Bru McCoy, Kyle Ford and Chris Steele are rare. They are star high school senior prospects who will remain uncommitted after college football’s early signing period.
They have become the Southland’s big three by choosing to go against what is becoming more and more the norm — signing a national letter of intent in December. Only nine of the top 85 players in California remain unsigned, according to the 247Sports Composite rankings that factor ratings from each of the major recruiting services.
Mater Dei receiver McCoy, Orange Lutheran receiver Ford and St. John Bosco cornerback Steele instead will make known their college choices Jan. 5.
They are waiting to make their commitments via live ceremonies held during the nationally televised All-American Bowl in San Antonio. McCoy and Steele will then enroll at their choice in the days following their commitment.
The other six who have not signed have each committed to a school but have decided to take a little extra time to assure they’ve made the right collegiate choice. Players who will graduate high school in May can also sign during the February signing period as long as their school of choice has space remaining in their recruiting class.
Steele is happy to have the extra time even if it is only two extra weeks.
Collecting the signatures of any of the 24 remaining unsigned recruits in 247Sports’ Top247 ranking will be a shot in the arm for a recruiting class, but the decisions of the unsigned could determine whether some schools can deem this recruiting cycle a success.
USC has traditionally closed very strong on national signing day in February, but it is ranked No. 21. Outside of a handful of players who plan to announce at all-star games, the pickings get slim for teams looking to boost their recruiting class. There are only five (of 32) five-star prospects who did not sign on Wednesday, including McCoy and Ford.
The Trojans, however, are among the schools being considered by the Southland big three and a handful of other top unsigned players. They are among the finalists for Kahuka, Hawaii, four-star offensive lineman Enokk Vimahi, four-star defensive back Noa Pola-Gates from Williams Field in Gilbert, Ariz., and 6-foot-8, 360-pound Indianapolis offensive lineman Dawand Jones.
Most of USC’s remaining targets are from the West region, where Clay Helton believes recruits are more apt to wait to make their final decision.
“I think it’s a little bit because of geographics,” Helton said. “I don’t think there’s as much pressure on the kids on the West Coast as it is on the East Coast to make a decision or you may lose a spot.”
Southern California always has a lot of high school talent, bringing teams from all over the country. But other Pac-12 Conference teams usually are fighting for the players USC and UCLA can’t sign.
Not this year. Oregon dominated.
The Ducks came into Southern California and consumed the recruiting market. They signed six of the top 22 players from the state of California, including the No. 2 overall recruit in the 2019 class, Kayvon Thibodeaux of Oaks Christian. Oregon could add to its top-five class. It is in the mix for Steele and Ford
USC and UCLA each have signed only one of the top 22 from the state.
247Sports national recruiting analyst Greg Biggins said the success stems from the recruiting trail ferocity of the Ducks’ coaching staff. He compared it to the hustle of the USC staffs under Pete Carroll.
“I’ve never seen a staff recruit harder,” Biggins said. “[Mario] Cristobal is probably the head coach most involved in the grind, but top to bottom, they all are just maniacal. Every kid you ask ‘Who is recruiting you hardest?’ will tell you Oregon.”
UCLA currently ranks No. 49 after signing 15 players to National Letters of Intent on Wednesday and having a commitment from Mater Dei tight end Michael Martinez. The Bruins could hypothetically fill nine to 10 more spots in the recruiting class (schools are allowed 25 scholarships for each recruiting class), but will likely only take five or six more recruits in this class and instead will look to the transfer market to fill some voids.
USC announced the signing of 18 players. Helton said four of the signings will be counted backwards to last year’s maximum of 25 (schools can count back early enrollees if desired). That leaves the Trojans with 11 more scholarships to distribute. One of those is expected to go to former Australian rules football professional Ben Griffiths, who retired from the Australian Football League in January to pursue a scholarship as a punter.