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High Schools | Eric Sondheimer

Too Much Talent? Not at USC

January 29, 2006|Eric Sondheimer

Wednesday is letter-of-intent day for high school football players, and the status quo remains in effect when it comes to the USC vs. UCLA recruiting rivalry.

USC continues to dominate in head-to-head competition. It doesn't mean UCLA and Coach Karl Dorrell are doing anything particularly wrong. It's just that Coach Pete Carroll's energy, enthusiasm and proven success keep the top high school players going to USC, despite increasing competition for playing time.

The best example of how the Trojans continue to outmaneuver the Bruins for Southern California's best prospects from this year's class is Colton linebacker Allen Bradford, who will switch to safety in college. UCLA vigorously pursued Bradford knowing that USC also wanted The Times' back of the year. In the end, Bradford picked the Trojans even though USC will be bringing in several other highly touted recruits at safety.

"I'm not really scared to compete for a position at the next level," Bradford said. "I know every person who competes at USC feels that way. Everybody is going to be at practice competing every day. There's something different about their program. That's why high school kids go there. The best person plays."

Dorrell's strategy has been to identify players early in the spring, get them to commit and keep them committed when other schools start applying pressure. It worked well for this year's recruiting class, with UCLA expected to sign at least nine badly needed linemen among its close to two dozen recruits.

Scout.com has 14 of UCLA's expected signees listed among its top 100 prospects in the West.

The problem UCLA encounters is when it goes after a recruit who rates as one of the best at his position. That player usually takes his time in deciding, and the Bruins haven't been successful in late commitments. Receiver Terrence Austin of Long Beach Poly is one of only two players who have committed to UCLA since the first week of January.

USC, bolstered by two national championships in the last three years, has been seeking more players from outside California. This year's recruiting class will probably include players from Washington, Florida, Utah, Texas, Virginia, Colorado and New Jersey.

The one position USC shows a little crack in its armor is at quarterback. The question of playing time chased away Rocky Hinds, who transferred to Nevada Las Vegas last year, and the spring competition between freshman Mark Sanchez and junior John David Booty for the starting job scared off other potential recruits. Watching closely will be the top quarterback recruit for 2007, Jimmy Clausen of Westlake Village Oaks Christian.

USC needed help at running back with the early defection of Reggie Bush and LenDale White to the NFL, and Carroll didn't have to look far, getting commitments from the two best running backs in the City Section: Stafon Johnson of Los Angeles Dorsey and C.J. Gable of Sylmar. Both can also play at defensive back.

It's hard to believe that any school is stockpiling more talent at receiver than the Trojans. Joining Dwayne Jarrett, Steve Smith and Patrick Turner will be 6-foot-4 David Ausberry from Lemoore, 6-2 speedster Vidal Hazelton from Chatham, Va., and Long Beach Poly sprinter Travon Patterson. Still considering the Trojans is the state 100- and 200-meter track champion, Jamere Holland of Woodland Hills Taft.

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No player has seen his stock rise faster in the last month than quarterback Garrett Green of Sherman Oaks Notre Dame.

Green went on a recruiting trip to Harvard just before Christmas. Then, in early January, his phone started ringing and it hasn't stopped. Nebraska and Arizona State came through with scholarship offers. UCLA offered, followed the next day by USC. On Thursday, Carroll was at Green's house trying to seal a deal.

"It's been pretty hectic," Green said.

Apparently, some schools had their No. 1 choices for quarterback turn them down, so Green became the go-to guy.

"I don't stress over it," he said. "It's a matter of seeing all the options and opportunities. I didn't think I was going to get a rush at the end. Doors open and doors close."

Green has been trying to decide which school best fits his comfort level in terms of athletics and academics.

"In the end, it comes down to what's most important to him," Notre Dame Coach Kevin Rooney said.

Rooney is glad the recruiting rush is finally coming to an end for Green.

"I think he can compete with anyone anywhere," Rooney said.

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Eric Sondheimer can be reached at eric.sondheimer@latimes.com.

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Trojan horses

USC football commitments:

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