The effects of USC's decision to dismiss head coach Lane Kiffin are being felt far beyond the football field. The early-season firing reverberated in the recruiting spectrum, resulting in mixed reactions from prospects across the country.
From shock to satisfaction, the initial thoughts of top Trojan targets and commits are telling. Kiffin, who compiled a 28-15 record since taking over at USC in 2010, was in hot pursuit of several of the nation's premier prospects when his tenure came to an abrupt end hours after a Sept. 28 loss at Arizona State.
USC has since tabbed Ed Orgeron as interim head coach. He previously served as defensive line coach and program recruiting coordinator, so his familiarity is already in place with the team's prospects.
Still, the uncertainty surrounding USC and its plans for seeking an eventual full-time replacement for Kiffin is causing quite a stir among high school stars.
4-star offensive guard Toa Lobendahn
Toa Lobendahn, a USC commit, didn't foresee the firing.
"I was a little surprised," he said. "I definitely wasn’t expecting it. It was shocking."
The 6'3", 290-pound prospect from La Habra, Calif. is considered the country's 10th-best guard in 247Sports composite rankings. Lobendahn became the second member of USC's 2014 recruiting class when he committed to the Trojans in June 2012.
However, his ties to that verbal pact appear to be at least strained in the aftermath of the coaching change. Lobendahn plans to keep a close eye on what the program does moving forward while exploring alternative college choices.
"It definitely makes you raise some questions," he explained. "The new coaches could pull any scholarships and make a lot of changes. I have to consider other options now depending on how things turn out. There could be a whole new coaching staff; you just really don’t know right now."
Unsurprisingly, Lobendahn confirmed other college coaches have reached out to him since Kiffin's dismissal.
5-star offensive guard Damien Mama
Damien Mama, another prized California offensive lineman, has listed USC among his favorites throughout a nationwide recruiting process. The 6'4", 370-pound St. John Bosco (Bellflower, Calif.) star saw a coaching change coming, although the timing surprised him.
"At some point, I started thinking that (the firing) was going to happen," Mama said. "I just never expected for it to happen this fast and this early in the season."
Mama is listed as the nation's No. 1 offensive guard prospect in 247Sports composite rankings. He has scheduled official visits to Alabama, Wisconsin and Notre Dame.
Although he doesn't plan to make an official visit to USC, the Trojans remain firmly in the mix for his services.
"When l I see the coaching change and what USC does next, I’ll have to evaluate the team," Mama said. "Until a coaching change happens, yes, it’s still a school I’m considering. I’ve always liked USC. That’s still how I feel."
3-star offensive tackle Jordan Austin
"I have been reassured that nothing has changed between USC and me from any other aspect than Kiffin being relieved," he told Scout. "I am loyal to the school that I am committed to."
5-star athlete Adoree' Jackson
Adoree' Jackson, a coveted playmaker from Los Angeles County, voiced his immediate response on Twitter.
Jackson, who hails from the same high school (Gardena Serra) that produced USC standouts Marquise Lee and Robert Woods, attended the team's home opener this season. The Trojans lost to Washington State, 10-7.
4-star wide receiver Cordell Broadus
I feel that he should have been fired a while ago and USC is going to raise the bar now because the new coaching staff next year and I’m anxious to see what they are going to look like.
Broadus, perhaps better known as the son of Snoop Dogg, is a 4-star wide receiver prospect who picked up an offer from the Trojans in April.
5-star running back Dalvin Cook
Dalvin Cook (Miami, Fla.) is committed to Florida but has kept USC in consideration. That will continue without Kiffin in the picture.
"I like USC period," Cook told 247Sports.
While the firing stunned some recruits, others anticipated the move.
5-star athlete John Smith
Uncommitted wide receiver and defensive back prospect John Smith (Long Beach, Calif.) wasn't surprised and is taking a wait-and-see approach with USC.
“I already knew it was coming," he told 247Sports. "So it doesn’t change anything until they do something.”
The race is on for USC to rebuild its once-proud program, and that starts with pursuing its next head coach. Recruits throughout the nation are sure to keep a close eye on the Trojans' next move as national signing day approaches.
B/R college football recruiting writer Tyler Donohue obtained firsthand quotes from conversations with prospects unless otherwise noted.
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