Pete Carroll won the NFC Championship game with the Seattle Seahawks, last Sunday. As a result, he is headed to the Super Bowl with a couple of players he coached back at USC. A mere five years ago, he was finalizing USC’s 2009 recruiting class— the final class he brought in as the Trojan head coach.
The last few holdovers from that class finally left after their redshirt senior year in 2013. The signing class of 18 began with Matt Barkley’s spring enrollment and ended with players like De’Von Flournoy, Kevin Graf, John Martinez, and Devon Kennard just this past season.
The class was filled with big name high school players with high rankings. Scout had the class ranked #9 in the nation while Rivals and 247Sports both placed it in the top five. Furthermore, the average ranking of each player was the highest in the nation. Sound familiar?
The problem with it all was that USC signed well under the maximum number of 25 scholarship players. That does not even include the six leftover scholarships that would have rolled over for early enrollees. During the second half of Carroll’s tenure at USC, he tended to undersign for recruiting classes, which dug Lane Kiffin into a bigger hole when he inherited a sanctioned program.
This class had to deal with probably the most any single USC recruiting class had to, experiencing the loss of three head coaches, dozens of staff changes, and sanctions before the redshirt seniors graduated.
As expected, USC lost a few players in the whole process. Six players left the football program before the end of their junior season.
James Boyd, a 4-star athlete, left USC in 2011 and eventually transferred to UNLV. He had redshirted and never played a meaningful snap for USC.
Hebron Fangupo, a 4-star defensive tackle out of junior college, played three games before being injured. He transferred to BYU and left as an undrafted free agent to Texans. After he was cut, he was picked up by Carroll and the Seahawks, but was cut again. He has finally found a place with the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Patrick Hall, a 5-star athlete, was suspended indefinitely by Kiffin in 2010. He was injured for the 2011 season and announced he would transfer. His trail becomes hard to follow from there.
Jarvis Jones, a 4-star linebacker/defensive end hybrid, played in eight games before getting a neck injury. Doctors found a medical condition and did not clear him to play. He eventually transferred to Georgia and became a first found NFL draft pick. He now plays for the Pittsburgh Steelers alongside Fangupo.
Byron Moore, a 4-star safety, left USC in 2010 and then transferred to Tennesee. Like Boyd, he redshirted his freshman year and never played in a game with USC.
Frankie Telfort, a 4-star linebacker, was diagnosed with heart problems that led to his retirement from football. He never played for the Trojans, but they still honored his scholarship. He still found a way to contribute to the team as a student coach, which helped him get an internship with Carroll’s Seahawks.
The total player attrition count before the end of their third year came out to six— one-third of the 2009 recruiting class. For comparison, the 2007 class lost four out of 18 and the 2008 class lost seven out of nineteen. Considering all the crazy occurrences, it was actually not that terrible.
In fact, out of the four 5-star players, three of them ended up contributing greatly as starters during their first or second year at USC. Hall was the only one who could be considered a “bust” in any sense of the word. The pair of 7s, Barkley and T.J. McDonald, were captains before leaving for the draft together in 2013. Devon Kennard became a captain for the 2013 season and will look to get drafted in the 2014 NFL Draft.
Barkley and McDonald are two of the three in this class to leave after the 2012 season. Jawanza Starling, a three-year starter alongside McDonald at safety, is also one of the trio. All three are now in the NFL. Barkley was a 4th round draft pick by the Eagles. McDonald went in the 3rd round as the Rams pick. Starling was signed to the Texans as an undrafted free agent.
Jacob Harfman, the 2-star punter from California junior college, punted for the Trojans for two years before exhausting his eligibility. He was the only one to leave during following the 2010 season.
The last eight were pretty much all 4-star players who have just used up the rest of their eligibility. The only two exceptions are Simione Vehikite, a 2-star fullback, and Kevin Greene, a 3-star defensive end who was used briefly as a tight end in 2013. The rest are Kevin Graf, John Martinez, Torin Harris, De’Von Flournoy, Devon Kennard, and Marquis Simmons. A couple will probably look to be drafted in 2014.
That makes four players who played through their senior year, eight who played through their redshirt senior year, an astounding zero who left early for the draft, and six who left for other reasons.
In the end, it was a decent class that probably could have been better if USC had used the entire scholarship allotment for 2009.
One has to wonder how well they meshed with the later classes, which were essentially all of Kiffin’s recruits. Out of pure speculation, perhaps this played a part in the 2012 breakdown, when the majority flipped in favor of Kiffin’s recruits— and then Orgeron’s “One team, one heartbeat” mended some of those wounds.