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Recruits Seem to Be Committed

December 16, 2000|BEN BOLCH | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Several of USC's top football recruits from Southern California reaffirmed their commitments Friday after learning that the Trojans had picked Pete Carroll as their new coach, but one said he will proceed with caution before deciding whether to attend the school.

Huntington Beach Edison running back Darryl Poston said his decision whether to honor his commitment will hinge on his initial conversations with Carroll. Poston said he is curious to see how Carroll intends to turn around the program and draw his players closer together.

Poston said he hopes Carroll can give him "the kind of spark" he felt last weekend when he met with Washington Coach Rick Neuheisel during a visit to Seattle.

"[Carroll] could be a good coach, but then again he could be not that much of a college football coach," said Poston, who also plans to visit Arizona. "I want to win, and Washington is going to the Rose Bowl and everything."

Other recruits, such as Mission Viejo quarterback Billy Hart, said they were excited to meet Carroll, even though he has no experience as a college head coach and hasn't coached at the college level since 1983, when he was assistant head coach and offensive coordinator at University of the Pacific.

"Football's in your blood, so I'm sure he knows the college game," said Hart, who plans to keep his commitment to USC. "I can't wait to meet him."

Hart said he wasn't concerned that Carroll, a former New England Patriot and New York Jet coach, was not among USC Athletic Director Mike Garrett's top choices to replace the fired Paul Hackett. That distinction went to Oregon State Coach Dennis Erickson and Oregon Coach Mike Bellotti, both of whom decided to stay put.

"I'm sure [Garrett] feels this is a guy who can move the program forward," Hart said. "He wouldn't have hired him if he didn't."

Jason Wardlow, a lineman from Upland High, said he also will honor his commitment. "I'm going to stick with USC," he said. "That's where I've always wanted to go and that has not changed."

USC's most coveted Southland recruit, Santa Ana Mater Dei quarterback Matt Leinart, could not be reached for comment. In recent weeks, Leinart has expressed interest in keeping his options open despite his commitment to USC.

But Leinart's high school coach, Bruce Rollinson, said the standout is willing to give Carroll a chance.

"Pete Carroll and Matt Leinart have to sit down and talk," Rollinson said. "[Carroll] has a limited amount of time to make his sales pitch and convince this boy to stick with his commitment.

"I know Matt still wants to listen and has not made his mind up in any way as far as what he wants to do with his future."

Leinart, who led Orange County quarterbacks last season with 2,847 yards and 27 touchdowns, visited Oklahoma last weekend and is considering Georgia Tech and Arizona State.

"His comfort level with Oklahoma is very high," Rollinson said, "but a lot of that is because of the uncertainty at USC."

Justin Fargas, one of the nation's top high school running backs at Sherman Oaks Notre Dame High in 1997, has been given his release by Michigan and is considering USC among his transfer choices along with UCLA and California, his fatherAntoniosaid.

Fargas, a redshirt sophomore, would have to sit out next season and have one year of eligibility remaining, but he plans to ask the NCAA for a sixth year because of a broken leg that forced him to miss the 1999 season.

Fargas plans to return to his parents' home in Encino next week and will not play for Michigan in the Wolverines' Jan. 1 game against Auburn in the Citrus Bowl.

He returned this season from his leg injury but switched to safety after Michigan's 23-20 loss to UCLA at the Rose Bowl on Sept. 16 because of dwindling playing time.

USC could have the inside track to land Fargas because the Trojans were runners-up when he signed with Michigan in 1998.

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Staff writers Gary Klein and Eric Sondheimer contributed to this story.

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