On the eve of Dec. 10, Tee Martin lay in bed with a decision to make. He could return to Tennessee, his alma mater and the source of his glory, as an assistant coach. Or he could stay on at USC, a program that epically imploded in 2012 and made itself the laughingstock of college football. He could go back home to his native SEC country, or stay in LA, where those around the Trojan program learned that all that glitters most certainly is not gold. As this decision weigh on his mind, not many seemed concerned about the implications of Coach Tee leaving. And ultimately, they didn’t have to; on the morn of Dec. 11, he announced that he would stay on as the wide receiver coach at USC.
That decision was one of the best things to happen in Troy this offseason.
Hardly an eye was batted throughout the brief courting of Coach Tee, but it is abundantly clear now how detrimental a loss of him could have been. USC boasts heavy-hitting recruiters like head coach Lane Kiffin and defensive line coach Ed Orgeron, all the while Coach Tee has been proving himself to be the ace in the hole for the Trojans. Because of him, USC has gotten Jalen Ramsey to leave his native Tennessee to play some west coast football. But it’s not just Ramsey; in his year with Troy, Coach Tee has been pivotal in USC landing DT Kenny Bigelow, OG Khaliel Rodgers, DE Jason Hatcher, and DB Leon McQuay III out of the South, as well as WR Steven Mitchell from California. It was largely Coach Tee (and USC’s academics) that convinced McQuay to enroll early at SC. It was Coach Tee again that helped convince Hatcher to recommit to USC a week after de-committing. It has been Coach Tee that has enabled USC to keep their top-ranked recruiting class together. Of the six commits for which he is responsible, their average rating, according to Rivals, is 4.5 stars.
And Coach Tee’s not done yet.
LB Matthew Thomas visited USC two weeks ago as a part of the mass official visit the Trojans hosted, and considers his interest in USC to be “high”. He is a five-star prospect out of Miami, FL, ranked 4th overall in his native state and second in the country at his position. Coach Tee is recruiting this guy hard, and if history is any indication, this could go a long way in determining his decision. He has it narrowed to five schools, with USC being the only one west of Tuscaloosa: Georgia, Florida State, Miami and Alabama are also vying for his commitment. Thomas visited Florida State last weekend and the Seminoles were thought to be his leader, but then when offensive coordinator James Coley left to take a position of the same title with Miami, Thomas’ recruitment opened up a little bit. Now, Miami is considered the team to beat, but USC does have a chance.
In addition to Thomas, Martin’s recruitment of Florida’s Quinton Powell cannot be understated. After his official visit to USC, he cancelled all other visits he had planned and has publicly stated that it is down to Florida and the Trojans. Based on Twitter activity–which we all know is incredibly reliable–the list of people Powell himself follows shows a strong Trojan slant. He recently followed a string of currently Trojan athletes–specifically those who play his position and those from Florida–as well as Trojan commits.
If the Trojans land Thomas or Powell, Martin’s value to the program increases that much more. Because of him, teams will now have to compete with USC’s storied athletic legacy and yet another popular coach with SEC pedigree and clout. The work he has done on the field with Marqise Lee and the wide receivers speaks for itself, but it is his work off the field that really has gone the distance for SC.
While other coaches get pegged as the faces of USC recruiting, Coach Tee hangs back and does his thing under the radar, neither asking for nor requiring credit. He is one of USC’s more underrated coaches, but he is one of the Trojans’ biggest assets.
When Coach Tee announced he would stay in LA, he said, ““I just feel like we have a bright future. I made a commitment to my players at USC. It feels great to be wanted, but I feel like we are doing something special where I am.”
What he didn’t say was that much of that “something special” he alluded to stems from talent he helped secure.
Call him humble, call him valuable, call him whatever you want–the Trojan community should be thankful to call him “coach.”