Now that the dust has begun to clear on the news that USC’s appeal of its penalties has been denied, fans of other schools in the Pac-12 are asking the inevitable question — will this help us?
In the case of the Huskies, the answer is that it definitely can, and probably will. But as Jacob Worthen, a recruiting analyst for Scout.com and Fox.com noted, it’s important to remember that UW will be far from alone in trying to capitalize.
Worthen, in fact, says the schools that may be best positioned at the moment to take advantage are Oregon and Cal, the two schools that have done the most damage the last few years in landing top-level recruits out of Los Angeles.
“You’ve seen (Oregon) start to pull some of those guys that may have gone to USC,” he said. “Cal as well, they have had unbelieveable classes the last two seasons, and you’ll see them poach some of those guys, as well.”
He says UW right now is in the next tier of schools, along with UCLA (whose recruiting efforts he says are hurt greatly right now by the uncertainty of Rick Neuheisel’s future) and the Arizona schools.
“Washington is going to be a team that benefits,” he said. “UW recruits Los Angeles as hard as any school not in the city, so they are going to have an opportunity.”
As a refresher of how the news impacts recruiting:
— USC is limited to signing 15 players in a class for the next three years (25 is the usual limit);
— and is also limited to having 75 players on scholarship at a time (compared to the usual 85).
At the moment, USC would appear unable to have room to sign 15 for the Class of 2012, with its current roster listing 69 players who could be on the team in 2012. But given that there’s usually attrition of some sort — and could be even more in this situation — Worthen says it’s probably safe to assume USC will have close to 15 scholarships, if not the full 15, by the time the Feb. 1 signing date rolls around.
Still, that’s 10 or so players next year — and 30 over the next three years — that USC won’t be able to sign.
“You’ll see a trickle-down effect of the talent,” Worthen said. “I’m sure Oregon is going to get two kids they wouldn’t have gotten otherwise, and Cal will get two kids, and Washington will get a kid and Arizona will get a kid. I think it will be spread out across the Pac-12 and even the playing field in that sense. … I think it’s going to dramatically affect USC (losing 10 players per year) but for the rest of the Pac-12, it’s going to be a 2-3-athlete per class difference, at best.”
Still, those 2-3 athletes could be elite ones, as Worthen notes, and could make a big difference, especially over a three-year span.
Worthen says the unknown is how recruits react to the news that USC’s sanctions are now permanent.
He said he didn’t think it hurt USC at all a year ago, saying “there’s not a single recruit I can recall that decided to pass on USC because of the sanctions.”
He also said the impact of the bowl ban is mitigated by the fact that that now won’t impact future recruits — USC didn’t go last year and won’t go this year, but future recruits will be eligible to go to bowls throughout their careers.
What Worthen says he thinks will happen is USC will work quickly to fill up most of its class, which will then leave the rest of the Pac-12 (as well as other bigger-name schools nationally that are sure to come into LA and give it a shot) to fight over a larger pool of players.
“It’ll be easier for the rest of the Pac-12 schools to look at who is available and pursue those kids,” he said.
The scholarship penalty is similar to what UW experienced in the mid-90s when it was limited to 15 signees in 1994 and 1995 (though not limited in overall number on scholarship).
Husky fans probably remember all too well that UW was still able to sign a lot of top-flight talent (Benji Olson, Tony Coats in 94, and Brock Huard, Lester Towns and Olin Kreutz in 95) but that the lack of depth hurt the Huskies down the road and having to let some players who it might normally have signed go elsewhere. In one of the more notable instances, UW in 1995 decided it could offer only one of in-state linebackers Marques Hairston and Peter Sirmon (some details of that here).
UW took Hairston with Sirmon, a native of Walla Walla, instead signing with Oregon where he went on to become an All-Pac-10 linebacker and a seven-year career in the NFL.
Those same kinds of decisions will now be faced by USC.
“If you miss, and instead of taking three linebackers you can only pull in two and if one of those guys doesn’t pan out, it can really hurt them down the road,” Worthen said.