April 07, 2009
Most of the big recruiting powers are well into their 2010 classes: Texas made headlines with its unprecedented early efforts in February, but elsewhere, Alabama has verbal commits from six players, Florida from eight, LSU from six, Michigan from seven, Oklahoma from six, etc. In the Pac-10, even Washington is off to a fast start under Steve Sarkisian with six commits for next year. That's twice as many as the real Western behemoth, Southern Cal, and the L.A. Daily News' Scott Wolf has a good idea why:
After last year, Pete Carroll felt like schools negatively recruited against USC for a year to kids who committed early. So if there are commitments, some might remain silent for awhile. A few will go public, but others will be under the radar because USC does not want 10-12 kids out there committed.
This isn't exactly paranoid: Carroll lost three longstanding commitments on or around signing day in Vontaze Burfict (Arizona State), Randall Carroll (UCLA) and Morrell Presley (UCLA), and watched uncommitted but widely presumed Trojans Manti Te'o (Notre Dame) and Xavier Su'a Filo (UCLA) opt for rivals instead. UCLA, in particular, was more competitive (especially in greater L.A.) than it's been in years. So while almost everything else about SC's program -- practices included -- remains unusually open, the really important business is going a little hush-hush.
I think Florida State took a similar route during the Noles' heyday in the late nineties, when they'd routinely pick up a handful of five-stars to rocket a "disappointing" class to the top of the rankings on signing day. It wouldn't cross anyone else's mind because a) So few teams are in a position to rack up many early commitments, and b) So few of those commitments are actually worth poaching. It takes a Mack truck of a program like USC, Texas or Florida to be worried enough about its precious recruits to feel the need to keep them close to the vest, and to be patient and self-assured enough to make that policy work. In Texas' case, the instate competition is so far behind the Longhorns' curve that their exclusively Lonestar crop is practically locked in. If Wolf is right, though, obviously USC is beginning to feel a little heat.