From August to February, USC saw eight of its prized commits elect to part ways with the Trojans, four of which coming just weeks before National Signing Day. The narrative spun at the time was that Lane Kiffin couldn’t close and that the 7-6 record from 2012 dramatically impacted the perception of USC in the minds of recruits. On Twitter, countless jokes were made about the de-commitments coming out of Troy, and it became yet another black mark against the Lane Kiffin era.
Or was it?
Reign of Troy recently learned from multiple sources within in program and within the recruiting sphere, the circumstances surrounding the de-commitments from USC, as told from the perspective inside the McKay Center.
One of the biggest hits the USC class of 2013 came when five-star defensive back Jalen Ramsey de-committed, after having been one of the pillars of the class, dating back to last summer. What made the situation all the more painful for Troy was the fact that a mere 48 hours before Signing Day, when word came out that Ramsey was de-committing, sources both inside the program and with connections to the Florida recruiting scene tell us that he and his family contacted Lane Kiffin and his staff to say, “don’t worry.” They were definitely still all-in on USC.
When it came time to sign, the decision was made to Florida State on Signing Day. Per a different source close to the Seminoles program, Ramsey and his family had actually been secretly committed to Florida State for about a month leading up, though they routinely told USC’s staff otherwise.
Why the change of heart?
Had Ramsey come to USC, the spotlight was on him to step up and be a pivotal playmaker early due to the departure of Nickell Robey and depleted secondary. With his talent and projected worth at the college level, this was nothing short of what was to be expected. According to our source within the SC program, the coaching staff believes that the pressure of headlining the Trojans’ pass defense was too much for Ramsey, and he chose to attend Florida State, where he wouldn’t be thrown into the fire with as much haste.
Not only that, but Ramsey let the Twitter hype get to him, according to a source close to Florida State’s recruiting class. Ramsey deleted his identified Twitter account and began obsessively checking blogs and message boards to see how many people thought he would flip. In short, he and his family stayed committed to USC while knowing they had intentions of signing with Florida State, to deflect attention from Ramsey.
Then there was the case of defensive end Jason Hatcher, who de-committed, then recommitted, then de-committed again within two weeks. According to our source within the USC program, Hatcher did not de-commit, as much as USC dropped his scholarship offer, due to a number of character issues came up that the Trojans were not willing to risk. Not only that, but with Clancy Pendergast taking over the USC defense, we were told that Hatcher’s skill set wasn’t flush with new system at hand.
So why did he “de-commit” if his offer had actually been pulled?
Our source tells us that Hatcher had been advised it by USC coaches that it was in his best interest to say he de-committed, because if he said he had been dropped from USC, other schools may have backed off or delved into the Trojans’ rationale. According to recruiting analysts that we’ve reached out to, this is not uncommon in recruiting, as schools try to save face from a pulled scholarship while looking out a said recruit.
A similar situation happened with wide receiver Eldridge Massington, one of USC’s earliest de-commits. The Texas product tore his ACL last fall, and at the time, USC honored their offer to him. According to our source within the USC program, what the Trojans couldn’t honor though, was Massington not being honest with the coaching staff about how he tore his ACL. Massington told the coaches that he tore it practicing with his high school team, but per our source, he tore it while participating in 7-on-7 drills while taking a visit to Tennessee, a visit he was told not to take in the first place, which led to his offer being pulled. Like Hatcher, Massington was advised to say he de-committed so as not to hurt himself with other college football programs. Massington wound up choosing to go to UCLA, along with Kylie Fitts.
For Fitts, his flip to UCLA seemed motivated by having been asked to defer his enrollment until the fall to make way for another player in a position of more imminent need, but it wasn’t so easy. Fitts always said that USC was his “dream school”, and that did not change, even in light of what happened. On the Sunday before National Signing Day, “Kylie Fitts was a Trojan,” a source close to the situation tells Reign of Troy.
So what changed his mind?
Fitt’s high school coach, the uncle of UCLA cheerleader, got in his head and made him feel guilty about still wanting to go to USC, articulated a source close to Fitts’s recruitment.
For defensive linemen Torrodney Prevot and Eddie Vanderdoes, multiple sources have reiterated that changes in defensive schemes and concerns of depth may have led Prevot and Vanderdoes to sign with Oregon and Notre Dame.
Prevot likely would have moved back to linebacker in Clancy Pendergast’s scheme, where the Trojans were loading up with Quinton Powell, Michael Hutchings and the could-have-been signing of Matthew Thomas. With Vanderdoes, his original commitment was prior to Leonard Williams’ breakout freshman season, plus Pendergast’s system brings forward just two and three down linemen at times, creating a logjam with upwards of 11 other players for a reduced number of spots.
Had the Trojans not fallen to a 7-6 season, competition may have never been considered an issue, though our source within USC claims that playing time was pivotal for Prevot and Vanderdoes.
Now, in light of all of those de-commitments, Kiffin could have extended scholarship offers to other athletes, specifically those in California. However, according to our source within the program, he was strongly advised against it on the grounds that, by bringing in only 12 guys for 2013, USC could essentially nullify the scholarship reduction in 2014 due to the bundle of extra scholarships now available.
It’s easy to blame Kiffin for everything that goes wrong in Troy, as he is the poster child for bad behavior and the media takes advantage of the fact that he rarely makes direct and sincere excuses for his decisions. Though to our multiple sources close to the recruiting of the Class of 2013 however, jumping the gun on Kiffin isn’t prudent, given the talent that did sign at USC.
Not to mention that despite a 7-6 record, when you take the Matthew Thomas situation into account, he earned pledges from not one but two linebackers from the state of Florida on Signing Day. Considering the hot seat Kiffin encompasses, that’s not terrible.