When the NCAA put Southern California on a four-year probation that took effect in 2010, the NCAA placed scholarship limits on the school’s football team. It was supposed to be a penalty, but in recruiting, it might be a boon.
For the first time since 1998, the two American Family Insurance ALL-USA Offensive and Defensive Players of the Year are planning to attend the same university. Skyline (Sammamish, Wash.) quarterback Max Browne and Vista Murrieta (Murrieta, Calif.) safety Su’a Cravens both say they plan to enroll next month at USC.
According to Rivals.com, the Trojans have the No. 1 recruiting class even with only 16 players who have said they will sign, an indication of the quality of the class.
“It’s just the power of USC,” football coach Lane Kiffin said. “Recruits (in general) know they’re playing with a reduced roster — they know there’s not as many players coming in. But they figure going to USC is worth it, not just for the degree but for the connections you make here.”
Scout.com recruiting analyst Brandon Huffman said USC’s scholarship limits might have made the school more in demand.
“It almost came to the point that a USC scholarship offer was so exclusive, it really attracted an elite prospect,” Huffman said. “They told players, ‘We’re only offering the best.’ That’s kind of how they sold this class.”
Kiffin said while that wasn’t his pitch, good players have seen they could contribute quickly.
“You know if you come here, you’ll get a great shot to play right away,” he said, pointing out that Leonard Williams, Marqise Lee, Robert Woods and Dion Bailey were named Pac-12 freshman of the year in recent years. “That has a lot of impact.”
It also helps the Trojans that Browne and Cravens, as early enrollees, count against last year’s scholarship limit. That means that instead of the only 15 scholarships, the team could have more depending on attritition and if other players enroll early. With the team limited to only 75 scholarships overall, the Trojans need all the healthy players they can get.
“Our biggest issue is attrition,” Kiffin said. “In general, the early enrolee, because of the reduced numbers, helps us have more guys for spring practice. It obviously helps the kids having a whole semester under the belt.”
Browne said he can’t wait to get started.
“It’s so important to get to know the offense and the college football atmosphere,” Browne said. “That extra six months on campus is critical at the quarterback position.”
Huffman said that both Browne and Cravens could contribute right away.
“Cravens could start right away at safety or linebacker,” Huffman said. “I think Max Browne has a chance to contribute right away. There’s going to be an open quarterback competition in the spring.”
CBS College Sports recruiting analyst Tom Lemming said the sales job by Kiffin and assistant Ed Orgeron is impressive.
“They’re the best recruiting duo in the country,” Lemming said. Despite probation, despite not having a great year, they sell their school better than anyone in the country. These are guys who have recruiting as a hobby and that’s why they’re so effective. They don’t golf.”