Through the dark days of the Kiffin era—and that certainly includes the disappointment of 2012—there was always one thing USC's head coach could hang his hat on: he was a helluva recruiter.
Even last year's class, with its multitude of last minute defections from players who had given USC their verbal commitments, still featured five Scout.com 5-star recruits among the abundance of 4-star athletes which comprised that class.
Indeed, even avowed Kiffin apologists (yes, that would include me), when faced with the barbs and insults hurled by naysayers regarding him, could point to the fact that year in and year out he delivered incredible recruiting classes.
But could that be changing? Is it possible that even the one thing Kiffin could be counted on for doing—bringing in great recruits—is something that he is no longer capable of producing?
Evidence of such a claim comes in two forms.
One, USC's verbal commitments for the 2014 class consists of five players and the "star ratings" for those players include three 4-stars, one 3-star and one player that is not rated at all.
Certainly not typical of the kind of class USC normally puts together.
Perhaps even more troubling is a recently released list of predictions of where the top 85 players will sign as prognosticated by 247sports.com analyst Shannon Terry.
In that list, Terry has projected exactly one player—cornerback Adoree Jackson—to give the Trojans his "John Hancock" in February when players can sign their letters of intent.
Yes, you read that right. One.
Now it should be noted that this is very early in process and things don't get more fluid than it does when trying to predict where an 18-year-old celebrated athlete plays his college ball.
As a matter of fact, when it comes to trying to figure out where these impressionable kids wind up, there is an old axiom:
"The only thing for sure is that nothing is for sure."
And to be perfectly honest about this, it should be noted that predicting the destinations for these players in May is truly an exercise in futility.
Nonetheless, it may reveal a national perception that the luster of USC may be waning and this may be reflected in the fact that the Trojans are now struggling to get athletes that once flocked to them.
However, there is a simple remedy to overcome this new hurdle in recruiting for Kiffin, and that is to win in 2013.
A good record this year suddenly makes USC relevant again in college football and that, along with the fact that the program offers so much, will translate into a flock of high profile recruits once again scurrying to sign with the Trojans.
Of course, that is easier said than done and with USC not well regarded this year, it remains to be seen just how successful they will be.
So in the final analysis, the question remains:
Is Lane Kiffin losing his touch when it comes to recruiting?
Maybe, maybe not.
I'll let you know for sure in February.