Opening the mailbag: Why do recruits keep picking USC?

Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller

No time to dilly-dally.

To your letters!

Arno from Berkeley writes: As a lifelong college football (and more specifically, Cal) fan, I still can't understand the decision-making process that a lot of top prospects use to pick their school(s). USC has cleaned up in terms of recruiting the past 5+ years, but they have also left dozens of star-caliber players toiling on the bench throughout their collegiate careers. Which begs the question- Why go to 'SC when you have a legitimately better chance playing somewhere else?

Ted Miller: I get this question a lot. And the internal logic is sound.

But that same logic often isn't found inside elite athletes -- in fact, one of the reasons an athlete becomes elite is he doesn't think like that.

An elite athlete believes he will prevail. He craves competition. And he wants to beat out the best and then play on the biggest stage.

That's the appeal of USC during its present dynastic run.

And if I were recruiting against USC, I would recognize that fact and be very careful and strategic in how I counter it.

I've talked to recruits who were shown USC's depth chart by other schools -- an obvious effort to show how hard it will be to get playing time. And some take it as an insult, that said school is telling them they're not as good as the guys on that depth chart.

Patrick from Seattle writes: I absolutely hate the idea of moving the Apple Cup to Qwest Field. As a WSU alum, three of my favorite memories as a student (yeah it took me an extra semester to graduate) were the Apple Cups in Pullman. And admittedly, 2 other favorite college memories were tailgating with friends in the Husky Stadium parking lot. I sent a letter to each school's Athletic Director and President, but I'm just counting the minutes until I receive my automated response. I can already see the response: "In these hard economic times, any extra income for the schools is necessary", aka selling out. It pains me to know that kids will go through their entire education in Pullman and never experience an Apple Cup in Martin Stadium. Another situation hurting the student is that ticket prices will skyrocket (WSU students pay $75 for any game, any sport, all year) and the students will be hurt even more. As a former Economics student, I completely understand it from a business perspective, but I was hoping this would be an untouchable tradition. Hail the almighty dollar.

Ted Miller: Patrick, I hear you. And you're in luck. The deal is dead, and apparently won't be revisited in the short term, according to Washington State AD Jim Sterk.

Guessing it will be a good night at The Coug.

Bret from Washington D.C. writes: A lot is being made of efforts to rebuild the once feared Washington Huskies and the mascot/fight song stealing UCLA bruins. Given that Cal has made one of the most complete turnarounds I know of in college football what would you say went in to that? Besides, obviously, hiring Jeff Tedford. Coaches are important but it takes an Athletic Department to build a program. And do you see UW and UCLA following some of Cal's moves?

Ted Miller: The reason for Cal's renaissance is the hiring of Jeff Tedford. Besides that, the hiring of Jeff Tedford had a profound effect.

If I were going to add one more reason, often ignored, it would be the hiring of Jeff Tedford.

What else went into Cal's resurgence? The promise of facilities upgrades? Nah.

I'm not sure what UW or UCLA could do to emulate Cal's moves, other than hiring Jeff Tedford, which neither can afford to do. The Huskies and Bruins are very different rebuilding projects.

On the plus side for them, UCLA and UW have superior facilities and football tradition -- at least in the modern era.

Washington is banking on Steve Sarkisian's youthful energy, while UCLA is expecting that Rick Neuheisel will to stand nose-to-nose with Pete Carroll.

As for what Tedford has done at Cal: It's special and he deserves almost all the credit.

Michael from Oregon writes: So if Toby Gerhart comes back and Harbaugh's new recruiting class comes through (and hopefully Andrew Luck gets to start0, where do you see Stanford ending up this season?

Ted Miller: I'm not ready to pick the conference yet, but I'd be surprised if Stanford doesn't go to its first bowl game since since 2001. The Cardinal has a favorable schedule and a good mix of experience and young talent.

Denny from Los Angeles writes: Seeing as it is now officially NFL Draft week, what ever happened to Fili Moala? At one point last year, McShay had him billed as a #1 overall pick. Now, he's nowhere to be seen. Kiper doesn't have Moala in his top 5 DTs. What happened? Bad workouts? Injury I don't know about? And how bad does it look for him?

Ted Miller: My guess is Moala will be picked on the first day of the draft and become a good but not great DT in the NFL. Once the earnest evaluation wheels got rolling, a fuller picture of Moala appeared and his rating dropped.

Michael from Los Angeles writes: Ted, What else is there to look forward to besides the blogs? Spring camp is over. The draft lasts only 2 days. Besides work and other productive activities, what can I do so that college football begins asap?

Ted Miller: Despaireth not! The Pac-10 blog, other than a long weekend here and there and a stretch in May-June, will be here, updating you during the offseason.

Because there is no offseason, as you well know, Michael.

Nick from the Bay Area writes: Jahvid, if you're reading this. don't forget to try John's pizza in times square when you go to New York in December

Ted Miller: I have no answer for this -- and have not had pizza from John's -- but Nick's note amused me.