It was supposed to be a down year for USC football.
After the program dominated the college football world for quite some time, the NCAA finally brought the Trojans down to earth.
Former USC running back Reggie Bush was found to have received improper benefits.
So, the NCAA decided to ram it down USC’s throat — much like Bush did to his opponents during his three-year career wearing the cardinal and gold.
The NCAA gave us a pretty good beating, too, taking away a total of 30 scholarships over the 2011, 2012 and 2013 seasons and imposing a two-year bowl ban.
Aside from the brutal punishment, a subpar 8-5 season by USC standards topped it all off.
Not all was lost, however — we still managed to defeat crosstown rival UCLA and that definitely counts for something far larger than just one victory.
Now you can tally up a couple more victories — or even more — in the recruiting process.
And with National Signing Day over, it seems as if nothing has really changed around this town.
USC still owns UCLA in football, on and off the field.
On the field, that’s old news.
But off the field, it could have been a different story, at least according to UCLA coach Rick Neuheisel.
In an ad created by the UCLA marketing department in August 2008, Neuheisel is pictured pointing with the caption, “The football monopoly in Los Angeles is finally over.”
Mind you, the word “over” was boldly printed to make a statement.
But that’s not the idea I’m getting at.
Along with the eight spring enrollees, USC coach Lane Kiffin and his staff have taken full advantage of using every scholarship to land top-notch talent, pulling in a total of 30 commits.
At the start of the day, USC was the fifth-best nationally ranked recruiting class and now it stands as the fourth-best in the nation, according to Rivals.com.
Though USC did lose four-star offensive lineman Troy Niklas to Notre Dame and three-star linebacker Kent Turene to Georgia, it still managed to pry big names prospects away from attending their hometown schools.
Four-star offensive guard, and the nation’s No. 64 overall according to Rivals.com, prospect Aundrey Walker spurned his native Ohio State University to come to the Trojans and four-star defensive tackle Christian Heyward, the nation’s No. 94 overall prospect, turned down an opportunity to play for San Diego State.
On the other hand, Trojans lost out on the nation’s No. 5 overall prospect in De’Anthony Thomas after he decided to rescind his verbal commitment and head to Oregon.
Had Anthony kept his commitment, USC would have finished the day with the No. 1 recruiting class in the nation.
But that’s fine with me — there’s only room for one “Black Mamba” in Los Angeles anyway.
USC also managed to get another Rivals100 prospect in linebacker Lamar Dawson, who was expected to go to either Kentucky or Tennessee.
Some notable prospects from out of state include linebacker Anthony Sarao (No. 8 overall at his position) and offensive lineman Cyrus Hobbi (No. 4 overall at his position).
Not only that, but USC coach Lane Kiffin capitalized on homegrown talent, nabbing Mater Dei High standout wide receiver Victor Blackwell and Kings Academy four-star running back Amir Carlisle, who had originally been leaning toward Stanford.
Kiffin also went back to Gardena Serra High, home to current Trojans wide receiver Robert Woods, to nab four-star recruit Marqise Lee and another Serra standout in wide receiver George Farmer, who is one of the nation’s most coveted players.
Other notable prospects from California include four-star defensive end Greg Townsend Jr. and four-star linebacker Tre Madden.
To cap off Kiffin’s second National Signing Day for Kiffin, Junior Pomee and Ryan Henderson of Rancho Verde High both signed with the Trojans.
Four-star prospect Pomee was reported to be the best overall prospects at the Florida Friday Night Lights Camp last summer, while Henderson posted prolific numbers at combine workouts.
While the Trojans have been making headlines, the Bruins are barely on the radar at all.
The Bruins have only managed to bring in 16 commits, and only one of them ranks in the Rivals100.
Conversely, the Trojans have 10 official commits in the Rivals100.
If you ask me, that seems like a down year for the Bruins.
But then again, that’s not a surprise if you’ve been following UCLA for some time now.
Sanctions or no sanctions, nobody has been able to stop USC.
The NCAA’s punishment might have been a small roadblock in the path to success, but it certainly hasn’t affected the recruiting process.
And with the sanctions not set to kick in until after a decision is made on the appeals, USC will continue to do what it has always been doing in Los Angeles with the football program.
Like Matt Barkley infamously said after a win against UCLA: “We run this town tonight.”
Indeed, it is true — Los Angeles is still a Trojan town.
“In The Zone” runs Thursdays. To comment on this article, visit dailytrojan.com or e-mail Trevor at firstname.lastname@example.org