At USC’s early signing day news conference Dec. 19, Clay Helton drew a question addressing the fact that at the time the Trojans did not have a five-star prospect signed in their 2019 recruiting class.
Helton answered the question with confidence, alluding to the talent that was still out there, how well USC had finished recent classes with five-star flourishes and aimed to do so again. Then, he added, “It’s not over until February.”
It later became clear why Helton’s comments seemed definitive, not defensive. On Jan. 5, at the U.S. Army All-American Bowl, five-star Santa Ana Mater Dei athlete Bru McCoy committed to the Trojans over Texas, and USC promptly touted his commitment on its Twitter account. That meant that McCoy had silently signed his national letter of intent with USC during the early signing period. Helton had faced reporters on that December day with an ace in his back pocket.
But Thursday, McCoy made an unprecedented move. Just two weeks after enrolling in spring classes at USC, McCoy entered his name into the NCAA transfer portal, signaling his intention to transfer to another school and showing that in the wild world of recruiting there is no such thing as a sure winning hand.
Once McCoy chooses a transfer destination, he will have to petition the NCAA for a hardship waiver that would allow him to play next season instead of sitting out a year. A USC spokesman said Thursday there was nothing at this point for Helton to comment on regarding McCoy’s status.
What happened? How did the Trojans lose possibly the most talented offensive player in this recruiting class, a Southern California kid who had always leaned toward USC, a wide receiver who had played just one year ago with USC quarterback JT Daniels and wide receiver Amon-ra St. Brown at Mater Dei and had it perfectly lined up to join them again?
McCoy's story will make a compelling case for the NCAA to grant him the waiver to play immediately.
As December began, McCoy was battling with a decision between USC and Texas. The Trojans’ offense had struggled in 2018 during a 5-7 season and did not have a clear direction. Then Helton hired Kliff Kingsbury as offensive coordinator. Kingsbury sold McCoy on the opportunities for wide receivers in his “Air Raid” offense, which features four- and five-wide receiver sets most plays. McCoy stayed true to the longtime expectation he would be a Trojan.
Then, Jan. 8, the Arizona Cardinals poached Kingsbury from USC as their head coach. McCoy had been enrolled at USC for two days.
More than two weeks have passed since Kingsbury left, and USC has not named a replacement as offensive coordinator, keeping the situation unclear. One name to look out for is Rams senior offensive assistant Jedd Fisch, who was offensive coordinator at UCLA in 2017 and finished that season as interim head coach. With the Rams in the Super Bowl, USC would have to wait until after the Feb. 3 game to hire Fisch.
No matter who is hired as offensive coordinator, USC will be aiming to make a quick sales pitch to unsigned commitments like five-star wide receiver Kyle Ford of Orange Lutheran and four-star wide receiver Puka Nacua of Orem, Utah.
McCoy, it appears, was unwilling to wait.