having a plan for official visits and carrying it out successfully can be two different things.

Enter the somewhat strange case of ESPN 300 cornerback Adarius Pickett (El Cerrito, Calif./El Cerrito). Early in the process, it looked as though USC had the inside track for a commitment from Pickett, and the four-star cornerback alerted all his potential choices in the spring that he would take his official visits in the first four weeks of his season, then announce his decision the following week.

UCLA, going with the growing trend in the conference, suggested that Pickett wait to take his visit after the season.

"I explained to them what I was trying to do and they said it was fine with them," Pickett said of the Bruins' coaches allowing him to take an official visit for the first game of the season. "I told [USC coach Clay Helton] during the spring that I was going to UCLA first week and that I wanted to try to set up a visit to come down after my fourth game."

That visit to USC wasn't allowed to happen. Pickett said the decision to deny him an opportunity to take an official visit during the season ultimately came from coach Lane Kiffin and was delivered through Helton, but it didn't come as much of a surprise when Pickett announced his commitment to the Bruins following that conversation and his UCLA visit.

In large part though, USC's shift over the past few years to a January-centric visit schedule has paid dividends, and it's something Stanford has found success with as well.

In the 2013 class, 13 of the Cardinal's 14 eventual signees took their official visits during the "Big Visit" weekend in January. It's a success rate that is helped both by the number of already-committed prospects in attendance, as well as a clear message from the beginning about the official visit policy.

"By the time we get far enough into the process and building relationships, if somebody has this interest in Stanford and we're still with them because they've met all the academic challenges we've given them, then the recruit who has met us that far along in the journey tends to have the perspective and values that wants their official visit to be the same thing we want their official visit to be," Eubanks said.

That includes having the Big Visit begin on a Friday morning in the offseason, which allows Stanford to give its visitors an extensive look at a full day on campus during the school year -- something that is virtually impossible to do with an in-season visit, as recruits either have school or football responsibility on Friday and often can't arrive on campus until Saturday.

"To have somebody come here and not see a class is really shortchanging a good look at what Stanford should be," Eubanks said. "If it's just Saturday and Sunday, you've not done anything to address the academic question, which is maybe one of the biggest questions in the mind of these young scholar-athletes. That's pretty important for us."

While prospects will almost always hold the cards when it comes to their recruitment, it's easy to notice a fairly sizeable shift in the visit schedules for Pac-12 programs. While schools such as Oregon, Utah and Washington -- among others -- will almost always look to take advantage of nationally-recognized game-day atmospheres, Eubanks was careful to point out that it's important to note the decision to move away from in-season visits -- for Stanford and the other conference schools -- can't be seen as hiding from that experience.

"Especially as a national recruiter, going up against these giant stadiums with highly-regarded game day atmospheres, you don't want to make it look like you're hiding," Eubanks said. "If you argue against the importance of the game or the game day atmosphere to a young man who thinks the most exciting experience is to be on the big stage that he's dreamed of since he was little... If at any point you are dictating how things should be done, or talking instead of listening, you can lose them. And if you do, then that's rightfully so."

Pac-12 battle for D.J. Calhoun? 

October, 21, 2013
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When ESPN 300 linebacker D.J. Calhoun (El Cerrito, Calif./El Cerrito) said on Sunday that Arizona State had firmly become one of his top three schools following an official visit to Tempe, Monday's news -- when Calhoun announced his decommitment from USC -- didn't come as much of a surprise.


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OLB Calhoun decommits from USC 

October, 21, 2013
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videoUSC had been on a mini-run of commitments since the firing of Lane Kiffin, but interim head coach Ed Orgeron’s recruiting efforts took a blow Monday when ESPN 300 outside linebacker D.J. Calhoun (El Cerrito, Calif./El Cerrito) decommitted from the Trojans.

The decision had been brewing for weeks. Calhoun made an official visit to Arizona State over the weekend, stayed in Tempe, Ariz., through Monday and opted to re-open his recruitment altogether.


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Pac-12 class rankings analysis 

October, 9, 2013
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Each Wednesday, ESPN RecruitingNation updates its national class rankings. For an in-depth look at the Big Ten, check out our conference rankings:

1. Arizona, 24 commits: The Wildcats check in at No. 23 in the RecruitingNation class rankings with a class that includes four ESPN300 commitments, including No. 120 overall Marquis Ware and No. 185 Jamardre Cobb of Salesian High in Los Angeles. Arizona will take its shot with No. 17 overall Jalen Tabor (Washington, D.C./Friendship Collegiate Academy), and teammate Dae'Juan Funderburk (Washington, D.C./Friendship Collegiate Academy) in December.


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Pac-12 2014 recruiting scenarios 

October, 8, 2013
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This week's list offers a look through the Pac-12 at the potential best-case and worst-case scenarios that the 2014 recruiting cycle could bring for various programs. While a few of the best-case scenarios might be close to within reach for some programs, many of the worst-case scenarios would take a special brand of bad luck.

Arizona
Best-case scenario: Arizona doesn't hold onto all of its 24 verbal commits, but keeps all of its priority recruits in the fold. In exchange for some of the decommitments, the Wildcats are rewarded with a big splash from either ESPN 300 prospect John Smith (Long Beach, Calif./Poly) or Bryce Dixon (Ventura, Calif./St. Bonaventure). A strong finish to the season also helps Arizona clean up in its home state, landing commitments from offensive linemen Natrell Curtis (Phoenix/Mountain Pointe), Andrew Mike (Tucson, Ariz./Sabino), Layth Friekh (Peoria, Ariz./Centennial) and junior college defensive lineman Claudeson Pelon (Mesa, Ariz./Mesa College).

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WeAreSC recruiting mailbag 

October, 4, 2013
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WeAreSC recruiting reporter Blair Angulo answers reader questions in his mailbag every week. Have a USC recruiting question of your own? Submit it via Twitter @WeAreSCstaff or @bangulo.

@godsoldier2k3: Hey, guys. How are we looking at picking up defensive backs that cover. Seems that other than defensive tackles, we need some long, athletic corners.


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Top Pac-12 recruiting rivalries 

October, 1, 2013
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The Pac-12 is the only conference in the country with so many natural rivalries, as Arizona, California, Oregon and Washington are split in half -- or quarters in California's case -- when home state teams take the field. It's only natural those rivalries would spill over onto the recruiting trail, although there are some interstate battles as well that make this list of top recruiting rivalries in the Pac-12.


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If the collective reaction from prospects who woke up Sunday to news of USC firing coach Lane Kiffin is any indication, the school’s recruiting efforts will likely benefit from the midseason dismissal.

In fact, ESPN 300 defensive end Malik Dorton (Bellflower, Calif./St. John Bosco), who committed to the Trojans in late August, believes the firing might be exactly what USC needs.


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Notebook: WeAreSC recruiting roundup 

September, 24, 2013
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In this week’s WeAreSC recruiting notebook, we touch on a planned package deal, potential quarterback options and more:

  • As expected, USC outside linebacker commit D.J. Calhoun (El Cerrito, Calif./El Cerrito) set up his first official visit to Arizona State for the Oct. 18 weekend when the Sun Devils host Washington. The four-star prospect intends to take all five visits, though his father, Derik, said he remains committed to USC. With good friend and high school teammate Adarius Pickett now committed to UCLA, the Trojans will have some work to do.
  • While some uncertainty remains with Calhoun, add three-star offensive lineman Jordan Austin (Claremont, Calif./Claremont) to the list of recruits who have been unfazed by the fuzzy USC coaching situation. Like fellow linemen commits Toa Lobendahn (La Habra, Calif./La Habra) and Jordan Poland (La Jolla, Calif./Country Day School), Austin appears headed for Troy no matter how the 2013 season unravels. “I went to the game against Boston College. I loved the whole experience,” the 6-foot-5, 275-pound prospect said. Lobendahn, meanwhile, will be eligible to play his first game this season on Oct. 11 when La Habra travels to Fullerton (Calif.).

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Pac-12 recruiting storylines: Sept. 19 

September, 19, 2013
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Three Pac-12 programs added commitments in the past week, while several more appear poised to close this class in a big way. A number of Pac-12 programs are off this weekend, but one program in particular looks to be in line for a busy recruiting weekend.
Cardinal closing strong

There was only one team that made any kind of movement in Wednesday's updated team recruiting rankings, and it was a big jump for the Stanford Cardinal. On the strength of a commitment from ESPN 300 defensive tackle Nifae Lealao (Sacramento, Calif./Capital Christian), Stanford moved up four places, from No. 28 to No. 24 overall. It seems to be only a matter of time before Stanford is sitting atop the Pac-12 conference, as ESPN 300 prospects Casey Tucker (Chandler, Ariz./Hamilton) and Dalton Schultz (South Jordan, Utah/Bingham) appear to be strong leans to the Cardinal. Several other four-star prospects across the country are giving the program a long look.

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