On a topsy-turvy day in college football recruiting, USC showed it's not about to relinquish its status as a national power while UCLA displayed signs of a resurgence with a finishing kick that hasn't been seen in years.
It was the first day for high school seniors to sign a letter of intent, and there were plenty of surprises.
Although USC lost out on four players it thought were within reach, the Trojans came away with another stellar recruiting class. It started early Wednesday morning with Harbor City Narbonne defensive back Byron Moore Jr. signing with the Trojans after dropping them two weeks ago because of concerns about playing time.
There was bad news for USC when the No. 1 linebacker prospect in the nation, Manti Te'o of Honolulu Punahou, chose Notre Dame, and receiver Alshon Jeffrey signed with South Carolina after saying he was committed to the Trojans. Another top linebacker prospect, Vontaze Burfict from Corona Centennial, signed with Arizona State.
And by late in the afternoon, Los Angeles Cathedral receiver Randall Carroll had spurned the Trojans in favor of UCLA.
Carroll, who is considered the fastest teenager in California after winning the 100- and 200-meter state track championships as a junior, had been committed to USC for more than a year.
But the Trojans demonstrated their recruiting power by going out of state to land three recruits in outside linebacker Frankie Telfort from Miami Gulliver Prep, defensive back Jawanza Starling from Tallahassee (Fla.) Lincoln and linebacker Jarvis Jones from Columbus (Ga.) Carver.
"For a team that suffered some high-profile losses, they executed perfectly in that they rebounded," said Allen Wallace, national recruiting director for Scout.com.
Rivals.com ranked Alabama No. 1, Louisiana State No. 2, Ohio State No. 3 and USC No. 4 in its final rankings. Scout.com had Ohio State No. 1, LSU No. 2, Alabama No. 3 and USC No. 7 in its computer team rankings.
The school making the biggest jump was UCLA, which went from No. 16 to tied for No. 4 in Scout.com's ratings by landing Carroll and a pair of offensive linemen, 6-foot-6, 320-pound Stan Hasiak from Hawaii Kapolei and 6-4, 285-pound Xavier Su'a-Filo from Provo (Utah) Timpview.
The Bruins also picked up quick running back Damien Thigpen from Manassas (Va.) Stonewall Jackson. All were late decisions, something that the Bruins have struggled to pull off in their favor with top prospects. UCLA lost out on one commit, tight end Billy Sanders from Coeur d'Alene (Idaho) Lake City, who signed with Miami.
"UCLA has had a wonderful day, especially in the need area, offensive line," Wallace said. "In a tangible way, it demonstrates that UCLA is here to challenge. These kind of successes at the end are new for UCLA."
Perhaps the most startling decision was made by Te'o, who received strong wooing from USC and UCLA but ended up at Notre Dame. Only last weekend, Te'o took a visit to USC and was considered a top priority for Trojans Coach Pete Carroll. UCLA turned over its recruiting to assistant Norm Chow, a Punahou graduate. For the Fighting Irish to come out on top showed that Coach Charlie Weis isn't going away any time soon.
"The shocker of the day was Te'o," Wallace said. "I think it's strictly Weis. He did a great recruiting job."
Ohio State started the day ranked No. 1 by Scout.com and Rivals.com, but the Buckeyes lost out on 6-5 All-American receiver Marlon Brown from Memphis (Tenn.) Harding. He signed with Georgia.
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Nation's top classes
1. Ohio State
2. Louisiana St.
10. Penn State
2. Louisiana St.
3. Ohio State
6. Florida State
8. North Carolina
1. Louisiana St.
8. Florida State
9. Ohio State
By the letter
A glance at national college football signing day:
USC RECRUITS (D9)
Still every bit a national recruiting power, the Trojans' dominance in the West is chipped away by rivals Notre Dame and UCLA.
UCLA RECRUITS (D9)
Late surge lands Bruins a top-10 class nationally -- and they beef up a projected weakness with half a dozen offensive linemen.
Manti Te'o, the nation's top prospect at linebacker, spurns USC and UCLA to play in South Bend. But overall the rich get richer as already powerful programs reload.
Los Angeles Times