As USC Coach Lane Kiffin and his staff blazed the recruiting trail the last couple of weeks, players and parents questioned them about the specter of possible NCAA sanctions against the Trojans football program.
"Obviously, it was something that came up at times," Kiffin said.
According to several players, coaches told them that they expected the program to be fine, that USC might forfeit some games from previous seasons or, perhaps, lose a few scholarships if sanctions were imposed.
Enough felt at ease that 16 signed national letters of intent Wednesday, joining three others who had already enrolled for the spring semester.
But one player who proclaimed that he had chosen the Trojans might not make it official before April.
Offensive lineman Seantrel Henderson, perhaps the top prospect in the nation, announced Wednesday on television in New York that he had picked USC over Miami and Ohio State, which put the Trojans on course to wind up with college football's top recruiting class, according to Rivals.com.
Henderson, from St. Paul, Minn., has not signed a letter of intent, his father telling the New York Times on Wednesday night that his son would wait until after USC's meeting with the NCAA this month before deciding whether he will honor the very public non-binding verbal commitment.
Coaches and university administrators are prohibited under NCAA rules from talking about recruits until they have signed letters of intent. But a source familiar with Henderson's recruitment said the Trojans were surprised by his decision to hold off.
So were recruiting experts.
"He's been researching this decision for months and months and months," said Jeremy Crabtree, the executive recruiting editor for Rivals.com. "I can't imagine this was new information.
"So to go on TV and then not sign was surprising."
USC's athletic program is under investigation stemming from allegations former football player Reggie Bush and basketball player O.J. Mayo received improper benefits while with the Trojans. A USC contingent is scheduled to go before the NCAA infractions committee Feb. 19.
In a TV interview a few weeks ago, receiver Dillon Baxter said he was told, "The worst that could happen . . . is take some [victories] away. But I mean other than that, nothing could affect me or any of my teammates in the future."
Baxter graduated from San Diego Mission Bay High a semester early and is attending classes at USC.
Giovanni Di Poalo, an offensive lineman from Ventura St. Bonaventure, said his family broached the subject of possible NCAA sanctions with Trojans coaches a few times.
"They felt it wasn't going to be a big problem but we knew they were going to say that," he said. "We looked into it and they were more truthful than we thought."
Joe Di Poalo, Giovanni's father, said he remained "a little concerned but obviously not too much. USC outweighed that by what we wanted out of a school and a football program."