Big Day for USC, Not for UCLA
For a day anyway, there is not much debate about who is No. 1 in college football.
On Wednesday, the first day that high school players could sign letters of intent, USC appeared to have edged Louisiana State and other programs on the recruiting front.
For the record:
12:00 AM, Feb. 07, 2004 For The Record
Los Angeles Times Saturday February 07, 2004 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 2 National Desk 1 inches; 38 words Type of Material: Correction
College football -- In a listing in Thursday’s Sports section of high school players who have committed to play football at USC, the last name of Michael Stuart, a tight end from Westlake High, was misspelled as Stewart.
USC, coming off a 12-1 national co-championship season that included a Rose Bowl victory over Michigan, signed 17 players, including 14 high school players and three junior college players. Three other new players already are enrolled in school.
Several publications and websites that track recruiting proclaimed the Trojans’ class as the nation’s best. LSU, Florida State, Michigan and Oklahoma also had top-five classes.
“USC is apparently unwilling to settle for anything but the best talent,” said Allen Wallace, the publisher of SuperPrep magazine, who has been following recruiting since 1985.
Greg Biggins of Student Sports said USC Coach Pete Carroll and recruiting coordinator Ed Orgeron capitalized on the Trojans’ success on the field, and also refused to relent in their pursuit of targeted players.
“Most coaching staffs see recruiting as a necessary evil,” Biggins said. “Carroll and those guys seem to get excited about it. The whole chase thing excites them.”
Jeff Duva, publisher of PrepStar magazine, said: “Kids want to play for a winner.”
Among the Trojans’ 20 players are five offensive linemen, three wide receivers, three linebackers, four defensive linemen, two tight ends, two safeties and one quarterback. Several players are listed at multiple positions.
USC’s only real disappointment Wednesday came when Cameron Colvin, a wide receiver from Concord De La Salle High, announced that he had chosen Oregon over USC and Michigan.
“We shot really high for the guys we went after,” Carroll said. “We didn’t get them all, but we hit it well.”
USC signed several top prospects from the Southland and the rest of California and also continued to extend its national reach. Two years ago, the Trojans took receiver Mike Williams from Florida. Last year, USC lured running back LenDale White from Colorado and quarterback John David Booty from Louisiana.
This year’s class includes offensive lineman Jeff Byers of Loveland, Colo., linebacker Keith Rivers of Lake Mary, Fla., and receivers Dwayne Jarrett of New Brunswick, N.J., and Fred Davis of Toledo, Ohio.
Carroll credited Byers, regarded as perhaps the nation’s top high school lineman, for providing the Trojans with recruiting momentum. After announcing in October that he would attend USC, Byers sold other top recruits on the Trojans, especially during a postseason all-star game in Texas.
“When the excitement and the enthusiasm about your recruiting class is generated by the recruits themselves, and they share their competitiveness and the way they want to go about it, it made for the kind of ingredients to put together a great group,” Carroll said.
Offensive lineman Taitusi Lutui, linebacker Ryan Powdrell and safety Scott Ware were junior college players who signed Wednesday. Offensive lineman Alatini Malu, who played at Long Beach City College, is enrolled at USC and will participate in spring practice along with Davis, who graduated a semester early from high school, and offensive lineman Travis Draper, who signed with the Trojans last year but did not qualify for admission.
USC, which lost both starting cornerbacks from last season, did not sign a cornerback or a running back.
The Trojans pursued cornerback Ted Ginn of Ohio, but he signed with Ohio State.
“We would have liked to have had a corner in the class -- it was our intention to -- but it just didn’t happen the right way,” Carroll said. “So, unfortunately, that’s going to be a spot we’re not adding to right now. But we’re not in bad shape if everyone comes back healthy.”
With sophomore Hershel Dennis and freshmen Reggie Bush and White entrenched at tailback, the Trojans pursued only one running back -- Adrian Peterson of Palestine, Texas, regarded as the nation’s top player at his position. USC continued to recruit Peterson after he committed to Oklahoma but could not persuade him to switch.
“We’re very content with what we have,” Carroll said. “Next year will obviously be a big year for us with running backs. We’ll have to really crank it up then.”
Rocky Hinds of Playa del Rey St. Bernard, who did not play this season because of a knee injury, was the lone quarterback to sign with the Trojans.
Carroll said he expected members of this year’s recruiting class to challenge for playing time, just as players from his previous classes have done.
“It’s kind of a mystery to be unfolded,” Carroll said, “and it will be fun to see how it happens.”
Carroll said the final days of recruiting delayed his search for a running backs coach to succeed Kennedy Pola, who left to join the Cleveland Browns’ staff last month.
USC is expected to announce today that Rocky Seto, who coached safeties last season, will coach linebackers, succeeding Nick Holt, who was hired as head coach at Idaho in December.
Carl Smith is expected to join the staff as tight ends coach and former UCLA star Ken Norton Jr. is expected to be hired as a graduate assistant on defense.
Smith, who was fired as the Cleveland Browns’ quarterbacks coach in December, worked under Carroll with the New England Patriots. Norton played in the NFL for the San Francisco 49ers and Dallas Cowboys.
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National Signing Day
* USC signed 17 football players Wednesday, adding to three early-enrollment players for a class rated by most recruiting experts as the finest in the country. The class features Jeff Byers, a lineman from Colorado who won several national player-of-the-year awards, and includes 11 linemen but no running backs.
* Jeff Byers, OL, 6-3, 275, Loveland High, Fort Collins, Colo.
* Fred Davis, WR, 6-4, 215, Rogers High, Toledo, Ohio
* Travis Draper, OT, 6-5, 265, Paso Robles High
* Eugene Germany, LB, 6-4, 260, Pomona High
* Thomas Herring, DL, 6-6, 315, Fremont High
* Rocky Hinds, QB, 6-4, 225, St. Bernard High
* Dwayne Jarrett, WR, 6-5, 195, New Brunswick, N.J., High
* Derrick Jones, WR, 6-2, 180, Long Beach Poly High
* Taitusi Lutui, OL, 6-6, 370, Snow, Utah, Junior College
* Alatini Malu, OL, 6-5, 340, Long Beach City College
* Lawrence Miles, DL, 6-3, 270, La Quinta High
* Jimmy Miller, TE-DL, 6-6, 250, Westlake High
* Josh Pinkard, DB, 6-1, 200, Hueneme High
* Ryan Powdrell, LB, 6-1, 250, Saddleback Community College
* Chilo Rachal, OL, 6-6, 310, Dominguez High
* Keith Rivers, LB, 6-3, 220, Lake Mary, Fla., High
* Jeff Schweiger, DE, 6-4, 250, Valley Christian High, San Jose
* Michael Stewart, TE, 6-4, 235, Westlake High
* Dale Thompson, TE, 6-4, 255, Santiago High
* Scott Ware, DB, 6-2, 220, Santa Rosa Community College