The Official USC Trojans Thread
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ATLANTA -- The heart of SEC country provided an odd location for the first gathering of USC's star-studded 2013 recruiting class.
Eight players verbally committed to USC are participating in this weekend's inaugural Rivals100 Five-Star Challenge.
No other school has more than five of its verbal commitments here.
Many of USC's commitments showed early signs of school spirit Saturday by flashing the "f!ght On" hand signal -- raising two fingers in a "V" for victory -- while all the campers posed for a group picture during a practice break.
Eldridge Massington is part of USC's contingent at the Rivals Challenge.
"We were just trying to say that we're here and we'll be the best group out there," Stockton (Calif.) Lincoln running back and Rivals100 prospect Justin Davis said. "We're trying to represent that really strong."
USC's large contingent at this event provided the latest evidence that NCAA sanctions aren't preventing the Trojans from attracting elite prospects. It also reflected a recent change in USC's recruiting strategy.
When he began his USC coaching tenure, Lane Kiffin made a clear effort to focus on in-state prospects. More than three-quarters of USC's signees in Kiffin's first three recruiting classes came directly from California high schools or junior colleges.
USC now is branching out a little more.
Four of USC's 10 verbal commitments from 2013 are from outside California, and the out-of-state recruits are scattered across the country. Sammamish (Wash.) Skyline's Max Browne, the nation's top pro-style quarterback prospect, represents the Pacific Northwest.
The East Coast is covered by five-star defensive end Kenny Bigelow, who grew up in Delaware and now plays for Elkton (Md.) Eastern Christian Academy. Mesquite (Texas) West Mesquite wide receiver Eldridge Massington gives the class a Texas flavor. The Midwest is represented by Joliet (Ill.) Catholic running back Ty Isaac.
"Traditionally, they had gone national and had extended across the country," Rivals.com West recruiting analyst Adam Gorney said. "Then they went local. I think what happened (this year) is they kind of reached out again and found success.''
Bigelow, Browne and Massington are in Atlanta this weekend.
They're joined by Davis, Redlands (Calif.) East Valley defensive end Kylie Fitts, Rancho Cucamonga (Calif.) cornerback Chris Hawkins, Santa Monica (Calif.) wide receiver [/db]Sebastian LaRue[/db] and Mission Hills (Calif.) wide receiver Steven Mitchell.
The only players in USC's class missing from Atlanta are Isaac and Murrieta (Calif.) Vista Murrieta five-star safety Su'a Cravens.
"This is the first time I've been able to meet some of these guys," Browne said. "It's a cool experience. The recruiting class USC has put together so far is really special. For all of us to come together, meet each other and hang out, it's really fun."
Browne also might have met a few future teammates who aren't committed to USC yet.
Uncommitted prospects at the Five-Star Challenge considering USC include Rancho Cucamonga (Calif.) safety Tahaan Goodman, Seffner (Fla.) Armwood safety Leon McQuay, Houston (Texas) Alief Taylor defensive end Torrodney Prevot, Brentwood (Tenn.) Academy athlete Jalen Ramsey and Elkton (Md.) Eastern Christian Academy offensive guard Khaliel Rodgers.
Muscle Shoals (Ala.) defensive end Dee Liner is committed to Auburn, but he's making an unofficial visit to USC next week.
Prevot also is visiting USC next week and received a faxed message from Trojans defensive line coach Ed Orgeron after arriving at his Atlanta hotel Friday.
Although the makeup of USC's class suggests the Trojans are expanding their base again, they're doing it differently than before.
This marks the second of three years that NCAA sanctions have limited USC to 15 scholarships, though a few early enrollees should allow the Trojans to include as many as 18 players in this class. So USC is being very picky in deciding which out-of-state players merit scholarship offers.
"That's how they've kind of tweaked their recruiting," Gorney said. "They would go and take a chance on a guy from out of state before. Now they're pinpointing the guys they really want from out of state and going after those guys. They're not throwing 50 offers to out-of-state guys anymore."
USC's success rate is startling.
All four of USC's out-of-state recruits are ranked among the nation's top 150 prospects. Three of them are in the top 24: Browne (No. 5), Bigelow (No. 6) and Isaac (No. 24). USC has three of the top eight 2013 recruits overall in Browne, Bigelow and Cravens (No. 8). All 10 of USC's verbal commitments are ranked 162nd or better.
NO SLEEPERS HERE
All 10 of the 2013 prospects verbally committed to USC are ranked among the nation's top 162 recruits. Players at the Rivals100 Five-Star Challenge are in bold.
Pos. Player High school Rank
DE Kenny Bigelow Elkton (Md.) Eastern Christian 6
QB Max Browne Sammamish (Wash.) Skyline 5
S Su'a Cravens Murrieta (Calif.) Vista Murrieta 8
RB Justin Davis Stockton (Calif.) Lincoln 41
DE Kylie Fitts Redlands (Calif.) East Valley 97
CB Chris Hawkins Rancho Cucamonga (Calif.) 78
RB Ty Isaac Joliet (Ill.) Catholic 24
WR Sebastian LaRue Santa Monica (Calif.) 162
WR Eldridge Massington Mesquite (Texas) West Mesquite 141
WR Steven Mitchell Mission Hills (Calif.) Bishop Alemany 63
"We're probably not going to have any three-stars, which is kind of unheard of," Davis said.
How have they done it?
By going 10-2 and finishing sixth in The a.ssociated Press poll last season, USC regained the momentum that had stalled in the summer of 2010 with the arrival of probation.
USC followed that up in February by signing the nation's eighth-ranked recruiting class.
Rather than worrying about the long-term effects of sanctions, USC's recruiting targets consider themselves honored they're among the select group to receive scholarship offers from the Trojans.
"They only had 18 scholarships," Mitchell said. "(For them) to be interested in me, that's a great feeling." USC also has found out-of-state players who didn't mind leaving home and savored the chance to play for the Trojans.
Browne said he was advised early in the recruiting process to pick the school where he'd feel happy even if football didn't exist. He found that comfort level at USC.
Bigelow picked USC after establishing a rapport with Orgeron.
Massington, a longtime Reggie Bush fan, thought USC's offense suited his game perfectly.
"USC is the best fit for me," Massington said. "I feel they'll always have a (good) quarterback. They'll always have good receivers. I feel it's the best pro-style offense. It's the best offense for me."
Massington's chances of succeeding in this offense will depend in part on how soon he establishes a rapport with Browne and his other new teammates.
He's watched plenty of video highlights online of Brown and other members of USC's recruiting class, but this marked the first time he'd seen many of them in person.
In many ways, this weekend represents the equivalent of a freshman orientation session a year ahead of schedule. "We're all in a hotel room just hanging out and becoming better friends," Hawkins said. "Some of us are more spread out (across the country). This is an opportunity for us to become better friends and get that connection we need at the next level."
They cherished the opportunity -- even if it came thousands of miles from their future home.
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Everyone at the event - including myself - believe Jalen Ramsey will end up at USC. We've discussed the ins and outs about this for the past few weeks, but now everyone else is getting the same vibe. I spoke to Ramsey today for a separate feature and Eldridge Massington was in his ear about going to USC the whole time. Even the Army All-American reps here in Atlanta were thinking he was SC bound after speaking with his folks. I still don't think he will commit to USC at Rising Stars, but it could bee sooner rather than later. For more background on this, check the war room posts.
Speaking of Ramsey, he was the best defensive back in attendance Saturday. High cut with long arms, Ramsey took a ton of reps and was good all day. Even when he gt beat, he looked good getting beat. Ramsey is the biggest corner at the event, and the way he springs out of his back pedal is impressive. To think USC could land Ramsey and Priest Willis is mind boggling. they both had plus size and recovery speed. Willis may be a tad faster, but I think Ramsey may be more agile. Ramsey is also a really smart, yes sir, no sir type of kid.
Another tidbit making the rounds today centered around Bellflower (Calif.) four-star offensive tackle Nico Falah. Although Falah is not in attendance, more and more sources are saying he is a silent commitment to USC. In fact, UCLA is the school actually putting this out. However, sources also say that UCLA will continue to make a push to change his mind between now and July. Is there counter move for the Dim Mak?
Max Browne has surprisingly good athleticism for his build. Browne is tall, and just beginning to grow into his frame, but he was tremendous in cone drills today. His feet are quick, and he is far more explosive than anyone would a.ssume. This is an area of his game no one talks about, but it could be a huge a.sset in college. I do not foresee Browne running much read option at USC, but he actually could do it enough to keep the defense honest.
Browne was the best passer on day one without much debate. His arm strength is good, but it's Browne's accuracy and touch that set him apart. Browne really adjusts the trajectory of his pass well to the play. There were a few passes today where he put the ball over the defender and it came down like a raindrop. He physically changed his grip on the ball to give the ball a better path to the wide out.
Alpharetta (Ga.) five-star defensive end Carl Lawson is the best overall player at the Five Star Challenge in Atlanta. With a day of drills still to come, it doesn't matter. Lawson is the most explosive, aggressive and powerful player in attendance and it's not really that close. At 6-foot-2, 270-pounds, he was only slowed down by one offensive lineman all day, and that was when he was playing inside.
Khaliel Rodgers aka "New Jersey" was that one offensive lineman that got to Lawson. Of course, in the next rep, Lawson blew right by him. But Rodgers is good. He called Dee Liner and several other defensive linemen out and was very successful. The main issue with Rodgers will be his second level blocking. Watching his film, he doesn't move down field as much as you would expect for a guy as quick as he is. That doesn't mean Rodgers can't block down to the second level. It just means we haven't seen much of that from him. To this point, he is dominating guys in a three yard bubble.
The heat just took the drive out of some kids. It was 95-degrees today with about 70-percent humidity. The California kids were a mixed bag dealing with that. They weren't alone. Kenny Bigelow seemed to lose his will to compete at one point and the coaches laid into him - indirectly - for it. Bigelow didn't have a bad day. I think expectation are high and at an event like this everyone is looking for a weakness because they've all heard about your strengths. Bigelow also played exclusively at defensive end, and at 295-pounds, should be a defensive tackle. By the way, Bigelow told me Friday he has never weight more than 300-pounds, so he doesn't know where the reported weight of 322 came from.
It seemed like the heat also got to running back Justin Davis. He went hard in his individual position drills, but Davis didn't take many reps during one-on-ones. He hid out a little bit, and that's not normally what he does. Greg Bryant was definitely the best running back of day one. While Bryant lacks top end speed, he is extremely quick and powerful. He is also filled out. The kid is absolutely jacked, and it's hard to think he can get much bigger or stronnger than he already is. In contrast, Davis at 6-foot-1, 200-pounds, is probably the least physically developed running back at the event.
USC will most likely offer a scholarship to every junior at this event. There isn't an average 2014 prospect here. Defensive end Andrew Brown, defensive end Malik McDowell, defensive end De'Shawn Hand, safety Kendall Randolph, cornerback Tony Brown... the list goes on. Brown is already being recruited by USC, so we'll have an update with him later. For the West, I think it's very plausible USC offers scholarships to linebackers Dwight Williams and Jamardre Cobb. Williams is small in comparison to the other linebackers here, but the kid is athlete and agile. In one-on-one drills against the running backs, there was some talk about him being able to play safety in college. Cobb is almost the opposite of Williams stature wise, and showed enough flashes in coverage to think USC will contemplate a scholarship offer after Rising Stars. Now, this is just a camp, and it's dangerous to make too many grand a.ssessments about linebackers with no pads.
Defensive end Kylie Fitts was solid today. There was some doubt as to how he would perform among this stellar defensive line group, but he played hard and played well when he was challenged. Fitts came into the camp with shin splints, and the cramps in his calves didn't help matters. Because of that, he only had three or four reps during one-on-one drills.
Defensive end Joe Mathis struggled Saturday. While he has a good first step, Mathis has lost weight and with it power. He had no second move today and was exploited because of it. Mathis needs to get back to about 250-pounds and work on his counter techniques.
Chris Hawkins had a good day Saturday, but caused controversy in the stands. Hawkins plays physical and was accused of holding down field by the wide receivers at the event. Similar to what we saw at the NIKE Camp, observers wanted to see some PI calls. Well, there are no referees at camps, so instead parents in the stands were left to argue about it. Hawkins himself just kept on playing regardless of who said what. He is going to play physical as long as he has two arms.
Morning session rankings
1. DE Carl Lawson 2. QB Max Browne 3. CB Jalen Ramsey 4.
RB Greg Bryant 5. WR Ricky Jones-Seals 6. DE Andrew Brown (2014) 7. Sebastian
LaRue 8. OL Kent Perkins 9. LB Dwight Williams (2014) 10. Kylie Fitts
Afternoon session rankings
1. DE Carl Lawson 2. RB Greg Bryant 3. QB Max Browne 4.CB Jalen Ramsey 5. LB Jaylon Smith 6. OL Khaliel Rodgers 7. TE O.J. Howard 8. WR Bo Scarborough (2014) 9. LB Dwight Williams (2014) 10. WR Steven Mitchell
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The commitment of Santa Monica (Calif.) wide out Sebsatian LaRue is big for USC in many ways. First, it's another blow to the recruiting of other PAC-12 schools that coveted the 5-foot-11, 175-pound four-star prospect. His commitment it impacts USC's potential class at two different positions. As LaRue explained in his interview late Thursday night, the Trojans love his versatility. At the USC Skills Camp two weeks ago, LaRue was a standout catching the football and even more impressive playing cornerback.
LaRue is also viewed as a dynamic kick returner, which is why he spent time meeting with John Baxter Thursday in addition to talking with Lane Kiffin, Marvin Sanders and Tee Martin. But with LaRue, the recruitment of other top players may have to subside. With only 18 scholarships available in this class, LaRue is either a third receiver or second corner. That means the recruitment of San Diego (Calif.) three-star Tyree Robinson as a third receiver could end. In turn, that would k!ll any hope of USC landing his twin brother, linebacker Tyrell Robinson as well.
Things begin to get crowded on the defensive side of the football. With USC rumored to only sign five defensive backs, LaRue's commitment could be taking a spot away from Tempe (Ariz.) four-star cornerback Priest Willis or Nashville (Tenn.) four-star cornerback Jalen Ramsey.
More on Ramsey
Ramsey will be in attendance at the Rivals Five Star Challenge this weekend in Atlanta. One of the main attractions for Ramsey coming into the event is meeting and speaking with recruits committed to various schools. Ramsey specifically mentioned his excitement to meet players like Max Browne, Chris Hawkins and Eldridge Massington.
From Atlanta, Ramsey will fly straight to Los Angeles to participate in the first day of the Rising Stars Camp. As it stands, Tennessee and USC appear to be head to-head in the battle for Ramsey's commitment with Trojans gaining the upper hand. Whether USC would entertain a commitment from Ramsey this early in the process remains to be seen, but it appears possible. Trojans a.ssistant coach Tee Martin has been personally recruiting Ramsey since he was at Kentucky, so the Trojans may feel confident in locking this one up sooner rather than later. The key to keeping him committed may come in the form of any possible coaching turnover Tennessee has at the end of this season.
Rodgers Package Deal
As reported earlier this week on The Peristyle, reports of Elkton (Md.) offensive lineman Khaliel Rodgers and USC parting ways was a bit presumptions. While Rodgers is more focused on schools like Auburn and Ohio State at the moment, sources indicate that he will still visit USC sometime in the near future. Auburn is the school trying to rally a package deal between Rodgers and his teammate Kenny Bigelow the most.
The Tigers have an in on the Eastern Academy coaching staff that has allowed them to have almost unlimited access to Rodgers and Bigelow. Although Bigelow has dismissed any talk of his commitment to USC wavering, Auburn will be the one school to watch for if Rodgers commits there. If USC was to offer Rodgers a scholarship as a center, it would probably be game, set, match Trojans.
Nico not saying yet
Bellflower (Calif.) four-star offensive tackle Nico Falah told USCFootball.com this week that he will most likely make his announcement sometime in July. Falah announced last week that he had made his college decision, although it appears he has yet to actually inform the colleges of his intentions. Falah will likely choose between USC and UCLA, with sources becoming more and more confident that the Trojans will be his eventual choice.
If that is indeed the outcome, USC would look to sign one more offensive lineman in 2013. At this point, Falah is the only offensive lineman seriously considering UCLA that USC is really interested in. Fallbrook (Calif.) offensive tackle Sean Dowling attended the Trojans Lineman Camp over the Bruins' lineman camp two weeks ago, but from what we hear, USC will no longer be recruiting him.
Don't hold your breath
USC expects to host several South Florida recruits at the Rising Stars Camp next week, but according to various sources, the chances of the Trojans landing the talents of players like Immokalee cornerback Mackensie Alexander or Deadrin Senat remain very low. And while Miami (Fla.) athlete Jayron Kearse named USC his leader last week, the expectations of signing him remain low as well. All three prospects have already seen multiple commitments come and go, so anticipate more ebb and flow from each throughout the year.
The Silver Liner
While Auburn is trying to raid USC for commitments, the Trojans are doing the same to the Tigers. Muscle Shoals (Ala.) five-star defensive end Dee Liner will be camping with USC next week. Liner has been committed to Auburn since last June, but remains intrigued by USC and the opportunity to play early.
Not like us
One of the pleasures doing this is that we get to see these USC football players in ways others do not. Not every day all year long, maybe, except for during the season. But that actually works well for us. The time off and the time away, and then getting back for the early morning workouts, can be both fun -- and instructive. You see guys literally grow up, or in some cases this spring, slim down, right before your eyes.
Which is why we have worked so hard to get the permitted three minutes of each session's highlights to you. They show us things we maybe didn't know. And they're just plain fun to watch.
Like walk-on Ryan Dillard's scholarship-worthy cornerback skills. Or how D.J. Morgan's burst is back. Or the general speed and quickness, or camaraderie and competitiveness, of these guys.
For some of us who are there seeing them in real time, and then catching the highlights, it's amazing what you can see in the video. But you can't see, or know, everything. Which is why we might not join the poster here who says the only one of the three quarterbacks he's worried about is Matt Barkley -- maybe a bit. But it's clear where the attention is: Who will succeed MB -- Cody Kessler or Max Wittek?
We thought we had an idea last fall how that would go. But now we're with John Manoogian, who says he just wants to be able to step back and watch these two go at it. And while it may not be all about a big arm, which a bigger, stronger, more mature Wittek shows us every day, that's part of it. Does he have a Carson Palmer cannon? Well, just being able to ask the question gives you something of your answer. It's special.
But here's where the highlights might fail a bit. Because you have folks saying they're not sure about Kessler, because he holds on to the ball longer. Or keeps on the move as he throws on the run. Which he does because he can. Most quarterbacks can't. It just doesn't maybe translate on video. It's not a quantifiably visual skill outside of happening in pads at game time.
But here's something that is. Just 6-foot-2 1/2 at the tops to Wittek's 6-4, Kessler has humongous hands and an NBA-player's 36-inch inseam. And some real hops in those quick feet. Asked if he could dunk a basketball, Kessler said yes, he could. Told him the other day how we'd always been so impressed with how Troy Polamalu first dunked a basketball as an eighth-grader.
"Me, too," Kessler said. "Well, actually at the end of the seventh grade." Which is all you have to know about these guys. They're not like us. They're different. They're playing in a universe far, far away from where normal people play. As they have to be. Normal people don't get "highlights."
Best for USC -- and college football?
To all the smart reactions here Thursday at the word of the consensus playoff plan from the BCS commissioners to be presented to the presidential commission Tuesday in Washington, the War Room doesn't have all that much to add. Lots of enthusiasm for getting the BCS' 14 years -- it'll be 16 before it's finished -- behind us.
And that's perfectly understandable. It hasn't been all that good for USC. But if we have a hesitance about jumping in with both feet into a new, untested, undeveloped plan whose unintended consequences haven't all been even imagined much less considered, hear us out.
Because we don't want another 16 years of a badly considered idea whose time has come much the way the BCS' time had come in 1998. They thought they had the answers then.
Who knew they were setting the table for no more USC games against the SEC -- ever. Unless they meet up in a championship game. Whose fault this is is neither here nor there. But without doubt, the regular season is not as interesting as it once was. And that's because of the BCS.
And as easy as it is for some to say we should give up on "the Granddaddy of them all" while no one else has anything even a teeny-tiny bit comparable to the Rose Bowl that they're giving up, or devaluing, we say "Hold on" for a bit, anyway.
But as vested in a four-team playoff plan as the people who put this together will be, and as successful career bureaucrats will do because it's what they do and why they're good at it, and it's what they did in allowing the BCS to linger far past its time because no one wanted to admit their handiwork had failed, we don't want to see a replay here.
Which is why the "plus-one" has qualities we like. We'd like to see the people putting this together show us they can get a "plus-one" right. And there are no terrible unintended consequences. And then we move on if we choose. Since it has no groundswell of support, it will be far easier to get past than a four-team playoff that, if it doesn't work, none of the commissioners and ADs will want to admit as much to their presidents. And college football will be stuck for another 16 years. That's all we're saying.
Just one out of 12
He will be just one of 12 on the presidential commission in DC this week but USC Pres. Max Nikias, representing the Pac-12, will give that body a stronger Trojan presence than the new Pac-12 Networks "Launching 8-15-12" video.
We thought we were the only one to notice this week but the ever sharp-eyed "P" poster williamralph picked up on it as well. "A very upsetting video," he says of the way USC is presented by the Pac-12 here. He's not impressed. Nor are we.
C'mon, Pac-12. We know you're broadcasting from NoCal now, but really, is this the best you can do? You're not even trying. This is embarrassingly dumb. Your 1:05 intro promo opens with a couple of long, strong football shots before getting into the quick cuts from sport to sport.
First we see a zoom-in aerial view of the green-and-gold glow from Oregon's Autzen Stadium at night. Wonderfully evocative of USC's streak-ending win over the Ducks there last fall. Then it cuts to another familiar image, even if he's no longer in the league -- Stanford's Andrew Luck, who almost won the Heisman.
Then we see images of UCLA, Arizona, Washington, Cal, Colorado, Utah, Arizona State, Washington State and Oregon State. The entire Pac-11. Is that it? We weren't counting but now we are. Doesn't this league have a 12th team? Where's the cardinal and gold? Did you see USC? So we stop the video. And start over.
And then we see it. At the 19-second mark. For a split-second. Could that be? Well, yes it is -- in what appear to be their white USA Olympic team basketball uniforms, there are Lisa Leslie and Tina Thompson representing from the shoulders up -- just not in their USC colors. And then it goes on until a Trojan footballer appears, could be Damian Williams from a couple of seasons back or maybe Dion Bailey in No. 18 in cardinal and gold at the 47-second mark.
And then finally, almost certainly an afterthought at the 48-second mark, we see Matt Barkley, cover boy for most of the college football magazines and the Pac-12's Heisman Trophy frontrunner for the 2012 season, the season that the Pac-12 Networks will be broadcasting.
By the time this is over, we have a total of 42 team images in 33 different shots. Only Oregon State and Washington State, with two each, appear to have fewer than USC's three, although just two were in cardinal and gold. Oregon, Stanford and Arizona State lead the way with five shots each.
Which is why we're encouraged about Pres. Nikias' one-of-12 appearance among the national presidential group. USC will be better represented outside the conference than in it. Although we must ask: Is any of this surprising?
A thought for the presidents
From one of our "P" posters with a lifelong background in college sports and TV, who always wanted to see the NCAA show some real transparency in its much-touted college basketball selection process by having TV cameras in there for the whole thing, there's this. If the football people want to be as open in their selection process as they say they do, the chance is there. Put it on TV. All of it. From start to finish. Let us see and hear what they're thinking and how they justify their picks. Great idea.
Elite 11 now has 25?
So are we to understand that ESPN's Elite 11 Quarterback Competition has expanded to 25 guys now for the finals July 18-22 in Redondo Beach? And they're touting Penn State commit Justin Hackenberg from Virginia's Fork Union Military Academy, Vidal Hazelton's alma mater, as the nation's No. 1 pocket passer, edging out USC-commit Max Browne? Hmmmmm. Might make that competition worth watching.
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Whether Khaliel Rodgers makes it out to the Rising Stars Camp next week remains to be seen. I spoke to Kenny Bigelow about the trip today, and while Bigelow was excited about heading out, he mentioned that Rodgers would not be. According to Bigelow, his coach called him this morning and informed him he could not miss the summer school classes for the trip out West. This was obviously a sudden turn of events as Rodgers had the trip booked for weeks. If he can't make it out, this will be a big boost for Auburn, who does not want USC offering Rodgers a scholarship. The Tigers would lose that battle heads up. We'll keep you updated.
Bigelow's recruitment is finished on record, but there's a lot of buzz about him still looking around. Bigelow is a gregarious kid and likes the attention, so I can see him taking official visits at some point and making his recruitment much more dramatic than USC fans want it to be. Obviously getting Rodgers committed to USC would help reign him in, but Bigelow will be a name that pops up with opposing schools in January regardless. And while he didn't dominate the way the experts expected him to, he won the majority of his one-on-one battles. The main criticism of Bigelow was when he appeared to dog it during the morning agility drills Saturday. His competitive drive was questioned without a definitive answer. Bigelow is still a five-star talent, but Ed Orgeron is going to test whether he has a five-star heart Tuesday and Wednesday.
Walking out of the stadium Sunday to head to the airport, Jalen Ramsey's father, Lamont, called me over to the stands. He gave me a smile and a V for victory. I laughed and told him Jalen has a whole week of that ahead of him starting Monday. Jalen will be in Los Angeles from Monday to
Thursday. Whether he actually publicly commits to USC remains to be seen, but he will definitely know if he is going to USC by then end of that trip. Ramsey was hands down the best defensive back at this event, that included some good ones. Ramsey brings together plus size, great recovery speed, long arms and smarts. The West receivers actually got him on a couple of plays, but he was pretty dominant the whole day with a couple of interceptions against the Northeast tourney champs.
Speaking of defensive backs, the Fab Five will be in full effect this week with Max Redfield, Su'a Cravens, Priest Willis and Jalen Ramsey all signed up for the Rising Stars Camp. Unfortunately, quarterback Max Browne will not make the camp, so it's questionable how much of a challenge the secondary will have defending the pass. The biggest issue of the USC Skills Camp was a lack of accurate deep passes testing the defensive backs. Regardless, there is no question about the talent level of Redfield, Cravens, Willis or Ramsey. Getting Redfield and Cravens together side-by-side Tuesday will be huge for the Trojans. It is possible that USC locks in Redfield sooner rather than later.
USC was busy last week offering scholarships to a handful of 2014 prospects. That included defensive lineman De'Shawn Hand, running back Leonard Flornette and defensive tackle Andrew Brown. Hand actually asked me Sunday why USC had not offered him a scholarship yet. He wants to major in engineering and has been looking at USC since his freshman year. He will get a scholarship offer soon from the Trojans and will probably visit USC at some point. Flornetter is a 6-foot-2, 225-pound running back with above average speed and decent hands. USC will, and maybe already have, offered a scholarship to receiver Bo Scraborough. While Scarborough looks like a linebacker, he surprised me playing receiver. He has good hands and is scary fast for his size. Kid is a freak show all the way in terms of physique. Scarborough looks like Rueben Foster already physically, but has better top end speed. I was shocked to see him run by people deep with a knee brace on.
USC will also offer Arizona 2014 offensive tackle Casey Tucker a scholarship at some point. Tucker is a great looking player on the hoof at 6-foot-5.5, 275-pounds and he backed it up with solid play this weekend. Tucker even played some guard Sunday, although he was clearly out of position and lost track of his kick step inside. Most think he has a chance to be ranked higher than former Hamilton offensive tackle Christian Westerman because he is a legitimate offensive tackle prospect. USC saw him in May, and offered his teammate defensive back Cole Luke a scholarship, so I don't think Tucker will be far behind.
After losing a close game to the Southeast on a blow pass interference call on Chris Hawkins, the West team started to mail it in. It reminded some of us of that Randall Carroll led U.S. Army All-American team that did nothing but pout about how hard the practices were a few years back. Safety Tahaan Goodman didn't show up until late because he had an ankle sprain, but never informed anyone of his status. Receiver Darren Carrington and defensive end Joe Mathis slept in and ignored their wake up calls. That along with some subpar play Sunday gave the West team the stigma of being soft. This despite winning the Linemen Challenge outright. The West went 0-3 in the Passing Challenge.
Mathis was sporting a USC hat after the camp Sunday, with several players saying he wanted to commit to the Trojans. Mathis will attend the Rising Stars Camp Wednesday, but he will have to blow the coaches away in a half day of drills to earn a spot at USC right now. At this point, there are prospects with scholarship offers from USC that the Trojans would not take commitments from. There will also be continued evaluation of commitments.
UPDATE: Mathis and Tahaan Goodman both suffered injuries during the camp that will likely keep them out of Rising Stars. Goodman tweaked his ankle and Mathis tweaked his knee. Neither injury was serious, but both kids were limping around Ontario Airport Sunday night.
To be fair, the time difference took a lot out of the players. They were waking up at 4:00 a.m. PST both days. You could see it in their legs and in their eyes. Quarterback Max Browne and running back Justin Davis sat down for breakfast Sunday morning at 8:00 a.m. and looked like the walking dead. Neither spoke through the whole meal. Browne showed flashes Sunday of a big time passer, but also forced a few passes to the post route and got the ball picked off. Browne really needed a big tight end to throw to in this tournament when most of his wide outs were under 6-foot. None of the quarterbacks played very well in 7on play.
Of the group, Steven Mitchell played the best Sunday. It seemed that Mitchell caught a deep ball on the sideline almost every scoring series. When he was clutch, the West offense made plays. Justin Davis was also key in those drives. He made a few basic catches and surprised people by making some impressive moves in the open field. He is going to be a good one at USC.It was funny to listen to the Oklahoma writers watch him and also compare Davis to DeShaun Foster. Honestly, I think Davis is a little more sudden on his cuts than Foster watching him Sunday.
Defensively, Chris Hawkins didn't see a pass thrown his way for most of the first game. Then he got attacked by the deep post route. At first, it looked like Hawkins just got burned, but talking to the West players, the defense was in cover two, which put the responsibility on Hatari Byrd. I've said this a few times and have gone so far to categorize him as a linebacker on the target lists, but Byrd is not a defensive back. He is too stiff in the hips and lacks awareness in space. Tahaan Goodman was definitely missing during those reps. The secondary also missed a vocal leader like Max Redfield or Johnny Johnson in this tournament. Johnny Johnson just hates everything about wide outs. He hates the way they jog to the line of scrimmage. He hates the way they tie their shoes. The West team needed someone to set that tone.
Kylie Fitts had a solid camp. f!ghting shin splints and cramps Saturday, Fitts came back and played well again Sunday. Solid is a great way to describe Fitts all around. He brings maximum effort on the field and does not complain about anything. I think he surprised people with his performance this weekend.
The biggest hit of the day came from West linebacker Koa Kaleoppa. Problem was, this was a no contact camp, and after blasting Eldridge Massington coming across the middle, he stood over him and did some chest pounding. It was a cheap hit and the showboating made in even worse. Massington popped up and did a good job shaking off the hit. Kaleoppa was a bit over his head on this event and really is more of a defensive lineman in college than a linebacker.
Apparently the Southwest coaches had no clue Massington was their fastest receiver. While they had Ricky Seals-Jones, who ended Saturday with a poor showing in one-on-ones, running deep post routes, Massington ran nothing but short in routes Sunday. That's how Massington ended up getting clobbered across the middle.
Linebacker Trey Johnson rotated with Reuben Foster for the Southeast squad Sunday. Word around the event was that the two cannot stand each other. At last check Johnson was trying to arrange a flight to Los Angeles for Rising Stars. Speaking with him Friday at player registration, I didn't get the sense USC was recruiting him all that hard. At this point, Johnson should know whether he was flying out to L.A. or not.
Tight end O.J. Howard has all of the national writers drooling over his ability, but I think they were drooling more over his physique. While Howard played well, his performance wasn't as spectacular as being written. All of the Georgia and Alabama kids look like college starters from a physique standpoint, while the West team looked considerably younger and less developed. By their sophomore seasons, the California kids will catch up. It's the Clay Matthews Jr. vs. Brian Cushing comparison. The NFL Draft numbers don't lie.
|4 years ago||'10 #1000|
$19,344 | 2263
hell nah he don't lol but Soma got some speed with that size huh
Lamar look like he was half a.ssin, needs to rep that 55 properly this year. I think he will..
Who you think will be number 18 b900?
I'm hearing Priest Willis is leaning towards ND. I think we will land Hatcher and I think he will be the sleeper in this class. Dude can ball
Massington tearing his acl is a bummer but he was reppin USC hard before the tear, and coaches have said they are not going to pull his scholly. I agree with the call, once you commit you are a Trojan.
I know we want to be done by fall camp but I think we just MAY hold on to number 18 until LOI day and try for a KABOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOM like Laremy Tunsil or Montravious or even Hargreaves.
Last edited by USC; 07-21-2012 at 09:01 PM..