USC Now mailbag: Recruiting, scholarships and play calling

USC Now mailbag: Recruiting, scholarships and play calling
Steve Sarkisian coaches USC against Notre Dame on Nov. 29 at the Coliseum. (Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)

My inbox was hardly recognizable this week. There were no questions or comments about Ed Orgeron.

Not a single one.


It's officially the end of a mailbag era -- so without further ado, time to start a new one.

What are the rules/contingency plans for schools that receive more than 25 commitments on signing day? USC has a possibility of landing commitments from 26 or 27 players on Feb. 4, plus one blue-shirt from last year. Are they forced to withdraw offers to players who committed?

-- Stephen P Michael II

It is complicated, but there are options.

USC can blue-shirt recruits or grey-shirt them.

A blue-shirt is a non-recruited player who can be awarded a scholarship on the first day of practice, with the scholarship counting toward next year's class (in this case, blue-shirts will count against 2016).

A non-recruited player is one who did not make an official visit or play host to coaches for an in-home visit.

Among the list of 15 verbally committed players, there are a couple who could qualify as blue-shirt recruits.

A grey-shirt is a player who delays enrollment until the second semester of the school year.

USC can sign 19 players on Feb. 4 because five recruits – quarterback Ricky Town, linebacker Cameron Smith, receiver Isaac Whitney and offensive linemen Chuma Edoga and Roy Hemsley – have already enrolled. Kicker Matt Boermeester was on the team this season and counted against 2015 as a blue-shirt recruit.

If Rahshead Johnson transfers, is his scholarship available for 2015? If not, how does that affect future scholarship numbers?

Ditto for departing juniors: Leonard Williams, [Nelson Agholor, George Farmer and Javorius Allen]

--Jim Cantrell, Long Beach

Scholarships of players who leave – for the NFL or transfer -- do not become available for new recruits.


Freshman Rahshead Johnson left the program and his scholarship cannot be added to the 2015 allotment.

However, freshman Uchenna Nwosu – who is not enrolled this semester – can have his scholarship back if he returns.

I heard some rumors that for the Notre Dame game Sark actually handed the play calling duties back to Clay Helton… Can you find out and confirm whether or not this is fact? Obviously the play calling was the best play calling all season and I hope and pray that Sark can put his control freak ego aside and delegate the play calling responsibilities back to Helton. For the life of me, I cannot comprehend how a coach squatting on the sidelines has the visual capacity to call plays, why is there even a press box!!!

Also, you are very pretty... any chance we could meet for lunch? Perhaps discuss the 2018 recruiting class.


USC's offense in the victory over Notre Dame looked very similar to its offense against Fresno State in the 2013 Las Vegas Bowl – which offensive coordinator Clay Helton called.

Walk-on quarterback Anthony Neyer played in the final series against Notre Dame and referenced Helton calling plays in a video posted by USC after the game.

But when asked who called plays, Sarkisian said he did.

I remain suspicious.

The press box is for… the press, though you wouldn't know it when reporters are going crazy when stadium personnel hold elevators for assistant coaches to get up and down to the coaching booths.

And thank you for the compliment. However, I won't be able to meet for lunch. Have you noticed how busy the USC beat is? There's no time for breaks!

With Oregon, Stanford, two Arizona teams playing well and UCLA back, when do you think USC will return to the top in the Pac-12 ?

-- Steve Walker

That’s a tough prediction, especially after Oregon, UCLA and Arizona State lost their starting quarterbacks.

The Trojans finished 9-4, return quarterback Cody Kessler, the offensive line and multiple other starters on offense.

The defense is the question mark.

There will be two big holes to plug after defensive lineman Leonard Williams left for the NFL draft and linebacker Hayes Pullard – a four-year starter -- graduated.

Cornerback Kevon Seymour will be a senior, but the rest of the secondary will be young.

An appearance in the Pac-12 championship game is certainly a possibility but far from guaranteed.

Questions about USC? Email me at or tweet @LindseyThiry and I will respond to select messages in a weekly USC Now mailbag.