USC Trojans land another major recruiting class
Southern California's NCAA sanctions and whispers about another new scandal around coach Lane Kiffin sure didn't prevent the Trojans from landing yet another standout recruiting class.
USC restocked its roster in impressive fashion Wednesday, signing at least 21 high school recruits and one junior college player. Kiffin secured nearly a full recruiting class despite the pending possibility of NCAA scholarship restrictions, exceeding what most expected from a coaching staff still operating at major disadvantages.
''It's not me,'' Kiffin said. ''I don't care how good a recruiter you are, if you weren't at a place like SC ... with all that going on, and all the ammo that everybody had going against you, for these kids to still choose USC because of the education, and because of playing football here, I just think it speaks volumes for USC.''
USC is appealing the sanctions leveled against the athletic department last summer, which means Kiffin was free to sign a bumper crop of top-notch recruits at nearly every position. Although nobody is exactly certain about the consequences of the appeal, Kiffin doesn't think the Trojans will be forced lose any players who committed to USC even if the NCAA denies the appeal a few weeks from now.
''What we did is we followed the guidelines of what we could do,'' Kiffin said. ''We could sign a maximum of 25 today, not counting the midyear (enrollees) that went into last year's class, so we got close to that. ... In an appeal process, (USC officials) just want to make sure that what they were doing was exactly what we were allowed to do, and I don't think that (we) felt the need to tell everybody around the country exactly what our plan was, including rival schools.''
USC already has five high school players and three junior college recruits enrolled this month, and all will participate in spring practice. The 30 total signings represent a large portion of USC's entire roster, which dwindled to 50 scholarship players returning from last season.
While basking in the success of a remarkable class, Kiffin had nothing to say about an AOL Fanhouse report that the NCAA plans to hit Tennessee with penalties surrounding violations committed during Kiffin's 14 months at the school, including a ''failure to monitor'' violation against Kiffin personally that could limit his recruiting abilities in the future.
''The last thing I'm going to do on national signing day is to comment on an internet article that just happened to come out today,'' Kiffin said. ''I have no comment on that, nor do I know anything about that.''
USC's recruiting class was heavy on bulk, with four offensive linemen and five defensive linemen. Kiffin considered it a top priority to replenish his line to improve the Trojans' depth against the spread offenses and hurry-up schemes abounding in the Pac-10.
USC also landed receiver George Farmer from nearby Gardena, Calif. Kiffin identified the speedy pass-catcher as the player most likely to make an immediate contribution to the Trojans in the fall. Inglewood native Marqise Lee also will be a receiver, and Kiffin doesn't mind if the two-sport athlete plays basketball for the Trojans.
Kiffin and recruiting guru Ed Orgeron also lived up to USC's reputation as a national player by signing Kentucky linebacker Lamar Dawson, Cleveland offensive lineman Aundrey Walker and Tallahassee, Fla., running back Buck Allen.
Quarterback Max Wittek is among the eight recruits already enrolled at USC. The Newport Beach product is following in the footsteps of fellow Mater Dei High School graduate Matt Barkley, who is heading into his third season as the Trojans' starter.
The Trojans missed out on Crenshaw running back De'Anthony Thomas, who announced his commitment to Oregon late Wednesday night. Thomas, likely the top prospect in California, committed to USC last May and had remained solid until recent days.
''I think people are looking towards this class to see, is there any way SC can hold up with all the stuff going on and be able to sign a quality class?'' Kiffin said. ''So I hope we did that.''