LOS ANGELES -- It's getting down to crunch time for the 2012 recruiting class, and there aren't many spots left for the USC coaches to fill.
There has been so much attention paid to the NCAA scholarship reductions and the fact that the Trojans will be able to take only 15 players in each of the next three classes. The part of the penalty which doesn't get nearly as much attention, however, is the need for the roster to be at the 75-scholarship limit by the time the 2012 season opens.
This is where the math gets tricky for Lane Kiffin. Right now there are 60 players returning from the 2011 roster -- 15 seniors, 11 juniors, 18 sophomores and 16 freshmen. There were six mid-year commits, which puts the roster number at 66. There are also eight other players who have verbally committed to signing with the Trojans on Feb. 1, which is national signing day.
In crunching the numbers, the Trojans are currently at 74 scholarship players, which means they could only accept one more verbal commitment if they want to be at the 75 limit without having to make any future roster deletions. Since the coaches hosted six uncommitted players over the weekend for official visits and plan to host several more next weekend, it's pretty clear that the goal is to sign more than one additional player.
The 75 number will be the important one to watch through the spring and into the summer. There have been some unexpected departures so far, including Kyle Prater and T.J. Bryant, but Trojans fans can expect to see more before the team takes the field in September against Hawaii.
Harris stars at Shrine Bowl
One former USC player who really helped himself this past weekend for the NFL draft was defensive tackle DaJohn Harris, who took part in the East-West Shrine Bowl and had a performance which projects him as a second-day pick in April's draft.
Harris (6-foot-3, 308 pounds) made two stops in a row near the line of scrimmage during the game and showed a good ability to move his feet and locate ballcarriers.
The ESPN/Scouts Inc. writers even included Harris as one of five players who solidified their draft status with a strong effort during the week of practices and the game. That article can be read here.
The USC defensive line was much improved in 2011, and in hindsight that shouldn't have come as a surprise with two players (Nick Perry and Harris) who will end up being selected so high in the draft. Perry has been projected in recent mock drafts as a potential first-round selection, while Harris should last no later than the third round.
Kelly to stay
Chip Kelly gave Oregon fans a scare on Sunday, coming close to accepting the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' coaching job before deciding to stay with the Ducks. But while Kelly is staying for now, this won't be the last time an NFL team will inquire about his status.
If Kelly ever decides to leave the Ducks, it would be a huge blow to the Oregon program. Kelly is a unique coach, and his system is what has helped Oregon rise to previously unknown heights in recent years. The college football world has watched as Kelly has sped up the game with his fast-paced attack that has admirers from all across the football world -- including Lane Kiffin, who has made no secret of his respect for the Oregon program under Kelly.
There is no "coach-in-waiting" in Eugene currently, if Kelly heads to the NFL, so it stands to reason the school would bring in a coach from the outside and the offense -- which has been responsible for so much of the success -- could get a huge makeover. Sure, there are other good coaches around the country who could be enticed to take over the program, but a coaching transition could be a big hurdle in maintaining their recent success.
Oregon has been a good program over the years, but nothing like it has seen under Kelly with a string of three straight BCS appearances, including a recent Rose Bowl win that was the Ducks' first victory in Pasadena in nearly a century. Entering the offseason, the Ducks were expected to be the primary challenger to the Trojans for the Pac-12 title in 2012 with Kelly, Darron Thomas, LaMichael James and others all scheduled to return.
As it stands now, Thomas and James already have declared for the draft and Kelly reportedly was close to joining them in the NFL. If that had happened, the Trojans would have gone instantly from co-favorites to prohibitive favorites for the conference title next season.
Garry Paskwietz is the publisher of WeAreSC.com and has covered the Trojans since 1997. He can be reached at email@example.com.