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National Signing Day: Why Recruits Are Suddenly Abandoning USC

Dec 31, 2012; El Paso, TX, USA; Southern California Trojans coach Lane Kiffin during the 2012 Sun Bowl against the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets at Sun Bowl Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee/Image of Sport-USA TODAY Sports
USA TODAY Sports
Lisa HornePac-12 and Big 12 Lead WriterFebruary 6, 2013

While half of Los Angeles is celebrating national signing day, the other half is donning black garb and inching toward the edge of a bridge. 

What has happened to USC's class of 2013? 

It's not the quality of players that USC has—the class is littered with nothing but 4- and 5-star players. All 11* of them. The Trojans landed the cream of the crop. But unfortunately, the crop is small due to NCAA sanctions and a lot of decommits.

4-star receiver Eldridge Massington decommitted. 4-star corner Jalen Ramsey decommitted. 4-star end Kylie Fitts decommitted. 5-star defensive tackle Eddie Vanderdoes decommitted. 4-star receiver Sebastian LaRue decommitted.  4-star end Jason Hatcher decommitted. 4-star tackle Nico Falah was rumored to have decommitted from USC but remains a soft verbal. And 4-star defensive end Torrodney Prevot has decommitted

At least two of those former Trojan commits, Fitts and Massington, are commits to UCLA—Massington enrolled early, while Fitts can enroll for UCLA's upcoming spring quarter. That's two flips to UCLA, and it's possible one more (Vanderdoes) may flip to UCLA.

How ticked are USC recruits at USC? 

It's one thing to decommit, but flipping to the school's rival? That's a statement. A huge statement.

Last April, Fitts told Scout that "I'm looking at Georgia, Notre Dame, Wisconsin, Oklahoma and UCLA but I’m a Trojan, that’s where my heart is and there is no way I’ll go anywhere else.”

No way he'll go anywhere else? On Tuesday, Fitts announced that he had committed to UCLA, and on Wednesday he was signed, sealed and delivered to the Bruins. 

Massington was also sold on USC. Last July, he was recruiting other players to USC, according to this Scout report. Massington is now a Bruin as well. 

USC may have beaten UCLA in basketball last month, but right now, UCLA is the football king of LA. The Bruins beat the Trojans 38-28 this past season and now will likely beat USC on every recruiting site's team rankings. 

Maybe the prospects decommitted due to defensive backs coach Marvin Sanders' dismissal. Or defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin's "resignation." Or linebackers coach Scottie Hazelton leaving for Nevada. Recruits hate change.

Could this wave of decommits be out of revenge for USC not living up to its promises—or, at the very least, failing to live up to the recruits' perceived expectations from USC? 

There's no way to sugar coat this. Fitts said last spring he wouldn't go anywhere else but USC. He was buying essentials for his dorm room when USC recruiting coordinator Ed Orgeron called him and told him he wouldn't be able to enroll early at USC. His heart was broken, his trust in USC "questioned."

On Tuesday, Fitts told Los Angeles Times columnist Gary Klein that the USC vs. UCLA game is on his mind.

"There's going to be that something inside me that's going to push me a little harder that game," Fitts said. 

Hell hath no fury like a recruit scorned.

Maybe the decommits are due to Deflate Gate, Jersey Gate, Reporter Gate and Locker Room Gate.

Maybe it's due to USC athletic director Pat Haden reassuring everyone that Kiffin is his coach not just once, but twice. Doth protest too much?

Maybe it's due to the rash of defensive coach departures that lends an air of uncertainty to USC's program.

Maybe it's due to the preseason No. 1-ranked Trojans falling on their sword, losing to Georgia Tech in the Sun Bowl and ending the season at 7-6. 

Maybe it's due to UCLA doing a better job of recruiting than USC. Maybe UCLA football has finally arrived.

Sometimes, the answers to difficult questions are just the most logical ones.

 

*per 247sports

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