The recruitment of one of the most heavily-pursued players in recent memory ended today when Seantrel Henderson committed to the USC Trojans.
The benefactors were a surprise. From my vantage point, it seemed like Henderson hadn't seriously been considering the Trojans for some time.
But nothing could keep USC's rookie head coach away from landing the nation's top recruit for a second straight year. Lane Kiffin is known for his ability to form quick, intense, questionably sincere relationships with recruits, irregardless of what insignia is branded on his polo shirt.
Henderson went to bed a Buckeye and woke up a Trojan; that's how this fairy tale ends. What it suggests is that either Jim Tressel called Seantrel too early in the morning (no way the Vest sleeps), or that Kiffin is like Freddy Kruger and haunts prospects' dreams.
All kidding aside, Henderson's decision indicates that he felt USC was where he would be more successful.
Because more than any cynical concoction we can come up with as a society—that he went to U$C because that'$ where he get$ hi$ check$ ca$hed—the ability to win games as a player because you're needed becomes a major reason these players go where they go.
In the end, Kiffin was just more successful than Tressel at making Henderson feel, well, successful.
On paper, the Buckeyes have been as good as or better than USC at developing offensive linemen over, say, the past 10 years. In fact, they've arguably done more with less. And that's not a knock on the OSU coaches or their ability to maximize a player's potential; the career of All-Pro, future Hall of Fame tackle Orlando Pace also comes to mind.
But I don't believe Henderson is thinking only about his individual potential in this decision. I think he believes that USC is in a better position than Ohio State to compete for national championships.
I think he believes that the Trojans simply have better players on their roster.
I also think the Big Ten's reputation of coaching up, of doing more with less, of watching with stiff upper lip while the finest talent flows west and south, was a profound negative in this recruitment.
All of these are reasons Henderson chose to become a Trojan. But now, the circular logic begins.
Because in truth, Henderson is the reason USC will win national championships. And in truth, USC is the reason Henderson will win national championships.
The safety and security Henderson promises for Matt Barkley and Jesse Scroggin on the blind side will be what gets the Trojans' passing attack firing again.
The ruthless drive-blocking he's more than capable of will be what springs Dillon Baxter and DJ Morgan on gashing runs.
His natural ability will be what motivates defensive ends to practice harder, will be what drives lesser OL recruits to overcome their limitations.
His talent improves an already gaudy roster. But the spectacle he brings to USC will be what ends the Trojans' brief, uncomfortable period out of the limelight.
Pete Carroll is gone. But his aura of success, his absence of fear, has returned in the form of the nation's No. 1 recruit. Henderson is a showman whom Carroll himself recruited, and in whom the upbeat coach surely saw his own reflection.
Henderson committed to the USC Trojans without fear. That is how he lives, how he plays. And as Carroll always preached, without fear, you cannot lose.
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