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USC Now mailbag opens before the Trojans' season opener

USC Now mailbag debuts with answers to your questions about the Trojans

Welcome to the USC Now mailbag! 

Every week we'll publish your USC questions from Twitter and email -- and answer them -- right here.

Let's get it started. 

@AlbertMarsh83 asks: How do recruits feel about USC after these escapades in the last few days?

Lindsey Thiry: The USC brand has been able to survive a lot in recruiting the last few years -- sanctions, a 7-6 record and four coaches in one season -- so the Josh Shaw situation, comparatively speaking, is a minor blemish most recruits will look past. I talked with Scout.com recruiting expert Brandon Huffman, who said he's spoken with recruits about the turmoil and they seem indifferent.

"It seems like a non-issue," Huffman said.

Senior tailback Anthony Brown accusing Coach Steve Sarkisian of being a racist could have a negative impact on recruiting, but because current and former players were so quick to defend Sarkisian on social media, it probably erases doubts recruits might have.

"I haven't gotten any sense that all that is an issue," Huffman said. 

Neil Mathews asks: Don't attorneys usually want $$$ for a retainer? Wonder who is paying the fee [for Josh Shaw]?

Lindsey: Donald Etra is a high-profile Los Angeles attorney. When asked about fees, Etra told The Times he does not discuss financial agreements between himself and his clients publicly. 

"It's a privacy issue and a matter of professional ethics," Etra said. 

Etra sure is getting a lot of publicity for this. 

Jude J. Drizzy, @MidwestPrince82, asks: Which freshman will have the biggest impact this season? 

Lindsey: There are multiple freshmen who could make an impact.

It's hard to pick only one.

Offensive linemen are never a glamorous pick, but left guard Toa Lobendahn could be a real saving grace. He's practiced with the starters at guard and is the backup center. Sarkisian says he wants to rotate linemen, but Lobendahn might have to play every down, every game along with center Max Tuerk and left tackle Chad Wheeler. 

Receiver Juju Smith isn't listed as a starter on the depth chart, but don't be fooled. If he isn't lined up the majority of snaps, I'd be shocked. He has shown a huge play-making ability through camp and will be a great compliment to Nelson Agholor.

Let's pick one more.

Cornerback/receiver/returner Adoree Jackson. It's hard to say where he'll make his biggest impact.

OK, I can't resist. Here's a bonus pick. Receiver Ajene Harris. He's a former Crenshaw High quarterback and he's listed as a starter. I don't recall seeing him drop a single pass through camp.

Chris Griffin, @Chris_S_Griffin, asks: With AD Pat Haden reportedly ill, could that be the reason for the mishandling of things over the past few days? 

Lindsey: Pat Haden was in the hospital when he first heard about Shaw's injuries and the rescue story. He told The Times that school officials vetted the story 12 times with Shaw. So I'm not sure whether Haden's presence from the beginning really would have changed how the situation was handled.

Jon Nelson, @OSGNelson, asks: When was the decision made to have a concerted effort to recruit east of the Mississippi and judge the overall success so far.

Lindsey: Interesting question. I don't necessarily agree that USC has made a concerted effort to recruit east of the Mississippi. 

Let's look at the last three classes, starting in 2012 when USC signed 15 players. Two were from Florida -- Leonard Williams and Agholor. The rest were from the West Coast. 

In 2013, the class was limited to 12 recruits -- five were from east of the Mississippi: Khaliel Rodgers and Kenny Bigelow from Maryland, Quinton Powell and Leon McQuay from Florida, and Ty Isaac from Illinois. Isaac has since transferred to Michigan.

In 2014 Florida's Lamont Simmons was the only one east of the Mississippi among 19 recruits.

The 2015 class won't sign until February and Sarkisian will be able to sign a full class of 25. One 2015 scholarship has already been accounted for by current blue-shirt kicker Matt Boermeester.

Two of the 16 commits are from the South: Chuma Edoga (Georgia) and Tristan Payton (Florida). 

The grand total: 62 recruits, 11 from east of the Mississippi, including five from Florida. 

If there's a pattern here, it's that USC likes to recruit Florida.

Sarkisian said it was Tampa's Mike Williams who started this trend when he played at USC from 2002-03. And it was Lane Kiffin who recruited the All-American. 

But most of the recruiting effort really remains in Southern California.

Want your question answered in the USC Now mailbag? Email me at LNThiry@gmail.com or tweet me @LindseyThiry and I'll answer them right here next week. 

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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