USC and UCLA are facing new recruiting challenges from the football schools of the Southeastern Conference, known for winning national championships and offering such tasty food choices as grits, crabs, pork spare ribs, pecan pie, gumbo and crawfish to high school recruits.
There’s a mini-invasion of college recruiters coming to Southern California trying to make a splash and pull away a prospect or two.
The No. 1 offensive lineman, 6-foot-6, 330-pound Tommy Brown, from the No. 1 team in America, Santa Ana Mater Dei, will sign with Alabama on Wednesday.
Long Beach Poly quarterback Matt Corral committed to Florida but ended up at Mississippi as an early enrollee. Safety Olaijah Griffin of Mission Viejo, a former UCLA commit, is considering Alabama, Tennessee and USC. Quarterback Tanner McKee of Corona Centennial has Alabama among his finalists. Etiwanda receiver Geordon Porter visited Texas A&M this past weekend.
“If they can recruit 10 guys, get five to trip and one to commit, it’s worth it,” Greg Biggins, the national recruiting analyst for 247Sports.com, said of the investment by SEC schools. “Kids out west will leave if it’s a better opportunity.”
It has been tough to attract Southern California players to SEC schools because the environment is so different in terms of geography, climate and culture. But the SEC has become so dominant in football and its fans are so passionate that kids feel the need to explore it when an offer is made.
Aiding the trend is that SEC schools have been picking up coaches with California ties, and they’re taking advantage of those contacts.
Louisiana State coach Ed Orgeron was a longtime USC assistant. Alabama jump-started its recruiting by hiring former USC coaches Lane Kiffin and Steve Sarkisian. The Crimson Tide’s California recruiter, Tosh Lupoi, is a Concord De La Salle graduate. Florida assistant Ron English has been a longtime Southern California recruiter.
Recruiters from Tennessee, Florida, Alabama, Mississippi and LSU have been making trips to Southern California in recent weeks to offer scholarships to top juniors and sophomores. Georgia just offered junior quarterback Jayden Daniels from San Bernardino Cajon. Sophomore quarterback Bryce Young of Mater Dei has offers from Mississippi State, Alabama and Georgia.
“Kids feel it’s quite an honor, but getting them to go there is a lot different,” Bellflower St. John Bosco coach Jason Negro said.
Lancaster Paraclete quarterback Brevin White came close to signing with the Tide but will stick with his commitment to Princeton, even though he enjoyed his visit to Alabama.
“I liked the South,” he said. “It’s a unique place. You don’t just want to be living in Southern California your whole life. You can always come back. I was shocked. I came in with high expectations and the visit exceeded that from the staff to the hostesses, to the facilities, to people picking us up. The food was spectacular.”
Brown had Alabama ties: It’s the school his father, Vince, graduated from.
“I’m not too worried about culture shock,” he said. “I’m excited about the South. I seem like a Southern boy. I’m excited for the food. The whole South is known for sweet tea. It will be different for a lot of kids when they get there, but as long as they embrace it and enjoy it, I feel anyone can make the change.”
California’s football talent is pretty well documented. In the 2017 NFL draft, there were 25 players with California ties taken, trailing only Georgia (27) and Florida (26).
SEC schools always have recruited the area for quarterbacks, but the big change is that offers are coming in for all positions. With so many SEC recruiters lurking, Negro already is thinking about his college coaches’ barbecue set for May 16 at St. John Bosco.
“My barbecue guy is going to have to do some research on bringing a Southern flair to our Southern California barbecue,” he said.