USC, hoping to build momentum heading into Wednesday's national signing day, instead absorbed another series of blows Tuesday, culminating with defensive lineman Kylie Fitts announcing he would attend UCLA.
Fitts’ announcement came after three out-of-state recruits -- defensive back Jalen Ramsey of Tennessee and defensive linemen Jason Hatcher of Kentucky and Torrodney Prevot of Texas -- reportedly decommitted from USC.
The 6-foot-4, 245-pound Fitts graduated early from Redlands East Valley High with the intention of enrolling at USC in January. But a few days before he and other recruits were scheduled to arrive on campus, USC coaches informed Fitts that he had to wait until summer because a Trojans senior failed to graduate, leaving USC at its maximum of 75 players.
“I believe everything happened for a reason,” Fitts said during a news conference at his high school. “When that whole incident happened, UCLA was the first coach to call...I believe it’s the greatest coaching staff in the nation right now and I believe UCLA is on the rise.”
UCLA could get an additional boost if defensive lineman Eddie Vanderdoes, another former USC commit, chooses the Bruins. Vanderdoes is scheduled to announce his decision late Wednesday afternoon.
“If we can get him and another couple guys [to UCLA],” Fitts said, “we’ll be a top-five class in the nation.”
Last summer, USC had 18 oral commitments, and its class was projected as the best in college football. But that was before a wave of decommitments.
Highly regarded quarterback Max Browne is among seven new players already enrolled, but Tuesday’s defections are another hit to a program trying to recover from an embarrassing 7-6 season under the embattled Kiffin.
Fitts said he was shopping for dorm supplies with his mother when USC recruiting coordinator Ed Orgeron called his father and told him Fitts would have to delay enrollment. Fitts said his “heart dropped” at the news.
“Coming in early was really big for me,” he said, “to start spring ball and earn my respect right away.”
Fitts reopened his recruitment and took trips to Notre Dame, UCLA and Utah. He met with Kiffin and Orgeron on Sunday at USC.
“I kind of knew right after that, that USC’s a great place but UCLA is better,” said Fitts, who will enroll in Westwood for the spring quarter and participate in spring practice.
Fitts said he would be motivated to play against USC the next four years.
“There’s going to be that something inside me that’s going to push me a little harder that game,” he said.