“USC could be No. 2 or No. 5,” saidrecruiting guru Bobby Burton of Rivals.com. “But USC, for the first time, maybe didn’t get the pick of the litter.” That might be the price they pay for merely winning the Rose Bowl at a school where playing for the national championship is considered a birthright. “USC is not as highly rated, and doesn’t have as many commitments, but Florida is having a blockbuster year,” Burton said. The Gators already burned the Trojans by getting James Wilson, the No.1-ranked offensive guard in the nation, who had said in August he would commit to USC but changed his mind last month after the Gators won the title. According to recruiting lore, Wilson changed his mind after a pastor told him God wanted him to go to Florida. “I never thought I would have to recruit against God,” a college coach who heard the story joked. Another loss occurred last week when cornerback Donovan Warren of Long Beach Poly selected Michigan. And Marvin Austin, the No. 1-ranked defensive tackle, is expected to select North Carolina today over the Trojans. “I thought they lost on a couple of key guys,” Burton said. “Austin, (quarterback Jimmy) Clausen, McKnight possibly, James Wilson. But some things happened that were not expected that affected them. There’s no way Austin goes to North Carolina if John Bunting is the coach.” USC did earn some late victories. Wide receiver Ronald Johnson of Muskegon, Mich., the No. 8-ranked player in the nation, stunned Michigan by selecting the Trojans on Sunday. And Burton expects wide receiver Ahmad Paige of Sterlington, La., to choose USC over Tennessee today. Duva said even with the losses, he ranks the Trojans’ class as high as anyone else’s. “No other school has that quality. Every pick is a top 250 guy, and more than half are top 100,” Duva said. “Florida and Texas are the top two classes, but I would put USC up against anybody.” The unquestionable gem of the Trojans’ recruiting class is defensive end Everson Griffen of Avondale, Ariz. Griffen is ranked the sixth-best player in the nation by Rivals, and one Pacific-10 Conference coach said Griffen would be ready to play in the NFL next year. The next-highest ranked player is linebacker Chris Galippo of Servite High in Anaheim, who is expected to push middle linebacker Rey Maualuga for playing time. Duva gushed over quarterback Aaron Corp of Orange Lutheran. “Aaron Corp is a Vince Young clone,” he said. Officially, 16 players have said they will commit to USC, but the Trojans are expected to add cornerback Omar Bolden of Colony High in Ontario, although academic issues could influence whether he is eligible. And Carroll is always capable of taking a late surprise that few expected, like last year when he signed safety Alfred Rowe and cornerback Vincent Joseph of Long Beach Poly. USC will not sign a kicker because it was too late to find one after the death of Mario Danelo and academic ineligibility of Troy Van Blarcom. Nebraska kicker Jordan Congdon is expected to transfer to USC for the fall semester but will be forced to sit out a year. Another highly regarded freshman, offensive tackle Martin Coleman from Edison of Huntington Beach, enrolled at USC in January. “It’s a small class, that’s the only thing holding them back,” Duva said. [email protected] (818) 713-3607 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! USC’s unrivaled status as a recruiting power will probably take a small hit today, but it’s a significant drop when you consider how easily the Trojans (or Pete Carroll) seem to get whatever player they want. After four years of No. 1 recruiting classes, USC will have to settle for a top-five class today, according to recruiting analysts. That’s nothing to be ashamed of, unless you consider how high the standards are at USC. The Trojans’ final ranking will be influenced by the decision of tailback Joe McKnight of River Ridge, La. McKnight is ranked the No. 1 tailback and No. 2 player in the nation by Rivals. “McKnight is LSU’s to lose but at the same time, he might surprise some people and choose USC,” Burton said. Recruiting analyst Jeff Duva of PrepStar said he thinks McKnight will choose USC. “My gut tells me USC,” Duva said. “I think he’ll shock the recruiting world. That’s a longshot, by the way.” Even if McKnight commits, Florida is expected to be crowned No. 1 in recruiting, just a few weeks after winning the national championship.
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