Here they come, thundering down the stretch . . . Mark Tucker, a 6-foot 4-inch, 260-pound offensive lineman from L.A. Banning, recently had USC and Colorado running neck and neck in the recruiting race. Then he met the Trojan coaches on a visit last weekend.
"I felt I was at home there," he said.
He will be, apparently, for the next four years, and so will another top lineman, 6-5, 240-pound Tim Ryan of San Jose Oak Grove. Because on Monday, two days before high school football players may sign national letters of intent, both made verbal commitments to USC.
The Trojans are also awaiting word on several other top defensive prospects: backs Mark Carrier of Long Beach Poly, Rodney Winston of Marianna, Ark., and Cleveland Colter of Tempe, Ariz. Colter, said to be down to USC and Arizona State, visited Texas last weekend. Carrier will hold a press conference today to announce his decision.
USC is also going down to the wire with Tom Dabasinskas, the outstanding center from San Pasqual in Escondido. Dabasinskas grew up in the Midwest and is also considering Iowa, Texas, Cal and Stanford.
Iowa has one factor in its favor, a commitment from quarterback Dan McGwire of Claremont. McGwire and Dabasinskas attended the same football camp last summer, became friends and ran into each other on some recruiting visits.
McGwire even called Dabasinskas soon after deciding on Iowa, but if he wants to do it again, it won't be so easy, since only a select group of people will know where to find Dabasinskas.
According to the plan, he was going to go into seclusion somewhere in San Diego County after school Monday, remaining out of touch until after he has made his college decision.
"All I've told him is that it's important to make the decision without people tugging at him," his coach, Bob Woodhouse, said. "I've seen situations when the living room was full of people, and they took turns going upstairs to his bedroom to talk. It's too much for a 17-year-old kid."
UCLA is also playing the waiting game with quarterback Jeff George of Indianapolis, rated as the No. 1 prospect at any position in the country, and wide receiver Greg McMurtry of Brockton, Mass.
Eric Turner, an outstanding defensive back from Ventura, seems torn between the Bruins and Washington.
Hawaii, however, already has commitments from two Southern California players, offensive lineman Jim Tulette of North Torrance and defensive back-wide receiver Danny Lewis of Los Angeles.
Oklahoma State appears to have the inside track on linebacker Melvin Foster of Houston Yates. If they get him, the Cowboys will end up with the No. 1 Texas player for the third straight season. Surprisingly, Hart Lee Dykes chose Oklahoma State last year as did Thurman Thomas in 1984.
Different sport, same idea: The St. Petersburg, Fla., Times recently took a look at basketball recruiting and got this story from one coach.
"I remember one kid I had about 15 years ago. A (college) coach came down to see him in a Cadillac. And it was one of those Cadillacs where you can lock all the doors from the driver's side.
"Well, this coach gets my kid in the car, locks the door and tells him he isn't going to release him until he makes a verbal commitment to attend his school. When the coach finally opened the door, the kid jumped out and ran all the way home."
And from a former junior college coach: "I was recruiting this 6-8 kid one year and I had him all locked up. But on signing day, another junior college coach from out of state got hold of him. He started telling the kid he was going to get fired unless he signed him, that his job depended on this kid.
"He broke down and cried in front of the kid, and the kid felt so sorry for the him that he ended up signing with them."
Five people, including current star Jerry Simon, the all-time scoring leader at Marshall, will be inducted into the school's basketball Hall of Fame at halftime of Friday's 4 p.m. game with Belmont.
Simon will have his jersey retired, as will Hal Uplinger, the only person from the school to ever play pro basketball; Loren Bracci, who went on to break the career scoring mark at Cal State Northridge (then Valley State), and John Starkins, who holds the City single-season scoring record. Lou Wheeler, who coached the team from 1931-69, will also be inducted.