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Headlinin’: Northwestern lands the latest of USC’s 5-star refugees

Matt Hinton
Dr. Saturday

Making the morning rounds.

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Give us your tired, your poor, your underachieving masses. As expected, former USC receiver Kyle Prater is transferring to Northwestern, giving the Wildcats a rare infusion of blue-chip talent courtesy of the growing Trojan diaspora. As a recruit out of suburban Chicago, Rivals ranked Prater as the No. 1 wide receiver and No. 3 overall player in the 2010 recruiting class, before a combination of injuries and blue-chip competition forced him to redshirt as a true freshman and relegated him to the lower reaches of the depth chart last year. Initial chatter suggests he may apply for a hardship that would make him immediately eligible at Northwestern this fall, citing family issues; otherwise, he'll spend another year on the bench and enter the lineup with two years of eligibility remaining in 2013.

Along with Prater, Lane Kiffin's first recruiting class at USC included five players rated by Rivals as five-star prospects, four of whom — Prater, wide receiver Markeith Ambles, tailback Dillon Baxter and offensive lineman Seantrel Henderson — are no longer on the team less than two years later. (Tennessee fans are nodding vigorously.) The only five-star who stayed: All-American receiver Robert Woods, who may wind up justifying the hype for the whole lot of them by himself. [NUSports.com]

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Defense it is, then. The crown jewel in the busiest recruiting weekend of the year was a verbal commitment from Elk Grove, Calif., lineman Arik Armstead, a longtime USC commit who finally pledged to sign with Oregon instead on Sunday night.

No major prospect in the 2012 class has generated quite as much drama or confusion among the scouts: While every recruiting site seems to agree that Armstead projects as an elite, can't-miss offensive tackle, his insistence on playing defense in college sent his stock tumbling on Rivals' board, where he finally landed as the No. 61 prospect nationally, a solid four-star — easily the lowest of the major sites, most of which still rank him as a five-star offensive lineman. Unless he's planning on becoming the first offensive lineman in 100 years to wear a No. 9 jersey, that's not going to happen. [Rivals, @arikarmstead]

On Friday, USC also missed out on top-100 running back D.J. Foster, who opted for Arizona State instead. [ASUDevils.com]

Quarterback it is, then. Sunday's other big commitment was a cross-country pledge from Old Tappan, N.J., quarterback Devin Fuller, who spurned suddenly coach-less Rutgers for a verbal commitment to UCLA. Rivals ranks Fuller as the No. 3 "athlete" and No. 37 overall player in the 2012 class, explicitly comparing him to former West Virginia All-American Pat White — and considering he's signing on to a pro-style system under veteran offensive coordinator/QB guru Noel Mazzone, presumably forecasting a move to wide receiver, although Bruin coaches have apparently promised him otherwise.

"I really like the coaching staff and the main thing is they say I can play quarterback," Fuller told BruinBlitz.com. "I really love coach Jim Mora and I feel really comfortable with coach Noel Mazzone. They are going to run a pass first offense, but they will allow me to move around like I did in high school." [BruinBlitz.com]

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Knights on the move. Speaking of Rutgers: The search to replace NFL-bound Greg Schiano is reportedly down to five names already, beginning with offensive line coach/interim head coach Kyle Flood, who interviewed for the full-time job on Saturday. Other candidates include Temple head coach Steve Addazio, New York Giants offensive line coach Pat Flaherty and the most obvious choice from where I sit, Florida International head coach Mario Cristobal.

Whoever gets the job, it looks like most of his first year's salary will be paid by his predecessor. [Newark Star-Ledger]

Happy trails. Surprising no one, quarterback Kyle Padron is transferring from SMU after sitting out almost all of 2011 with a back injury, almost certainly ceding the starting job to Texas transfer Garrett Gilbert this fall. Before the injury, Padron had started 21 consecutive games for the Mustangs, including last year's season-opening loss at Texas A&M, where he was quickly benched on the heels of a pair of interceptions in the first half. [Dallas Morning News]

Quickly… Derek Dooley finally gets around to meeting the Berry twins. … A "perfect storm" has knocked LSU's 2012 class off of its usual perch among the national elite. … Marty Mornhinweg's son ditches Penn State for Florida. … Steve Spurrier fires his safeties coach, the fifth South Carolina assistant Spurrier will have to replace since the end of the season. … Pat Hill has a new job in the NFL. … Pitt adds a former Nittany Lion to its coaching staff. … The NCAA is considering taking a look at a possible proposal for eventually coming to a decision about potentially reorganizing the decision-making structure in Division I. … And while the rest of the country scrambles to put the finishing touches on the class of 2012, Alabama is off and running on the class of 2013.

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Matt Hinton is on Facebook and Twitter: Follow him @DrSaturday.

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