How will USC football fix recruiting: Coaches pledge every day energy

Alicia de Artola/Reign of Troy
Alicia de Artola/Reign of Troy /

USC football plans to fix its recruiting problem with new assistant coaches who are committed to putting in the energy, all day, every day.

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USC football’s recruiting woes in 2020, and to a slightly lesser extent in 2019, are well documented.

The Trojans finished with the 55th-ranked class for 2020. Even in a one-off, even if it was slightly impacted by the small size of the class, that’s an entirely unacceptable showing.

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It’s especially troubling as it certainly wasn’t a one-off. The class of 2019 was a disappointing 19th nationally. It was the worst recruiting showing for USC in the internet era. That is until the 2020 class arrived.

So how will USC reverse course and reclaim their recruiting dominance in the west?

It all starts with the new collection of assistants who are committed to changing the energy on the recruiting trail.

Donte Williams already stands out. He was the top recruiter in the Pac-12 for Oregon in the 2020 cycle and his ability to connect with prospects is top-tier.

When asked how he thinks he’ll impact USC’s recruiting efforts his answer was one word: “Greatly.”

“I didn’t really come here to be liked,” Williams added. “We’re here to make sure that we’re respected and we’re feared.”

His explanation for how USC will restore respect and fear on the recruiting trail hit on two main points.

First, great recruiters have to be willing to be on at all times of the day.

“I think the biggest thing about being a recruiter is if you’re up for 24-straight hours you’ve got to recruit for 24-straight hours, not for 23,” Williams said.

If he goes to sleep at 2 a.m. Pacific, he’s conscious of the east coast recruit who wakes up at 5 a.m. Eastern and shoots him a text to check in.

Those texts aren’t form letters either.

Williams knows he can’t mail it in when contacting recruits, since players talk to each other and it can get out quickly if a coach is being disingenuous with anyone. So each interaction is personalized and real.

He also knows that complacency is the enemy.

“If you all of a sudden think that just because we’re USC, just because he’s local someone is going to come here, you’re wrong,” Williams said. “We’re going to out-recruit other people. By doing that it’s a 24-hour job, seven days a week. You have to be willing to do that.”

Nor does it end when the season arrives. Williams said winning games is the key to convincing local recruits to stay home, but the recruiting efforts have to continue even as the season progresses.

Williams isn’t alone in that messaging.

“Recruiting is like shaving,” safeties coach Craig Naivar said. “If you don’t do it daily you look like crap.”

Naivar emphasized the importance of recruiting as a staff.

“It’s not just one guy recruiting a certain player,” Naivar said. “It’s four, five, six guys who need constant communication with that young man and his family to where he feels like ‘USC is recruiting me, not just a particular guy.'”

Defensive coordinator Todd Orlando pressed the idea of connecting with recruits, beyond even the level of football.

“As coaches, you do it for a reason of caring for someone. You’re going to be responsible for them getting their degree. You’re going to be responsible for the pitfalls that they have at this place,” Orlando said. “They want to make sure if I’m going to spend a lot of time with this guy there’s something more than football. You either have that in your DNA as a coach and as a recruiter, or you don’t.”

USC’s new coaching staff is saying all the right things. Now they simply have to prove they have that DNA. It’ll take everyday energy to keep it going.

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