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USC FOOTBALL

Some USC recruits are familiar with Kiffin

Those who considered Tennessee as well as USC are happy the coach is coming on board and the players plan to honor their commitments to Trojans.

January 13, 2010|By Ben Bolch

Introductions won't be necessary the next time Lane Kiffin and Jesse Scroggins see one another.

Kiffin wooed the standout Lakewood High quarterback last spring during a recruiting visit to Tennessee paid for by the player's family.

"I was in their office for 2 1/2 days because Jesse was his No. 1 target at the time," the player's father, Jesse Sr., said Tuesday night.

Scroggins eventually committed to USC but remained fond of Kiffin. So when Scroggins learned that Kiffin had been hired to succeed Pete Carroll as coach of the Trojans, he couldn't believe how things had turned out.

"It kind of worked out for me all the way around," Scroggins said. "I got another coach that I love. And I stayed home. That's the other plus."

Scroggins had said he would consider other colleges in addition to USC if the Trojans did not name Carroll's successor by Saturday morning, but school officials beat that deadline by four days. Scroggins said he was impressed by Kiffin's pro-style philosophy for offense and was "definitely" going to honor his commitment.

At least two other USC recruits also are quite familiar with Kiffin. Lakewood safety Dion Bailey and Hillsdale (Ill.) Proviso West receiver Kyle Prater were among the players being pursued by the coach when he was at Tennessee.

Prater took an unofficial visit to Knoxville, Tenn., last summer and likes Kiffin's reputation for leading prolific offenses, said Proviso West Coach Famous Hulbert. When Prater heard that Kiffin was succeeding Carroll, Hulbert said, "He was excited."

Although Prater had been scheduled to start classes at USC on Monday, Hulbert had advised him to go home from an all-star game to evaluate his options after Carroll's departure for the Seattle Seahawks. But Hulbert said Prater could be in Los Angeles to begin classes as soon as next week "as long as the conversation with Coach Kiffin goes well."

Hulbert said Prater had picked USC for more than just its head coach, listing the school's tradition, the campus atmosphere and the opportunity to play with sophomore quarterback Matt Barkley.

"In all actuality," Hulbert said, "it may end up being better for Kyle now. Now everyone has to learn a new offense together. And the last time I checked, USC broke all those records with Lane Kiffin calling the plays. He loves big wide receivers. The way he fed Mike Williams the ball, ah, man, Kyle is excited about that."

Harold Bailey said his son, the star Lakewood safety, was similarly thrilled at the prospect of playing for Kiffin.

"When he heard the news he looked at me and his expression was, man, are you serious, Dad? Is Lane Kiffin really coming?" Bailey said. "He was excited. It's ironic that the staff that's been recruiting Dion will now be at SC."

Gardena Serra receiver Robert Woods, another top national recruit who had committed to USC, was expected to stick with the Trojans.

However, San Diego Mission Bay running back Dillon Baxter, who had verbally committed to USC, was "up in the air" before the Kiffin announcement. Baxter, the U.S. Army All-American Bowl national player of the year, also was being pursued by Florida.

ben.bolch@latimes.com

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