At one time, the likelihood of USC having a top 10 recruiting class was as certain as the sun coming up.
Those days—at least for the time being—appear to be gone.
Mired in a decidedly pedestrian season and still looking for a permanent head coach, this year's class of potential Trojans is a mix of three and four-star players, where in the past, anything under a five-star recruit was considered a major disappointment.
To illustrate the current state of USC recruiting, one only needs to look at recent developments with verbal commitments of high school players formerly pledged to the men of Troy.
Within the last two weeks, two former Trojan verbals—linebacker D.J. Calhoun and defensive tackle Michael Wyche, both 4-star players according to Scout.com—have said adieu to USC and have decided to play elsewhere.
Both of these players are very highly regarded and each would have filled a position of need for the Trojans, to be certain.
To replace them, recruiting coordinator (and interim head coach) Ed Orgeron received commitments from linebacker Olajuwon Tucker and wide receiver Shay Fields, both Scout.com 3-star prospects, and linebacker Uchenna Nwosu, a 2-star player according to the ranking service.
Good players, to be sure, but a far cry from the "best of the best" recruits who often signed with USC not so long ago.
Now many fans of the program will say that "star ratings" don't really matter, and they will rightfully point to programs such as Oregon who regularly take lower rated players and excel with them.
And while those people are absolutely right, that isn't the point of this article.
Instead, the question should be whether or not the 2014 recruiting class reflects a diminishing "brand" of the Trojans, and should fans of the program be worried going forward?
More to the point, should fans lower their expectations for this recruiting class?
Of course, it's still early in the process and things could certainly change before the February signing date when players put signatures to their letters of intent.
In fact, it is generally assumed that if athletic director Pat Haden makes a splashy hire for the permanent head coach position, USC will be just fine with this year's recruiting class.
And maybe they will.
But is this where the mighty Trojans have fallen? Needing to make waves with a head coaching hire just to draw recruits that once were beating down their door to join the Cardinal and Gold?
Sadly, this appears to be the case.
After last year's disappointing 7-6 record, and now 5-3 more than halfway through the 2013 season, USC has become an average team and now is looking at securing an average recruiting class this year.
As such, is it time for Trojan fans to set aside lofty expectations for this year when it comes to signing premier high school players?
Obviously, the answer is no, but unless something drastic happens, that may be what they are faced with.
And just like fans have had to get used to an average record from the Trojans on the field of play, they may also have to do the same when it comes to their recruiting for the class of 2014.