Lane Kiffin and Co. just survived two years of recruiting without a bowl game.
Congrats. Give them a pat on the back.
But this is far from over. Though most Trojan fans are probably breathing a sigh of relief now that USC can compete for a bowl game again, some of the repercussions left by the NCAA sanctions will still be felt for the next few years.
With 10 less scholarships over the next three years, they can’t afford to “miss” out on a recruit. It is most certainly time to be picky. Moreover, there is one region that they definitely can’t afford to mishandle.
When Lane Kiffin first arrived back in Los Angeles he vowed to put up a fence around their own backyard. Yet he hasn’t been afraid of raiding other territories, bringing players such as Nickell Robey from Florida and Aundrey Walker from Ohio. Stealing from Big 10 and SEC territory is not only a gusty move, but the sign of a great recruiter and a powerful program.
But if you had to guess which region probably stayed the most loyal during the post-season ban, one would have to guess California. Too many players had dreamed too long of wearing the cardinal and gold. Too many had grown up visiting the Coliseum as mere fans, not highly-touted recruits.
There are always a handful of players that cultivate their loyalty to the Trojans well before they sign their letter of intent. And they all live in California.
Take a look for a moment at the Trojan’s aerial attack, heralded to be one of the best in country. Marqise Lee and Robert Woods attended Serra High School in Gardena which is a quick 20 minute drive from campus. Matt Barkley attended Mater Dei High School which is about 40 minutes from USC.
Speaking of Mater Dei, Barkley’s center, Khaled Holmes, not only protected him during their four years at Mater Dei, their friendship started well before the days of organized huddles. You can’t find chemistry like that just laying around. You have to look for it. Or in this case, drive down the I-5 for it.
A look at the spring roster shows 57 members claiming somewhere in the Golden State as their home, and a majority of those call Southern California home. Though common sense says that a majority of players will come from the state the school is in, remember this isn't always about convenience.
USC is coming off a 10-2 season and has legitimate national championship aspirations.
So, clearly, something about this situation works. It always has and it always will. When Kiffin must look for the perfect combination of loyalty and talent, there is still no better place to look than right down the freeway.