USC Football Recruiting Position Nosedives
Drops From 19th to 55th in sports.com Ranking
February 27, 2020
In college football, the top teams recruit well. In the 2020 football recruiting class, the top five teams were Georgia, Clemson, Alabama, LSU and Ohio State. Four of those five schools have won national championships in the past six years, with Georgia being the lone exception. The lone school from the Pac-12 conference in the top ten this year was Oregon, who finished 9th in the 247sports.com team recruiting rankings.
Missing from the top ten for the second straight year was USC. In 2019, USC was ranked 19th in the 247sports recruiting rankings. This year, USC fell to 55th in their rankings. In the rivals.com recruiting rankings, USC was ranked 65th. From 2002-2018, USC was ranked in the top five 12 times and was ranked in the top ten 17 of 18 seasons, with the exception being in 2013 when they ranked 13th.
From 2002 through 2018, USC was ranked in the top two in Pac-12 conference recruiting. This year they were ranked 10th out of the 12 conference schools. USC is a blue blood school in college football and the premier football program in the Pac-12. They have won 11 national championships, 39 conference championships and have had 13 undefeated seasons. But the perception today is that USC has become mediocre and irrelevant.
USC is 13-13 in their last 26 games. USC usually dominates California recruiting and UCLA is also among the best in California recruiting as well. With both USC and UCLA struggling, schools outside of the Pac-12 have swooped in and are stealing some of the best players in California, particularly in Southern California. The top high school football players want to play for the top college football programs.
In the 2020 California top 100 football recruiting rankings from Rivals.com, USC had only one player in the top 25 from California. The No. 1 player in the state, quarterback Bryce Young of Santa Ana Mater Dei, is headed for Alabama. The No. 2 recruit in California, quarterback D.J. Uiagalelei from St. John Bosco, will be attending Clemson.
The No. 4 recruit in California, running back Kendall Milton of Buchanan high school in Clovis, will be taking his talents to Georgia. The No. 6 ranked player in California, quarterback C.J. Stroud of Rancho Cucamonga high school, will play his college football at the University of Georgia. This is a concern for the Pac-12 conference, because these players are leaving the west coast and heading back east.
In 2015, USC had four of the top eight recruits from California and ten of the top 25. With only one recruit from the Top 25 this year and with UCLA struggling as well in recruiting, the top talent is not staying in the Pac-12. Oregon, Washington and Arizona State have picked up some of the slack, but not enough to change the overall trends for the conference.
In taking an early look at the 2021 football recruiting rankings in California, the trend is continuing. The No. 1 recruit in California and in the nation, defensive end Korey Foreman of Corona Centennial, has already verbally committed to Clemson. Four of the top six recruits in the 2021 class are going out-of-state, with one going to LSU, one committing to Notre Dame and another player also committing to Clemson.
The answer for USC is to start winning football games. That will bring back the California recruits and help the Pac-12 conference. A coaching change may be required. Unfortunately, Head Coach Clay Helton was given a contract extension through 2023, by the previous administration, in a decision that made no sense. Lynn Swann, the athletic director at the time, gave Helton a raise and a contract extension when there was not a demand for his services.
That decision has forced their new athletic director, Mike Bohn, to stay with Helton, whether he wants to or not. It would cost more than $20 million to buy out Helton's contract and the contracts of the rest of the Trojan staff.
Bohn replaced Swann, who resigned under pressure after three tumultuous years as the USC AD. It will take a while and probably a lot of money to repair the damage down by the Swann Administration. For example, USC canceled a game last week against UC Davis that was scheduled for the 2021 season. UC Davis, a member of the Football Championship Sub-Division (FCS), will be paid $725,000 due to the cancellation. USC replaced the UC Davis with San Jose State of the Mountain West Conference.
USC, a member of the Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS), is one of three FBS programs that have never played an FCS opponent, the others being UCLA and Notre Dame. As Bohn stated: "It was clear our fans didn't like it and our fans recognize that we're one of only three institutions to have never played a team at that level. They were really clear about it and, to be honest with you, I think there were a lot of people on campus that encouraged us to ensure that we could fix that as well."
It was also $725,000 wasted on a game that should have never been scheduled. Bohn is well aware of the challenge ahead of him: "It's really simple. You think of the L.A. market and the value to the league there. Obviously our ongoing series with Notre Dame, our marquee games that we commit to in non-conference, it's important for us to continue to be leaders in the Pac-12. It's important for us to operate from a place of strength."
Bohn will see the challenge of a marquee game very early in the 2020 season. The Trojans will travel to AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas to meet the Alabama Crimson Tide. The game is scheduled for September 5th, 2020. The game will match two of college football's most prestigious programs. The challenge for Bohn is ensuring his football program is up to the challenge of playing teams like Alabama. That should be important to both Bohn and the Pac-12 Conference.