It’s pretty incredible to think that we are now over four weeks removed from redshirt junior kicker Matt Boermeester’s 46-yard Rose Bowl-winning field goal that split the uprights as time expired against the Penn State Nittany Lions. It’s also crazy to think that it’s time to stop celebrating the win in Pasadena and start looking to the future, as we are on the eve of one of the most important dates on the USC football calendar: National Signing Day.
College football is a monster — a restless beast. Pull off one of the biggest wins in program history (like USC did), take what feels like a 20-minute nap and then get back out on the recruiting trail to reel in the prospects who will get you back to another Rose Bowl Trophy — and hopefully beyond.
The Trojans entered this recruiting season with several gaping holes on their roster. There’s the harsh reality that the junior duo of receiver Juju Smith-Schuster and Thorpe Award-winning defensive back and All-American Adoree’ Jackson will not be returning to the team next season. USC must also combat a big loss with the graduation of its Rose Bowl MVP, senior nose tackle Stevie Tu’ikolovatu, this offseason. An already-thin Trojan defensive line gets thinner next season as redshirt junior defensive tackle Khaliel Rodgers and sophomore Noah Jefferson will be transferring to different programs. USC will also be losing a pair of key senior linebackers to graduation in team captain Michael Hutchings and rotational player Quinton Powell.
In response to these departures, USC has done a commendable job of filling in some positional gaps before the arrival of signing day on Wednesday. On occasion, it has felt like the Trojans are capitalizing on their Rose Bowl victory by using it as a valuable pitch to recruits.
USC made major noise in the recruiting world last week when it received a commitment from the No. 1-rated defensive tackle in the class of 2017, Marlon Tuipulotu. A native of Oregon, Tuipulotu was a longtime commit to Washington. But days after taking an official visit to Los Angeles, he announced on Twitter that he would be joining the Trojans’ football program.
USC has also been able to pick up a pair of solid pieces in its defensive backfield. At the Army All-American Bowl, four-star defensive back Bubba Bolden verbally committed to the Trojans. Last Friday, Under Armour All-American safety Isaiah Pola-Mao, a four-star recruit, committed to USC as well. There will never be a sufficient replacement when you lose a weapon like Adoree’ Jackson, but these two secondary pickups are solid ones for the Trojans.
USC already has four mid-year early enrollees on campus this semester: five-star long snapper Damon Johnson, four-star linebacker Tayler Katoa, four-star quarterback Jack Sears and four-star offensive lineman Andrew Vorhees. Sears was, in fact, the replacement for USC’s standout redshirt freshman quarterback Sam Darnold at San Clemente High School. Sears led the Tritons to a CIF State Title in his senior season in 2016. Who’s for renaming USC the “University of San Clemente” someday?
Well, now that I have scratched the surface of USC’s affairs heading into signing day, please allow me to grind my gears on another facet of the big day Wednesday: social media and the online world of football recruiting. Intertwining social media platforms and the personal accounts of top prospects has changed the face of college football recruiting forever.
It’s always been remarkable to me the lengths that some 30- and 40-something-year-olds on Twitter will go to try and persuade (a better word here is “harass”) some recruits — who are likely the age of their own children, or younger — into signing with their school of choice.
Hey, @RollTide150, I’ve got some breaking news for you: Tweeting excessively at a 16- or 17-year-old high school athlete will not attract them to your school. If anything, it is actually a repellent to them.
This phenomenon was on display when Tuipulotu announced his commitment to USC last week. Tuipulotu’s announcement-tweet was attached to an open letter, in which he asked fans to “respect his decision.” Leave it to Twitter to disrespect the decision of a young man who has worked hard his entire life and has the rightful option to attend whichever school he likes. As mentioned, Tuipulotu was a long-time Washington commit, so Dawgs fans were sure to voice their disapproval of his decommitment online.
From calling Tuipulotu “disloyal” to wishing him a bad experience as a Trojan, the replies to the standout defensive tackle’s announcement-tweet were pretty shameful. I cover the USC football team for the Daily Trojan, so I am always doing what I can to stay up to date on happenings with the team. Browsing popular USC sites is always helpful, and occasionally, I’ll find myself on an online message board concerning Trojan football.
When I browse through many of USCFootball.com’s public discussion forums, I see hundreds of online users debating and speculating over the status of a 15-year-old recruit — whose own signing day is some three years away. Very few ever have the opportunity to experience what I imagine can be the unique and amazing experience of being a highly-touted football recruit. So much speculation surrounds their every move and hint of commitment. Those in-home visits must be pretty rad, right? Who wouldn’t want to host charming Trojan head coach Clay Helton at their dinner table as he peppers you with compliments and sincere promises? If only.
But to college recruits: Be sure to turn off the notifications on your Twitter mobile app when you seal your college fate and sign on the dotted line on signing day. You never know who is going to cast negative energy on your future, degrade your ability as a player or even wish death upon your dog.
Angel Viscarra is a sophomore studying broadcast and digital journalism. His column, Viscarra’s Vice, runs on Tuesdays.