It's not an exodus from USC yet

Published Jul. 9, 2010 9:34 p.m. ET

Can I let you in on a secret? If you throw open the doors on any team, from Alabama to Wyoming and everywhere in between, there are a dozen guys ready to hightail it out of there. Minimum.

Doesn’t matter how good the degree is, doesn’t matter how good the team is or the weather or the girls or anything else associated with the college football experience, guys won’t be happy. Maybe it’s a lack of playing time or homesickness or just a bad fit.

Not counting recruits Seantrel Henderson or Glen Stanley, USC has lost four players from its roster since the NCAA threw open the gates for juniors and seniors to transfer without having to sit out a season.

Some people might call it an exodus. ESPN has certainly portrayed it that way. (I could spend the next few paragraphs shredding the four-letter for the way it’s covered USC, Pac-10 expansion and the Pac-10 in general, but considering they just threw away what little credibility they had left with the LeBron travishamockery, I’ll give them a pass.)

It’s anything but, so far anyway.

Of the four to take advantage of the loophole, two – linebackers Jarvis Jones (injury) and Jordan Campbell (suspension) – weren’t going to contribute this season, if ever. Defensive end Malik Jackson was buried on the depth chart and fullback D.J. Shoemate, a dynamic tailback and receiver at powerhouse Anaheim (Calif.) Servite, wasn’t thrilled with the way he was used.

Odds are they would have left anyway.


The Trojans haven’t lost a starter, nor will they. Guys like corner Shareece Wright, receiver Ronald Johnson or running back Allen Bradford have 13 games to show their wares for the NFL. If you can perform at USC, you’re on their radar. You don’t even have to start, let alone play, as Matt Cassel proved.

But there’s now a chance to find playing time for guys like Mitch Mustain or C.J. Gable. It seems like an easy enough proposition, go somewhere else and start. It’s not that simple.

Players have to decide if they want to uproot their lives, go to a brand new place on a whim and hope they mesh with the coaches and players. It can wreak havoc on personal lives and academic pursuits.

Most of these players, at USC or anywhere else, are happy with their current routine. Why give that up?

For someone like Mustain, having been through this wringer once before with his move from Arkansas to USC four years ago and understands the value of a degree, it might mean two more years of school. And that’s assuming that new university has the same major or accepts the previous course load.

As for USC, every defection will hurt, especially down the road when scholarship limits take hold. If standout senior Stanley Havili goes down this fall, Shoemate won’t be there to step in.

And while Lane Kiffin and his staff have found four recruits who will enroll early and replace some of these vacancies, the depth is reduced, as is the margin for error, in terms of injuries on the field and evaluating incoming players off of it.

The bigger issue for Kiffin and co. is winning. Winning won’t fix everything but it would be close. It will keep most of the current roster happy. Same for fans and future recruits.

It isn’t everything, as Lombardi said, but in this case is certainly the only thing.