One of Lane Kiffin‘s biggest strengths as a head coach – possibly the reason he still has a job – is in recruiting. In USC‘s successful run during the 2000s, Kiffin was a key recruiter under Pete Carroll. He managed to pull in one of the nation’s top recruiting classes last season despite sanctions, but as the team struggled during 2012, several key commits either officially reopened their recruitment or softened their commitment to USC.
The move has many Trojans’ fans excited about the future of the team’s defense, but will USC’s recruits feel the same?
USC defensive coordinator Ed Orgeron, who also serves as the team’s recruiting coordinator, credited Monte Kiffin with bringing in top recruits from Florida, particularly in Tampa and areas of North Florida, but based on recruits’ reponses to the news, Kiffin’s departure won’t significantly impact recruiting.
According to Gerard Martinez, USCFootball.com’s National Recruiting Analyst, Kiffin’s main target this season was five-star safety Leon McQuay III.
USC had an in-home visit with McQuay this week, and the player is scheduled to make an official campus visit on Dec. 7, but ESPN’s Blair Angulo noted that if McQuay’s high school team wins this weekend and advances in its postseason, he will not be able to make that trip. Oregon coaches also visited with McQuay this week, and Michigan is also expected to do so.
McQuay plans to announce his college choice during this year’s Under Armour All-America game.
Cornerback Jalen Ramsey is already committed to USC, but many people took to Twitter to speculate that Kiffin’s resignation could give Florida an opportunity to steal him from the Trojans. Ramsey, whose Twitter account showed he was taking an official visit to Washington at the time of the announcement, fueled the fire by retweeting others’ musings about Florida’s chances now that Kiffin is gone.
USC recruiting analysts, however, have pointed out that Monte Kiffin was not Ramsey’s primary recruiter. Wide receivers coach Tee Martin, whom Ramsey said is “like family,” and linebackers coach Clay Helton are responsible for Ramsey’s recruitment, so Kiffin’s departure might not influence the player’s decision as much as some suspected.
Defensive tackle commit Kenny Bigelow met with Orgeron, also the defensive line coach, on Thursday, before the school released Kiffin’s announcement. Orgeron reportedly did not mention the change to Bigelow during the visit, but once he learned about the news, Bigelow wasn’t phased.
“I don’t talk to anyone else, email, calls or anything. I am 100 percent Trojan. Always Fight On,” he told Rivals.com Thursday night.
Linebacker commit Michael Hutchings and defensive lineman Eddie Vanderdoes are equally unswayed by Kiffin’s resignation, according to Reign of Troy.
Hutchings’ primary concern was whether the defense will keep the same 4-3 scheme, while Vanderdoes said he wasn’t concerned unless Orgeron left.
The Trojans are in some fierce battles for top recruits, but it’s unlikely that Kiffin’s resignation alone will affect who signs with USC.