When Wednesday arrives, it will mark the culmination of a very long recruiting season for those who follow the men of Troy—not to mention USC's newly minted recruiting department led by head coach Steve Sarkisian.
On that day, letters of intent will come in by fax and premier prep players from around the nation will formalize their intentions of playing football for the cardinal and gold.
It is also on Feb. 5 that the suspense that surrounds the identity of those prospective Trojans will finally be answered and fans as well as coaches will be able to move forward knowing in whose hands the immediate future of the program rests.
For "Sark" and company, they will be awaiting signed documents from a total of 14 players—a number that reflects a reduction of 10 scholarships as a result of the last year of NCAA mandated sanctions.
This shortage of "schollies" makes it critical that USC gets it right when it comes to crafting the class of 2014.
It is against this backdrop that all who follow USC will cling to the information medium of their choice as they wait for those players to reveal themselves via faxed letters of intent.
However, Wednesday will not be a total mystery for USC when it comes to the identity of these future Trojans. Indeed, unless something very unexpected happens, 10 of those 14 scholarships will be claimed by players who have already given their verbal pledge to the Trojans.
Of course, assumptions regarding the minds of 18-year-old kids are fool's gold, so any of them could theoretically flip at the last moment. As of this writing, though, there is little indication that will happen.
Barring the unexpected, that leaves four scholarships left to be claimed on Wednesday and it is these free rides that are the subject of this article.
Actually, a bit of clarification is required here because if you believe the talk around town, three of these scholarships are just waiting for some very talented players to ink their name on Feb. 5, thereby making all of those associated with USC very happy indeed.
Now, let's be clear about this: If USC signs these three players, it will put the finishing touches on a very, very good recruiting class and Coach Sarkisian, as well as those who follow the Trojans, can be a bit smug with the knowledge that the men of Troy are in very good hands going forward.
But what if the unthinkable happens and one or more of those three players goes elsewhere on national signing day?
It could happen, you know.
In fact, realistically, the odds are likelier that USC won't get all three.
The fact of the matter is that even the likeliest to sign with USC—Mama—is playing it fairly close to the vest and still has Alabama and BYU in his final three of destinations.
Do you like the prospects of going against Nick Saban and the Crimson Tide for the signature of a player he would love to have? Me either.
And let's face it, if USC is jilted at the last moment, it certainly wouldn't be the first time this has happened. Have you forgotten De'Anthony Thomas?
So while fans of the program will keep their fingers crossed that all the stars align on Wednesday, this article will entertain the notion of what will happen if they don't.
What will Sarkisian do if he is left with scholarships that aren't accounted for on Wednesday? Does he have other players in mind for those precious free rides?
Perhaps just as important, should Sark even offer these scholarships to other players if the roof collapses on his national signing day plans?
"Wait a minute," you are probably saying to yourself. "With the limitations USC has with its roster due to the sanctions, how can it not offer other players?"
There are two problems with this argument. First, there simply may not be any quality players left that are on Sark's radar if previously targeted scholarships become available. Secondly, if there aren't any desired players left, does USC take a guy simply because it needs bodies?
Or should Sark simply leave that scholarship(s) on the table and use it (them) in 2015, which is thought to be an even stronger prep class than this year?
It is a quandary to be certain and one that is already compounded by the fact that, even if all three of the aforementioned studs sign with USC, there is still one scholarship left over which may or may not be filled by BYU verbal Fred Warner, Florida cornerback Lamont Simmons or perhaps defensive end Jabril Frazier.
So when all is said and done, there is a possibility that USC won't even be able to fill 14 spots this Wednesday. Wouldn't that be a letdown?
Conversely, this article could very well be all gloom and doom. When national signing day rolls around, those people connected to and with USC might be all smiles while the fax machine whirs with signed letters of intent.
Either way, let's hope Sark and staff have a "Plan B."
Just in case.
Follow me on Twitter: @RickMcMahan
Recruit information courtesy of Scout.com.
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