February 4, 2009

Wild year could force tactical changes

It hasn't taken long for the lessons learned throughout the recruiting process to hit the Trojan coaches square in the jaw.

It's as simple as a linebacker putting on a green hat instead of a cardinal one, leaving the coaches to ask a simple question - why?

USC head coach Pete Carroll has his theories for why the 2009 recruiting class turned out the way it did.

"When you take shots at guys that are so good that they have 30 and 40 scholarship offers and coaches coming and going, it's hard to tell sometimes how it will wind up. It goes in both directions," Carroll said. "You never get all the guys you want. We always are left wanting three or four other guys you wish you could've nailed. But it's also the three or four other guys you get from other schools that they feel the same way about.

"There's a give and take there."

Carroll and his staff did pull off some major surprises, but they also were left wanting more.

Really, the failures - a word used loosely in describing the No. 4 ranked class - fall into one or two categories.

Family Matters

Carroll said there was one major listen he learned since beginning to compile his 2009 class.

"You have to recruit the parents as well as the kids. You have to figure out who is going to make the call. That, sometimes, is the challenge," he said. "You have to continue to figure out who is going to make the call. Sometimes it's the high school coach. Sometimes it's the mentor or a big brother or the mom or the dad.

"You have to figure that out."

The Trojans won over plenty of parents Carroll said. But on misses like Manti Te'o and Randall Carroll, parents seemed to be pushing their sons away from Troy.

"It always looms as a huge factor. Sometimes it works for you; sometimes it works against you."

Too much, too soon

Fresh off announcing their 2008 recruiting class, the Trojans began stockpiling recruits like Vontaze Burfict, Morrell Presley, Randall Carroll and Alshon Jeffery. By Wednesday night, none were announced as part of USC's 17-man class.

"I think we've proven that we can open strong and finish strong," USC recruiting coordinator Brennan Carroll said. "The problem is, when you open strong, your commits will be bombarded by other schools looking to negatively recruit against you. I think we'll definitely change our approach this year."

And the problem extends past USC.

"It seems like that guys who committed really early had a hard time sticking to it. We saw that throughout the country. There's an obvious effect there," Pete Carroll said. "Guys that have committed really early, everyone knows where they're going. They all focus their attack on one school. When they don't know, they're fighting against everyone.

"It does lend to a kid being under barrage when a kid commits early."

Carroll said the coaches inform players the downside to an early commitment.

"It can be hard on those kids and hard on those families," he said. "We feel like we have to deal with it individually. We're well in tune with letting kids and families know that if you commit early, this is going to put you in this kind of position.

"We prepare them for it."

And after having four players decommit and another decommit before signing Wednesday, Brennan Carroll said USC might have to change up its tactics.

"I think we have to evaluate some things - mainly how we accept commitments," Carroll. "The process of how we've accepted commitments may need to change in the future. With guys committing and then wavering, it seemed like anything could happen with this past class."

Pete Carroll agreed that 2009 got off to a wild start.

"This was a particularly exciting couple of days," he said. "Things were flying all over the place."

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