The USC – Notre Dame football rivalry is one of the oldest and greatest in college athletics – two storied programs with great traditions and a history of success. The competition extends to recruiting as well, and as National Signing Day draws closer, the Irish are in play for more than a few former USC Trojans commits.
The Trojans have landed exceptional recruiting classes over the last decade, even in the wake of crippling NCAA sanctions. Head coach Lane Kiffin and recruiting coordinator/defensive line coach Ed Orgeron have reputations as top-notch recruiters – many believe Kiffin’s recruiting prowess helped him land the job in Troy, and Orgeron made an entertaining cameo on a recruiting visit in The Blind Side movie.
Back in the summer, USC had the number one recruiting class in the nation, despite being able to offer ten fewer scholarships than other universities, and every available spot had been filled.
It’s a long time between July and Signing Day in February, though, and it gets even longer when a school like USC goes from preseason No. 1 to unranked with a 7-6 record.
The Trojans’ fall in the national rankings during the season was much more drastic than their fall in recruiting rankings – at least so far.
USC currently has the No. 8 class, with 13 verbal commitments expected to sign with the Trojans next week.
A few top prospects, like outside linebackers Quinton Powell and Matthew Thomas, still have L.A. in their sights and could end up faxing their official Letters of Intent to Coach Kiffin.
Others, though, have reconsidered their commitment to USC and are exploring other options, and one of the most popular alternatives is Notre Dame.
The Trojans already lost safety Max Redfield (pictured, above) to the Irish. Redfield originally committed to USC in July, de-committed in November following a visit to South Bend, and will sign with the Irish next week.
He might not be the only one.
Five-star defensive tackle Eddie Vanderdoes committed to USC in July but decommitted just after Christmas. The Trojans are still in the mix, as are Alabama, Washington, UCLA, and, of course, Notre Dame. Vanderdoes took a visit to South Bend last week and posted a succession of positive tweets about his experience there, but will not talk to the media until he announces his decision on Signing Day.
Vanderdoes wasn’t the only former USC verbal commit to visit Notre Dame last week. He was joined by Kylie Fitts, who decommitted from USC after the coaching staff pulled his early entrance. Fitts, a defensive end, committed to the Trojans with the intention of enrolling during the spring semester, but he was informed just before he was scheduled to arrive on campus that he didn’t have a scholarship until the fall. (Leon McQuay III, who replaced Redfield in this year’s recruiting class, reportedly took Fitts’ spot for spring semester.)
Fitts, whose heart was set on playing for USC, hasn’t ruled the Trojans out, but he might have better options elsewhere, as his high school coach has already pointed out:
When people are desperate, their true colors show. Take the USC coach, captain of an underachieving ship. His true color: SHADY! #goKylie
— Kurt Bruich (@CoachBruich) January 11, 2013
The Trojans are competing with some other schools for the last few names to fill out their recruiting class, but the biggest rivalries during the recruiting season are the same ones that are biggest during football season: UCLA and Notre Dame.
Fitts is also considering UCLA, and Eldridge Massington who, like Fitts, decommitted when he couldn’t enroll at USC this spring, is already on the Bruins’ campus across town.
UCLA might share USC’s prime location, but Notre Dame has a similarly rich football tradition – and, at least this year, a better season. Coaches can say whatever they want during recruiting, but on-field results speak volumes, and for some 2013 recruits, that makes Notre Dame a more attractive option.