"Shady" Recruiting Tactics Hurt USC as DE Kylie Fitts Picks UCLA

By Justine Hendricks
James Snook-USA TODAY Sports


Defensive end Kylie Fitts wanted nothing more than to become a USC Trojan, and he publicly admitted to being devastated when the school abruptly told him he couldn’t enroll early, just weeks before he was scheduled to arrive. Fitts could get his redemption in the end, after officially signing with the Trojans’ biggest, most bitter rivals, the UCLA Bruins.

Fitts was one of eight recruits to decommit from USC’s 2013 class, but until the day before National Signing Day, the Trojans were still in contention, which speaks volumes about how deeply Fitts wanted to become a Trojan.

The USC coaching staff would have had a lot of work to do to get back in Fitts’ good graces after complicating what is already one of the biggest decisions in a young football player’s life.

Fitts completed high school a semester early in order to enroll at USC for the spring. The practice, which is becoming ever more popular among top recruits, would have allowed him to participate in spring workouts, get a head start on learning the playbook, and put him in a better position to earn playing time by the fall.

Telling Fitts in January that he wasn’t welcome until the fall left the four-star recruit with nothing to do for the next few months – except find a school that actually wanted him.

He visited Notre Dame with Eddie Vanderdoes, another former USC commit, and went snowmobiling with Utah coach Kyle Whittingham on an official visit to Provo.

In the end, Fitts, a Los Angeles Lakers fan who went to high school about 60 miles outside the city, knew he wanted to play college ball in L.A. Considering all the city has to offer (sorry, Utah), it’s not hard to understand why.

It’s also not hard to understand why he couldn’t go back to USC, as much as he may have wanted to be a Trojan. Fitts trusted the USC coaches, and they broke that trust. He loved USC, but the program only loved him when it was convenient.

His high school coach, Kurt Bruich, called USC head coach Lane Kiffin on his “shady” recruiting practices and certainly would have encouraged Fitts to look anywhere other than USC.

Four-star recruits are generally treated pretty darn well by coaches and potential teammates looking to lure them in to fill roster spots and build the best team possible. For a guy like Fitts, with twenty other scholarship offers, it would have been silly to sign with USC.

Fitts repeatedly tweeted about how difficult this decision would be, especially since he thought it was finalized last summer.

On Tuesday night, just before tweeting his announcement, Fitts posted:

Fitts has the right attitude about an unfortunate situation. It might not be where he wanted to be, or where he thought he’d be, but since he found out he wouldn’t be at USC this spring, he’s seemed determined to make the best of it.

It’s impossible to tell how a recruit will fare once he gets to college, but my guess is that everything Fitts has been through to become a Bruin will make him fight even harder to prove himself and be successful at the next level – and that could very well come back to haunt the Trojans over the next few years.

Under Jim Mora, the Bruins are doing what former coach Rick Neuheisel brazenly said they would: ending the football monopoly in L.A.

Meanwhile, Kiffin is mishandling scholarships and sending talented recruits running to Westwood. If Fitts’ UCLA career is successful and he helps advance the Bruins’ mission to overtake USC, the Trojans will have no one to blame but themselves.

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