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USC football recruits can really play, but will they stay?

Trojans expect to sign another top-flight class Wednesday, but as recent transfers by former blue-chip recruits demonstrate, there's such a thing as having too much talent.

February 03, 2009|Gary Klein

The stockpiling of talent will apparently continue at USC. As the final pushes are made toward Wednesday, the national letter-of-intent signing day for football, the Trojans are anticipating another stellar recruiting class.

But a lot can happen in these final hours, and supposed "commitments" can suddenly become meaningless. Especially at a time when Coach Pete Carroll and his reconfigured staff face a new issue: An exodus of several high-profile transfers.

Three players -- running backs Emmanuel Moody and Broderick Green and receiver Vidal Hazelton -- left USC in the last 18 months to seek happiness and more playing time elsewhere. All were from out of state and formerly regarded as elite talents by recruiting experts.

Greg Biggins, West Coast recruiting analyst for ESPNRise.com, said opposing coaches have cited the departures as cautionary tales about straying across the country to sign with the Trojans.

And Biggins added that the exits also sent a message regarding USC's depth-chart issues.

"They're still going to have a monster class, but this year, probably more than any other year, I've heard kids say, 'You know, there's just too many guys there,' " Biggins said.

Allen Wallace, national recruiting editor for Scout.com, said transfers are "pretty much a fact of life in college football," and does not believe they will affect USC's recruiting.

"If you look at any program you'll see kids leaving for various reasons," he said.

Moody, a Texas native, left USC during training camp in 2007 and made his way to Florida with hopes of running the ball more.

Green left the Trojans during the 2008 season and eventually headed home to enroll at Arkansas. Hazelton, a New York native, also left the team before season's end and recently said he would attend Cincinnati.

Both Green and Hazelton cited ill grandparents as a reason for their departure. But limited playing time caused by a stacked depth chart also was a factor.

"We really think we recruit the type of kids that really want to compete and stick it out and continue to battle," Carroll said. "So any time a guy leaves, you're a little bit surprised. But on the same token if there are some other issues involved . . . we're fully understanding."

But will prospects be as forgiving when a USC position group can go as many as 10 deep?

That was the case in 2007 when the Trojans had 10 tailbacks on the roster. They started last season with six, and will have the same number when spring practice begins March 28.

Not coincidentally, there are no tailbacks among the players who have committed to USC for the 2009 class.

Moody, the Trojans' second-leading rusher in 2006, said recently that he did not leave because he was afraid of competition.

"It was just to change my situation and change my surroundings, the position I was in spiritually and physically," said Moody, a role player for Florida's Bowl Championship Series national title-winning team. "And I just wanted a new start."

So did Green, a power back from Little Rock who redshirted as a freshman in 2007 because of a foot injury. Green had a shining moment last season when he rushed for 121 yards and two touchdowns against Washington State, but he did not carry the ball the next week against Arizona and played in only one more game before leaving.

Green is attending classes at Arkansas but will not be eligible until 2010. Asked what advice he would give recruits considering a cross-country journey for college, he said, "I would just tell them to make sure they know the consequences of being away from your family."

Hazelton advised considering another, more quantifiable resource: the depth chart.

Hazelton caught one pass as a freshman, but with Dwayne Jarrett and Steve Smith gone to the NFL in 2007 he caught 50, tops among Trojans wide receivers.

However, he tumbled down the depth chart last season after suffering an ankle injury in the opener and finished with only six receptions.

Hazelton has said he valued his time at USC, but he cautioned recruits to examine their criteria for choosing any high-profile school.

"The advice I would give kids is look at the position and look at the depth chart and the history of how they use guys," he said. "Don't just go to a school with a name. Look at where you're needed.

"A lot of kids get caught up in the TV stuff. 'That's where Reggie Bush and Matt Leinart played.' But you have to know it's a good situation that you're going into.

"A lot of it is . . . a business decision."

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gary.klein@latimes.com

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(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX)

The commitments

Recruits who have committed to sign letters of intent with USC (NCAA signing day is Wednesday):

QB: Matt Barkley, Santa Ana Mater Dei High

OL: Kevin Graf, Agoura

OL: John Martinez, Utah Cottonwood

WR: Randall Carroll, L.A. Cathedral

WR: De'Von Flournoy, Lake Balboa Birmingham

WR: Alshon Jeffrey, S. Carolina Calhoun County

LB: Vontaze Burfict, Corona Centennial

LB: Simione Vehikite, Hawaii Kapolei

LB: Marquis Simmons, Compton Dominguez

DT: Hebron Fangupo, Mt. San Antonio JC

DE: James Boyd, L.A. Jordan

DE: Devon Kennard, Arizona Desert Vista

DE: Kevin Greene, San Francisco Sacred Heart

DB: Torin Harris, Nevada Palo Verde

DB: Chris Metcalf, Compton

DB: T.J. McDonald, Fresno Edison

DB: Patrick Hall, Ventura St. Bonaventure

K: Jacob Harfman, Mt. San Antonio JC

Source: Scout.com

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