The 2012 football season began with extreme anticipation and expectations for the USC Trojans. Southern California finished the 2011 season on a high note, ranked 6th in the AP poll and boasting an 11-2 record, brushing past rivals Notre Dame, 31-17, and UCLA, 50-0. With the announcement that Trojan quarterback and Heisman contender Matt Barkley would not be leaving for the NFL, ample reason existed for USC to enter the 2012 season as the preseason #1. And 2012 did prove to be a season of firsts, as the Trojans became the first preseason #1 to finish the season unranked since the 1964 Ole Miss Rebels.
After a stumbling record of 7-6, coupled with USC’s eyebrow-raising 21-7 loss to Georgia Tech in the Sun Bowl – USC’s first bowl game appearance since the NCAA sanctions – rumors of in-fighting and locker room division began to filter toward media outlets, placing head coach, Lane Kiffin, on the hot seat for 2013. With a 25-13 (.658) record at USC, there are those within Troy’s walls that wonder whether the head coaching criticism is justified, as Kiffin’s record is a hair’s reach from former head coach and USC legend, Pete Carroll, after three seasons (29-9, .763). The problem with the comparison lies with the fact Pete Carroll’s 6-6 season came in year one, and by year three Carroll had posted a 12-1 record with a Rose Bowl victory.
DL, Kenny Bigelow (5-star, Elkton, MD)
A member of the Rivals 250, Bigelow ranks as one of the best overall players in the country with his 6th national ranking. In addition, he is the #1 overall player at his position and held big-time offers from the likes of Clemson, Oklahoma and Ohio State.
QB, Max Browne (5-star, Sammamish, WA)
Like Bigelow, Browne is a member of the Rivals 250 and is also the best at his position, coming in as the #1 high school quarterback in the Class of 2013. He held offers from the best of college football, such as Alabama, Clemson and Oklahoma.
DB, Su’a Cravens (5-star, Murrieta, CA)
Cravens represents USC’s hat trick in recruiting as the third player signed who was the best at his position. Cravens, like Bigelow and Browne, also is within the top 20 of overall recruits, ranked 12th. His offer list reflects his position: Alabama, Florida, Michigan, Notre Dame and Ohio State.
Despite USC’s success on the recruiting trail, they also suffered crippling losses, having had six commits jump ship throughout the course of the season. The defections were particularly damaging considering four of the six were linemen.
- DB, Jalen Ramsey (5-star, Florida State)
- DB, Max Redfield (5-star, Notre Dame)
- DL, Eddie Vanderdoes (5-star, Notre Dame)
- DL, Kylie Fitts (4-star, UCLA)
- DL, Jason Hatcher (4-star, Kentucky)
- DL, Torrodney Prevot (4-star, Oregon)
Notre Dame vs. USC Recruiting Battles
|Greg Bryant (RB)
Max Redfield (DB)
Jaylon Smith (LB)
Eddie Vanderdoes (DL)
|Su’a Cravens (DB)
Justin Davis (RB)
Nico Falah (OL)
Michael Hutchings (LB)
Ty Isaac (RB)
Leon McQuay III (DB)
Steven Mitchell (WR)
Chris Hawkins (DB)
More than nearly any other program, Notre Dame and USC spent the better part of the 2013 recruiting cycle exchanging haymakers. Though both programs largely recruit from the same pool of talent, there were three recruiting targets in particular where the recruiting sessions were personal and contested until the bitter end.
Five-star running back Ty Isaac is a prototypical power back, possessing excellent size and strength. And while his talents do not necessarily mesh as well with Notre Dame’s spread offense, Isaac attended Joliet Catholic High School in Illinois, a program extremely close to the hearts of Notre Dame and its fan base as the alma mater of movie inspiration, Rudy Ruettiger. Isaac signing with the USC Trojans over Notre Dame despite attending a high school pipeline to the Irish added an extra dose of vehemence to an already intense cross-sectional rivalry.
Notre Dame returned the favor, securing the commitments of two 5-star California recruits who had been committed to USC in Max Redfield and Eddie Vanderdoes. The signings were extremely significant, and both could play a large role in Notre Dame’s defense as freshmen.
Looking at Notre Dame and USC, it appears as if the scale is tipping toward Notre Dame both on the field – with ND having won two of the last three meetings – and off, where the Fighting Irish are beginning to flex ever-expanding muscle. Irish fans should be extremely happy to see Notre Dame finished #3 in the Class of 2013 recruiting and USC lagged, ending up #14. Considering ND has been on the losing end of the recruiting battle more times than not in recent years, the celebration is warranted. However, the victory should come with a note of caution.
USC’s class was relegated outside of the top ten primarily due to numerical restrictions resulting from the NCAA’s scholarship reductions. When the average star ranking of recruits is examined – and a strong argument can be made this method is a better measure of recruiting success – Notre Dame landed a class with an average star ranking of 3.92. The USC Trojans landed a class with an average star ranking of an eye-popping 4.42, the highest of any program by a large margin. The fact USC managed a score of 4.42 despite having had six decommits, three of which were five-stars, is nearly inconceivable to consider.
Despite a 2012 record of 7-6 and a head coach that’s likely fighting for his job, USC is a team every program should keep a wary eye on. The Trojans are recruiting better than anyone – Alabama included – having landed the most 5-stars in 2013 with 5 (prior to decommitments, USC had eight 5-star players, twice as many as Alabama).
Notre Dame will face an incredibly talented USC program and a tough battle in South Bend this fall.
Scott Janssen is a blogger for the Huffington Post and has authored several nationally-featured articles as well as co-founded a nationally-featured non-profit organization. In his spare time he takes his NCAA Football ’13 online dynasty way too seriously and alienates those around him by discussing football 24 hours a day. Scott can be found on twitter at @HumbleBoaster.