Foam Finger: Trojan Football Hardly Fighting On

This is the role reversal that’s felt inevitable; the one I’ve been fearing since UCLA’s big November win

Leading up to national signing day, the Trojans lost three big-time recruits in Jalen Ramsey, Eddie Vanderdoes, and Max Redfield, all of whom opted to go with Notre Dame—a team that, as anybody in the Trojan Family will remember, had an epic run this season and embarrassed the Cardinal and Gold at home. I’m not upset because of the signing day losses, which included the three five-star recruits mentioned above and culminated in the signing of only 12 players (one of the smallest classes in NCAA football). It’s annoying, yes—if ’SC coach Lane Kiffin had held on to that forlorn trio, the Trojans would’ve had more five-stars than any other competitor combined—but what I’m more upset about is the slow shift the losses represent.

Googling USC brings up a swath of salty recruiting headlines. (Kiffin, at the signing day press conference: “It may feel like today was a loss because there were not a lot of USC wins.”) Oddly enough, though, USC, which has been lauded historically as one of the NCAA’s best recruiting schools, inked a record-setting 2013 class. Though the squad is only 12 players stronger, USC earned the highest star ranking (4.42) in history (the site began tracking football bowl subdivision recruitingin 2002). By average star ranking, the second and third place spots are held by USC as well, but by squads that had 18 (4.22) and 20 (4.20) signees. USC has set a record. Now it’ll be up to Kiffin and Co. to make the most out of their small group. The Trojans see potential stars in quarterback Max Browne, safety Su’a Cravens, and defensive tackle Kenny Bigelow. Still, the signing day losses sting.

According to UCLA finished signing day with an 11th overall ranking, inking 23 commits for a rating of 3.65. USC finished 13th in the same field. Even though it’s only two spots lower, it feels representative of the subtle changing of the guard we’ve been watching take place on the L.A. gridiron. There’s no NFL team for Angelenos to root for—we’ve just got the two college powerhouses, and USC has been the premier team for a long while now. But now more than ever, UCLA will have the chance to shine. If UCLA’s bounce-back win against the Trojans last November proved anything, it’s that hiring their new football coach, Jim Mora, was a good move, and if this year’s recruiting hall proves anything, it’s that the Bruin football program means business. No more are the years embarrassing USC-UCLA shutouts and drubbings.

The previous time USC lost to UCLA was in 2006. After that loss USC pulled in a No. 2-ranked recruiting class—UCLA’s was 36. My, how the tables have turned. UCLA’s program isn’t an excuse wrapped up in powder blue and gold anymore. They’re dangerous and they’re going to be giving USC a run for their money. A USC fan myself, I don’t like it, not one bit. This is looking like just the beginning—or the end. Depends on how you look at it, I guess.