Feb. 3, 2005
By RALPH D. RUSSO
AP Sports Writer
Southern California finished recruiting with a flourish.
Several blue chip prospects who entered signing day uncommitted ended it headed to USC as the two-time defending national champions continued to stockpile talent Wednesday.
Rivals.com has the Trojans' class rated No. 1 in the nation, just like last year.
"It's been a hallmark of ours, getting great classes and putting them together one after the other, which has allowed us to reach the level of success we have," USC coach Pete Carroll said.
Unlike last year, the Trojans weren't a consensus No. 1 among all the leading recruiting analysts - but they were close.
Max Emfinger had USC second behind Oklahoma. Allen Wallace of SuperPrep and Scout.com ranked USC No. 3, with Tennessee first and Michigan second. The Trojans were third behind Nebraska and Tennessee, according to Tom Lemming of ESPN.com and College Sports Television.
USC landed two of the nation's best linebackers (Brian Cushing from New Jersey and Luthur Brown from California) and two of the top defensive linemen (Walker Ashley from Minnesota and Kyle Moore from Georgia) on Wednesday. All four were uncommitted when the day started.
"It looked like it might not have been their year, but it turned on a dime," Bobby Burton of Rivals.com said of the Trojans. "To have back-to-back No. 1-ranked recruiting classes is unheard of."
Quarterback Mark Sanchez and linebacker Rey Maualuga from California and wide receiver Patrick Turner from Tennessee highlight the Trojans' class.
Sanchez will have to sit behind Heisman Trophy winner Matt Leinart, who decided to return for his senior season despite a chance at being the No. 1 pick in the upcoming NFL draft.
Carroll's reputation for playing freshmen keeps the Trojans' already loaded roster from scaring away the best high school players.
"We had players of the year from four states and others who are coming to do something special," Carroll said. "They're not concerned about depth charts, just about opportunity."
Oklahoma's 55-19 loss to USC in the Orange Bowl last month certainly didn't hurt the Sooners in recruiting.
The Sooners' two prized recruits were on the defensive side, where they could use some help.
Tackle DeMarcus Granger from Texas and linebacker Ryan Reynolds from Nevada were each considered among the very best defensive players in the country.
"This class met our needs, and I am especially happy about the quantity and quality of the linemen on both sides of the ball," Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops said. "We needed to do well there, and we did."
Like USC, Florida State closed strong and joined perennial powers Michigan, Georgia and Miami with highly rated classes. But also cracking the top 10s were Nebraska and Texas A&M, two schools trying to return to the nation's elite.
Nebraska coach Bill Callahan did particularly well recruiting the junior colleges. It's a class that could have an immediate impact on the Cornhuskers, who went 5-6 last season.
"A year from now, everyone will be talking about this Nebraska class as their greatest in the last 25 years," Lemming said.
Texas A&M coach Dennis Franchione, heading into his third season with the Aggies, went head-to-head with Oklahoma and Texas on several players and came away with the school's best recruiting class in years.
"We want to be able to recruit the best in the nation," Franchione said. "We want to continue to enhance our image nationally."
The Vols haven't had a class regarded this highly since 2000, when coach Phillip Fulmer brought in a group that included linebacker Kevin Burnett, offensive linemen Jason Respert and Michael Munoz, tight end Jason Witten and quarterback Casey Clausen.
"They're back to familiar ground," Wallace said.
The Volunteers signed 27 players on the first and busiest day of the national signing period, and went into the Midwest and all over the South for topflight prospects.
"You have to do that at Tennessee, where you don't have that homegrown talent," Burton said.
Coming off a 10-3 season, the Vols signed defensive end Raymond Henderson from Wisconsin, linebacker Andre Mathis from Pennsylvania, defensive back Adam Myers-White from Ohio, linebacker Rico McCoy from Washington, D.C. All were rated among the best players at their positions nationally.
Tennessee's top-rated recruit, cornerback Demetrice Morley, is from Miami.
"The University of Tennessee is a great product to sell with the traditions, facilities and academic support," Fulmer said. "If we can get them to campus, then we've got a chance to sign them."