Tate Martell to Texas A&M: USC Misses Another Elite QB


For the third time in six months, Steve Sarkisian’s USC Trojans have missed out on adding an elite quarterback to future recruiting classes. Highly touted boy wonder Tate Martell committed to Texas A&M on Thursday night.

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While Martell is in the 2017 class, USC is fresh off missing on 2016 five-stars Shea Patterson and K.J. Costello. And if they’re not careful, five-star 2017 quarterback Tua Tagovailoa might be the next misstep. They can’t afford that.

Why does this keep happening? It’s not a simple answer. Every recruit picks a school for different reasons. Though in USC’s case, a common thread is that the Trojans have had to bounce around a bit.

They were all-in on Patterson until it looked like he was going elsewhere, and then they needed to shift their attention to Costello. But at that point, they were already behind Stanford’s pursuit of the big Santa Margarita quarterback.

In a lot of ways, it’s like recruiting on EA Sports’s NCAA Football series. USC has had to balance how many recruiting points they’re going to spend on whom, making it tough to manage.

Sam Darnold and 2016 commit Matt Fink are steps in the right direction, but the Trojans need a blockbuster in 2017.

With regards to Patterson and Costello, those are losses that stung but weren’t crippling due to the depth the Trojans have built up in 2015, when they added both Ricky Town and Sam Darnold.

That’s always made 2017 the year that USC absolutely couldn’t miss on, making Martell such a needed get. And if not him, Tagovailoa, an equally regarded prospect.

Add in the recent development of Town’s transfer, and the need to get an elite dual-threat quarterback of the future to once and for all change the style of the USC offense is imperative. It’s directly tied to the longterm of the Sarkisian era, if it’s going to go in the direction he wishes it to.

Dual-threats Darnold and 2016 commit Matt Fink are steps in the right direction, but the Trojans need a blockbuster in 2017. They won’t be getting one of them now, as the ship has sailed on Martell.

The chase for the Bishop Gorman quarterback opened up on January 6th when he de-committed from Washington. He originally gave his verbal to the Huskies in 2012 as an eighth grader to none other than Sarkisian. So almost immediately, USC was in the drivers seat.

That lasted for a long time as far as recruiting is concerned, a situation they were in with Patterson before he ultimately committed to Ole Miss.

Martell visited campus multiple times, and after the Trojans’ annual spring game in April, had USC as his No. 1 school.

He even had his adopted brother and four-star wide receiver recruit Tyjon Lindsey right in the mix as a package deal for Sarkisian. This was going to be Sark’s second time getting Martell and it was going to be an ideal one.

Sep 26, 2014; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Bishop Gorman Gaels quarterback Tate Martell (18) looks to pass the ball during a game against St. John Bosco High School at Fertitta Field. Bishop Gorman won the game 34-31. Mandatory Credit: Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports

But even as the Trojans led, the writing was always on the wall that a Texas A&M offer would turn everything upside down. Their offense fits Martell now, unlike USC’s.

After the Aggies finally offered on May 13th, it took just two weeks for them to sit atop Martell’s next top list. He listed them ahead of Alabama and USC on May 28th.

From that point on, the momentum was all with Kevin Sumlin, as the Trojans were left trying to make up ground they couldn’t ultimately recapture.

So here USC is now, in an eerily similar spot to February. Like with Patterson, they missed out on a Johnny Manziel compared quarterback to the SEC. And they now target a quarterback, Tagovailoa, that they’re widely considered in the lead for, despite knowing that one offer can change everything.

For Tagovailoa, that’s Oregon. As a quarterback at St. Louis School in Honolulu, a lot of pressure is on the Hawaiian dual-threat quarterback to follow in the footsteps of 2014 Heisman Trophy winner Marcus Mariota.

It almost feels similar to the pressure on Manti Te’o, albeit for different reasons, and from arch-rival Punahou.

He wanted to go to his dream school USC, but ultimately sided with family to head to the perceived safe environment of Notre Dame. There, nothing unbecoming would ever happen. Ever.

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Needless to say, USC cannot lose Tagovailoa to Oregon. They have to close now, as absurd as that is, considering he’s 18 months from being able to sign a letter of intent.

All of the recruiting points need to be maxed out. And maybe if they are, I won’t have to re-write this column as I did six months ago about Martell following Patterson’s pledge to Ole Miss.

If there’s one thing on USC’s side however, Tagovailoa is the lone candidate at the moment.

At least for now. At least until Oregon offers.

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