USC’s Success on the Recruiting Trail Hurting Their BCS Chances

By Chris Le

Dan Wetzel of Yahoo! Sports wrote an interesting piece arguing that Pete Carroll’s utter dominance in the recruiting game, particularly on the West Coast (Pac-10 country), is coming back to haunt his Trojans in the BCS rankings.

It sounds backwards at first. But Wetzel might be on to something here.

With one top signing class after another, it’s evident that Carroll has his pick of any recruit, not just in talent-rich southern California, but in the entire country. And from their perspective, considering what the program offers, it’s difficult to turn down a scholarship from USC. Here’s what the rest of the Pac-10 has to compete against: an NFL factory that has the glitz, glamour and media coverage of a professional team, excellent academics, elite facilities, perfect weather, and the coolest head coach in the land.

Ask anyone who has been or is currently being courted by Southern Cal, and they’ll all say the same thing: it’s hard as hell not to like Coach Carroll. Parents can’t help but be caught up in his charm and good looks, and recruits love his ability to be laid back, yet still be all about winning at the highest level. What’s more mind-boggling, despite already having a roster loaded with NFL prospects—some positions run 3 or 4 deep—he somehow convinces recruits into thinking they have a shot at playing right away as true freshmen. It’s just the magic of Pete Carroll and the prestige of the empire that is USC football.

But with Coach Carroll bogarting all of the 4- and 5-star recruits, is he partially to blame for the decline of the Pac-10? Had some of USC’s talent gone elsewhere, would the conference fare better today against the SEC or Big 12 or even the Mountain West?

Imagine if All-American safety Taylor Mays decided to stay close to home and join the Huskies instead of the Trojans. The combination of Mays and Jake Locker, two foundations for each side of the ball, wouldn’t be too shabby. Washington’s secondary wouldn’t be so atrocious and perhaps Tyrone Willingham wouldn’t be out of a job at the end of the season. (The latter might be overdoing it, but you never know.)

Or if RB Allen Bradford and Marcy Tyler, who was thinking of going to his father’s alma mater before ultimately going with USC, chose to attend UCLA. Not a bad running back tandem, right?

Or if OL Kristofer O’Dowd and DE Everson Griffen, two of the highest-rated prospects to ever come out of the Grand Canyon State, signed with Arizona or Arizona State. I’m sure ASU quarterback Rudy Carpenter, who moonlights as a sack dummy during games, wouldn’t mind having O’Dowd anchor the O-line.

Or if RB C.J. Gable matriculated to Cal. The Bears were major players in the Gable sweepstakes and had him seemingly within their grasps—until Carroll did his voodoo that he does and added Gable to a class that already featured Stafon Johnson, Emmanuel Moody and Stanley Havili. The thought of C.J. Gable and Jahvid Best in the backfield is like looking at, well, the current USC backfield of Joe McKnight (LSU fans are still pissed that he’s a Trojan) and Johnson.

Or if All-Conference safety Kevin Ellison wanted to play with his brother, Keith, at Oregon State.

The list goes on and on.

If Carroll wasn’t so selfish maybe the Pac-10 wouldn’t be so weak, and (since we know the Trojans can never go undefeated, always tripping up somewhere during the season against a vastly inferior opponent) USC’s strength of schedule would be strong enough to compete with that of Texas, Oklahoma, LSU and Florida.

But, like with any “what if” scenario ever presented, there’s a flip side to that coin. Pete Carroll’s players are only as good as they are because of the culture of competition fostered within their program. Fear of losing your starting spot (or better yet, actually losing it) is major motivation—just ask former first string D-linemen Averell Spicer and Everson Griffen. That vital competition would lose some of its edge or be completely gone if there wasn’t a hoard of talent around.

Would USC be as awe-inspiring and dominant without their stockpile of blue chip players?  Maybe they would. And perhaps the rest of the Pac-10, if they had their chance with elite recruits, would still stink.

But either way, Pete Carroll will still continue to sign every damn 5-star prospect he can find.


4 responses to “USC’s Success on the Recruiting Trail Hurting Their BCS Chances

  1. Pingback: Sports News » Blog Archive » USC’s Success on the Recruiting Trail Hurting their BCS Chances

  2. A very interesting theory. The rich get richer and the poor get poorer.

    But seriously, considering this season alone, MWC pwns Pac-10! A preposterous statement if made at the beginning of the season. Willingham better be gone; Washington and WSU couldn’t beat my high school.

    And regarding past USC backups, how’s this for ya’? Matt Cassel.

    Although USC’s 10th in my personal current rankings, these next few weeks are prime for upsets and the top teams beating up on each other. Can’t count ’em out as long as they win out.

  3. Ranking USC 10 is definitely justifiable, but at the same time I can’t imagine 9 teams being able to beat USC. On a neutral site, i’m pretty sure odds makers would make the Trojans favorites to beat any team in the country.

    And though their opposition is shiteous, here’s a sentiment i share with ESPN’s Ivan Maisel:

    “The Pac-10’s troubles have cast doubts on USC (7-1) as a contender for the national championship. But keep in mind that USC has allowed only seven touchdowns, four of them to Oregon State. Two of the touchdowns came on drives of 2 and 15 yards. The Trojans have given up 57 points, 27 of them to the Beavers, and shut out three of their past four opponents. Only one other team, BYU, has shut out even two Football Bowl Subdivision opponents. Here’s my analysis: Wow.”

  4. Completely agree with you that 9 teams cannot beat USC; I’m all about who deserves it more.

    If some of the SEC teams were playing in the Pac-10, they’d get multiple shutouts too with freebies from Washington and WSU. Not to take anything away from USC’s impressive defensive display, but you wonder how long that offense can ride on that wave, not yet living up to their own billing.

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