When Placer High School defensive tackle Eddie Vanderdoes decommitted from USC last December, four other schools threw their hands up in joy and ostensibly breathed a collective sigh of relief.
They're still in the Vanderdoes Sweepstakes.
The 5-star prospect from Auburn, Calif., has received scholarship offers from every major school in college football, including Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Michigan, Notre Dame, Oklahoma and Penn State.
Everybody wants Eddie Vanderdoes.
But Vanderdoes appears to be only interested in five schools, one of which is still USC. Unless Vanderdoes has a school in mind that he hasn't publicly stated real interest in, the other four schools in contention are Alabama, Notre Dame, UCLA and Washington. Vanderdoes took his official visit to USC last weekend and will visit Notre Dame this weekend—he visited UCLA in November and Washington last month.
The last school to make an impression on Vanderdoes is Alabama—Vanderdoes' visit to Tuscaloosa is scheduled on February 1, five days before national signing day.
No coach, however, needs Eddie Vanderdoes more than USC head coach Lane Kiffin—Vanderdoes is Kiffin's must-have recruit for his shrinking class of 2013. Kiffin has seen six players decommit from this year's class, and one of them, receiver Eldridge Massington—ended up signing his letter of intent with crosstown rival UCLA.
The fact that UCLA is currently No. 6 on Scout's class of 2013 team rankings, four spots ahead of No. 10 USC, only exacerbates the whole situation.
UCLA beat USC 38-28 last November and won the Pac-12's South Division. USC football had a bad year (7-6) for its football standards, especially since the Trojans were ranked No. 1 in the preseason and finished the season with an embarrassing 21-7 loss to Georgia Tech in the Hyundai Sun Bowl—the Yellow Jackets had to request a waiver to play in the postseason.
USC's defense, riddled with 4- and 5-star talent, was exposed against the spread several times during the 2012 regular season, and the ensuing uproar ostensibly caused Kiffin's father, Monte, to resign from his defensive coordinator position and pursue opportunities in the NFL.
Clancy Pendergast is the new defensive coordinator at USC and his impressive resume includes stints as defensive coordinator for both the NFL's Arizona Cardinals and Kansas City Chiefs as well as the defensive coordinator at Cal for the past three seasons. The change in defensive coordinators should help solidify USC's defense but more importantly, it signifies that USC wants to return to being a national defensive power, which Alabama seems to have a firm grasp.
Actually, it's more like a choke hold.
Defense wins championships, and Alabama, the first-ever back-to-back BCS champion, has won those Waterford crystal footballs due to outstanding defense and superior head coaching by Nick Saban. USC used to be a defensive powerhouse under head coach Pete Carroll, but things have unraveled—mostly due to NCAA-imposed sanctions—since he left for the NFL's Seattle Seahawks.
2013 is the year Kiffin sets USC football back on track, and his main priority should be landing that big Vanderdoes fish.
Vanderdoes is excellent in defending both the pass and run and would be an incredible bookend to another 5-star defensive tackle who has committed to USC, Kenny Bigelow. Losing Vanderdoes to an out-of-state school would be a crushing blow for assistant coach Ed Orgeron, who has been recruiting Vanderdoes. Oreron already lost defensive tackle Elijah Qualls to Washington—Qualls is from Petaluma, Calif.
Daeshon Hall is an out-of-state prospect, and the fact that Washington plucked a top prospect out of Texas shows that Husky football is experiencing a resurgence under head coach Steve Sarkisian. The renovated Husky Stadium—one of the prettiest stadium settings in the country—and its new athletic facilities will only enhance Washington's appeal to West Coast recruits.
A short-term goal for USC should be keeping 5-star talent in-state to stop the bleeding. If Kiffin continues to lose in-state talent to Washington and Notre Dame, then USC's once-proud tradition of football excellence is in jeopardy–the winning days of yore were a direct result of USC keeping all of the talent from its own backyard.
Landing Vanderdoes can be the start of USC returning to prominence after what most Trojan fans hope is a temporary setback.