- Erik McKinney, RecruitingNation
LOS ANGELES -- The rich tradition of USC football has been built largely through the contributions of local standouts. But during its resurgence over the past 10 years with head coaches Pete Carroll and Lane Kiffin at the helm, the Trojans have made a conscious effort to reach into SEC territory as often as they can for blue-chip recruits. While USC has swung and missed with some Southeastern prep standouts, others have helped maintain the Trojans as a dominant force on the field and in recruiting. Here are five recruits USC was able to pull out of SEC country since 2002, when the Trojans' most recent revival began.
1. Wide receiver Mike Williams (Tampa/Plant)
Lane Kiffin has been quoted as saying that Mike Williams changed USC football. Since returning to USC, the Trojans head coach has not allowed any player to wear Williams' No. 1 jersey, which shows in what high esteem Kiffin holds the former All-American.
The local schools didn't see Williams as a wide receiver, as Florida recruited him as a safety, Miami thought he might be able to play tight end and Florida State didn't recruit him at all. But in two years at USC, Williams established himself as arguably the most dominant wide receiver ever to suit up for the Trojans. He caught 81 passes for 1,265 yards and 14 touchdowns as a freshman, then backed that up with 95 receptions for 1,314 yards and 16 touchdowns as a sophomore. He also played a big role in USC's 2003 victory over Auburn, as he caught Matt Leinart's first collegiate touchdown pass, giving the Trojans an early lead in that game.
2. Running back Joe McKnight (River Ridge, La./John Curtis Christian)
McKnight is arguably the highest-profile recruit to come to USC from SEC territory during this time frame. He was the No. 1 player in the 2007 ESPNU 150, and expectations were that he would be the next Reggie Bush, perhaps even surpassing what the Heisman Trophy winner did at USC. While he didn't quite live up to those lofty expectations, McKnight did rush for 1,000 yards during his junior season and was integral in a huge road victory against Ohio State in 2009. Had McKnight not made the trip west, he likely would have become a star at either Mississippi or LSU.
USC prides itself on its national recruiting, getting prospects from throughout the country. The Southeast is no different, as these are the top five USC recruits from SEC country from the past decade.