USC Lands Some 'Really Big Prizes'

Opening Statement: “Okay, it’s a very exciting day for USC football as we welcome thirteen new guys into our program. Seven of those guys are already here. For obvious reasons, it’s not an extremely large class, but I can’t imagine that there is a better class of 13 guys, of their top 13, in the country. These guys have come together from all over the country and as I said to our staff, sometimes when you go big game fishing, you aren’t going to get a lot of them, but you get some really big prizes. As you look at these guys, they’re the cream of the crop from around the country, impact players. Today, I don’t think there was a lot of energy around USC because a lot of commitments today were not for USC, but that isn’t what this is about. This is about the class that you sign in the end. The majority of our guys have been committed to us for a long time. Seven of them have all ready enrolled here. You start taking guys like Kenny Bigelow, Su’a Cravens, Max Browne, Ty Isaac, and Leon McQuay, all top 27 players in the country, and you have those guys decide today and put on a hat, you have a much different feeling. Fortunately for us, those guys did that a long time ago and four of those five guys I just mentioned have all ready enrolled here, are going to class at USC, and getting ready for spring practice.”

Lane Kiffin believes USC's thirteen commits are better than any other top thirteen in the country

Who could start right away: “We think these players can come in right away and help us, all of them. Obviously, we have some holes to fill, but they are impact players and players that can win anywhere in the country. We’ve been on them for a long time. I’m excited about the way about it. Like I said, it’s not a ton of guys, but like I said, I don’t feel like we reached either. We took players that could perform at this level.”

The last twenty-four hours: “You want to get everybody. That’s how we are, we’re competitive. You also need to remember that there are a lot of really good schools around the country. There are a lot of really good coaching staffs and they get paid to work too. As much as our fans are like me and will want to hit every one of them, it’s not going to happen. Especially when you’re dealing with different situations and different circumstances than everyone else does.”

Momentum on signing day: “...We’re used to closing fast but starting slow here at USC. We have not been, over the years, a program that’s had a lot of early commitments. It’s been a program that gets them later. Like I said, it doesn’t matter when you get them. It doesn’t matter if they put on a hat today or six months ago, it’s whether they’re coming. It may feel like today was a loss because there weren’t a lot of USC wins today, let’s go back to those USC wins that have already happened. Seven of them are already on are campus. I would much rather have guys that are all ready on our campus, enrolled, with fifteen spring practices, then someone today that’s not going to get here until the summer.”

His disappointment with players backing out: “I just think we’re living in that world more than ever, as you look at college football recruiting, a commitment means less and less. That’s not because of what happened to us today, that’s all around the country. I also think that as you look at it, that’s partially the media’s fault. If you stay committed today, you’ve been committed for a long time, and you sign your papers, do it the old fashion way, you don’t get any attention. The guys that got attention today where the guys that were de-committing, changing schools, putting a different hat on, or having a show. That’s the way it is. It’s not cool anymore to stay committed the whole time and sign your letter of intent.”

If he’ll think twice about taking early commitments: “I think we’ll do everything with our program now that signing day is over. We’ll look at everything that we do, whether that’s the staff, the season, or recruiting. There are a lot of different ways to go about it. At the same time too, if you don’t take those commitments early like some people don’t, you don’t get those guys to visit, and you probably don’t get them to commit early...”

If getting kids early was a philosophical switch: “We’ve always done that, we just hit a run early. It had to do with being preseason number one in the country, limited spots, so people took those spots up, and it put us in a difficult situation. Having limited scholarships and the early commitments, we where having kids call us, wanting to commit, and we couldn’t take them because we didn’t want to take more kids than we had spots for. That hurt us. When you go back to those kids late, a lot of times, they aren’t there anymore. There’s risk in that and that’s going to happen when you go for the big guys, you’re not going to get them all, you’re going to lose some.”

Difference with sanctions: “It’s a different world. One, you could have taken more mid year. If the sanctions were never here, you take more mid years, you wouldn’t have had the issue that we had at mid year, it wouldn’t have come up. We could have taken ten more today as well, as more mid years. We would have had a lot more commitments at that point...”

How difficult it is to get maximum number: “It’s pretty much impossible at that point unless you over commit. If you only have 18 spots, then you have to take 22 commitments or something like that and bank on losing some guys. If you’re not going to overcommit the spots that you have, when you lose guys, it’s going to very hard to replace them. At the same time too, we look at it at in the positive side of things. Instead of going and reaching way down for someone at the last minute that we don’t feel could play at this elite level, we now have five more for next year. We can sign twenty guys next year.”

Despite the lack of signing day momentum, USC did well with out of state blue chip prospects

Kylie Fitts saga: "I didn't like it at all, what happened. We got into a situation, I won't go into all the details, but it was extremely unexpected by our staff. We were one hundred percent up front with Kylie and his family. Unfortunately, in the process of trying to reach his coach, with a number if attempts, including driving out, he didn't want to talk about it. We understand that. The family was very understating about the situation we were put in. He had all ready signed his financial aid agreement to come here, but unfortunately, there wasn't a spot for him. He’s a great kid, it’s a great family, and now he’s across town. It’s another example of a situation that we're put in. We have to maximize what we’re in."

More negative recruiting with early commits: “Yeah no doubt. When you’re the target early, you take everybody’s shots. When you take early commitments like that, it’s going to be difficult to hold them, so you know that’s the situation. But then also, we didn’t help. You go 7-6 and finish the way that we did, that’s not going to hold a lot of energy there, when you’re trying to hold national guys that everyone is looking at. Obviously, when you have a season like we had, job security is going to come up. So, obviously, that was a major issue with the season we had. It makes it harder on national, out of state kids, because they’re choosing to come for a coaching staff, as well as a university obviously. When there are questions like that, it’s obviously a lot harder when you’re a long way away, for a family to let their kid go somewhere with the uncertainty.”

If job security was a common theme in reasons behind de-commitments: “Sure and that’s just natural. When you have a bad season, no matter where you are, but especially here, it’s going to be in conversations.”

How did changes in the coaching staff affect decisions: “I don’t know, it’s probably too hard to tell the impact there, so I’m not sure how to tell if the coaching changes effected it. I just think it was a number of things that happened, but plus, it was just timing. Those other schools that were celebrating some hats today lost kids months ago that are here on our campus. I look at it as, if you were come to us a year ago and say these are the thirteen guys that you’re going to get, including six of the top twenty-seven players in the country, I would have said yes, sign me up. I think any of our fans would have too. At the end of the day, we won, but it’s kind of that feeling like you’re up 35-0 at half and you let them come all the way back but still won.”

If the recruiting processes’s extension over the early enrollee period made it more difficult to hold players: “I think for sure it did. That’s just more times people are in there homes, more visits for them to take, more phone conversations. So it gave other schools more time to catch up to us and surpass us in some cases.”

Not being the number one class according to the recruiting sites: “I think if you know how they rank those and you go off of points, you have to have a number of recruits or signees to continue to get points. We could sit here at 13, we could have signed seven more four star players that we could have gotten a month ago, easily, we’d be sitting here arguing that this is the number one recruiting class in the country. If you’re only going to sign thirteen players, look at those thirteen players, are top thirteen are better than anyone else’s top thirteen and I don’t think anyone would argue that.”

How close was he to signing day when he was still turning kids away: “That would have been a while before. That was really when we had a large number of commitments and we were basically out of space. People where trying to come and we had to say no because we didn’t have room...”

Why so many defensive linemen dropped USC: “I don’t know, good question. I think that’s why the staff change question would be hard to answer. We didn’t change staff on the defensive line, so I’m not really sure why that happened, but we know why Kylie happened, it didn’t really have to do with USC.”

Junior Pomee is suspended indefinitely

How extra room could effect a guy like Abe Markowitz: “I don’t know, I haven’t thought about that situation. It'll probably be an opportunity for some more walk ons to get scholarships, because of the situation. We’ll be low scholarships again.”

Why they didn’t get to eighteen with depth issues: “It’s what we talked about. We had that number early. We had eighteen commits, guys telling you that they’re coming, families telling you that they’re coming, and so you have a choice to make at that point. Do you take other kids? What if no one de-commits? You don’t have an answer except that you’re over signed and you do what some other schools do. We don’t do that. So, what you do at that point is you believe the kids are coming and you don’t overcommit. When you do that it can be great because you get the top guys, or they go the other way like they did, you're in tough situation unless you want to go way down the list and take guys just to take bodies. We made the decision that we would rather have the five spots for next year and sign twenty.”

If he would normally expect as many kids as he signed to play right away: “Normally not. A lot of times it’s four, five, or six guys. I think because of the situation we’re put in, with our limitations, we’re looking for the majority of them to come in and play and we’re going to need the majority of them to come in and play. Just based off the numbers.”

Who could start right away: “I’m not going to go into that obviously because we’re so excited about the thirteen guys. I think that they’re really impact players. I’ll go through the seven guys that are all ready here. The out of state guys, Kenny Bigelow is the number one defensive tackle in the country, obviously we went a long way to get him, we’re glad that he’s here, a great looking kid. You guys will get to see and meet him. Max Browne, the number one quarterback in the country, he’ll be right in the middle of the quarterback competition. Su’a Craven and Leon McQuay, the top two safeties in America. It’s pretty amazing that both guys came here together, usually guys won’t do that. They both came here as mid years, phenomenal players. Chris Hawkins gives us a third DB in the group, he’s a very good corner. Darreus Rogers, a receiver that everyone was after a year ago that we signed and pushed back to this year.”

Difference between Cravens and McQuay: “Both are really good players. We know a little bit more about Su’a, having him in camp here. I think they both have really good ball skills, they run extremely well, they have great frames, they’re as good as you see coming out of high school.”

Changes on defense make it easier for freshman: “I’ don’t know, we’ve had a number of impact freshman play for us, including the freshman of the year, Leonard Williams last year. We’ve done a good job of that before. I am excited about our new defense and our ability to be multiple in 3-4 and 4-3. I think it’ll create more roles for some of these tweener guys, like some of the guys we signed in this class or on our roster.”

If they could sign more guys: “There’s a chance.”

If USC and UCLA will fight more for recruits in the future: “It should be that way. They had a great season obviously, we had a really bad season, so we felt the competitiveness in recruiting over there. I think with the head to head results, I’m really excited what they are in this class. If you look at the kids that went both places that were offered by both places. But, they’re doing a great job, a lot of credit to them.”

If he’s concerned that Ty Isaac will outgrow tailback: “I’m not. We’re excited to have a big back, Ty’s going to really give us a big back that can catch and run out of the backfield as well... He’s a great prospect and a good kid too. I think Ty is another example of these kids that are really good kids. They went through a lot, a lot of negative recruiting, a lot of stuff thrown at them, and remained committed, and decided to sign here.”

If the commits are upset with the defectors: “I think you’d be surprised. There’s a lot made of how kids recruit other kids, and they do a little bit. When it comes down to the end and watching their relationships, they’re very respectful of each other’s decisions, regardless of where it is they go. I witness that a lot with their communications, they might be very tight with each other. Just like Jalen Ramsey and these three where extremely tight. He made a decision to go to another great place, and they were very respectful of it.”

If they can’t put a fence around Southern California anymore: “I feel like we don’t have enough numbers. You can’t put a fence around Southern California if you don’t have enough nails to build that fence. There will be some holes in it. At the same time too, we don’t not want to go out and sign premier players around the country. I think our fans would be pretty frustrated with this class if Kenny Bigelow, Khalil Rodgers, Leon McQuay, Ty Isaac, and Max Browne were not in it...”

If his job status hurts without of state guys more: “Yeah you feel it there more. Anytime you have a bad season and job security questions, it’ll impact your recruiting no matter what. It’s a part of the business. When it’s out of state and a long way a way, a lot of times the kid is choosing the coach more than the school maybe, because they aren’t as familiar with it, they haven’t grown up a fan of that school. In state, especially guys from your local area, will choose the school more than the coach because they grew up loving the school regardless of what coach as there.”

If that’ll make him more reluctant to recruit out of state guys if he has the same job security questions next year: “Hopefully, we’ll win games and we won’t be in that situation. If we are in that situation, it goes back to the same thing. Are you going to not recruit Kenny Bigelow or Leon McQuay, or all the guys we talked about? I don’t think so.”

If they’re still good enough to compete in the Pac 12: “We have a lot of work to do to find that out. We have a lot of work to do in the spring, with these new players, some of our younger guys, ad a new system on defense. There are a lot of unknowns. I do feel as I did last year, our top flight players are as good as anyone in the country. When you take our top five or six players, but as you guys have seen, those numbers and that depth hits you. I don’t think it’s by accident that we played so much better the first half of the season than the second half of the season. I think eventually, those numbers, take a toll By the time we were at the end of the season, we had eleven season ending injuries. If you’re always going to be down ten to twelve guys before that, it’s going to be part of it.”

What is the answer to the numbers: “I don’t think we’ll be able to manage that part better. We went all the way this way as far as managing that, in terms of, not practicing as long, not practicing as physical, trying to preserve those numbers, trying not to get our premier players hurt, and that resulted in not being as physical of a team s we’d like to be and not being as physical up front. We’re going to go back the other way and practice the way we would like to practice if we had full numbers. If we lose a couple of guys in that, we lose a couple of guys, but at least we’ll be back to playing physical football.”

If everyone on the staff will be back next season: “I don’t know, we have a lot of questions. Like I told you guys all along, we’ll examine everything after signing day. We’ve been very slow on some stuff on purpose, you want to make the best decisions. We’ll go to this event tonight and start that process.”

If he wont hire a defensive back coach: “I don’t think so. The way we’re heading right now, Clancy will coach the defensive backs, but we’ll continue to explore everything and how we’ll fill out the rest of the staff.”

Clancy Pendergast’s recruiting: “I thought he did a good job. It was good that he was coming from our conference in college, he had seen some of the people on tape and has a good relationship with some of the guys like Michael Hutchings.”

Junior Pomee’s felony charges: “We were made aware of the situation last week. Immediately after finding out, I suspended Junior from all team activities. He's no longer a part of the team until we get all the information in and let the process play out.”

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