LOS ANGELES -- Whether it’s Pete Carroll, Lane Kiffin, Steve Sarkisian or now Clay Helton, USC Trojans head coaches continue to recruit the state of Florida like it is an extension of California.
In fact, the Trojans have become so proficient at mining the Sunshine State for more than a decade, it’s alleged the SEC strongly encouraged the NCAA to pass a rule during the Carroll era that would prohibit college head coaches from making personal appearances during high school spring practices.
The spring practice travel restriction rule for college head coaches was eventually passed by the NCAA, which led many to believe the ultimate intent at the time was to immediately halt the ultra-charismatic and ambitious Carroll from dipping into the vast Southeast prep talent pool.
However, despite the best laid plans of mice and men, the pre- and post-Carroll era hasn’t stopped the Trojans from signing many of Florida’s finest. Even Helton and his staff extracted Florida signatures last week from the likes of safety Jamel Cook (Miami Central) and wide receiver/defensive back Keyshawn Young (Miami Senior). Both were among the best of the best from Dade County, a hotbed of Florida prep football.
In case you’ve forgotten, here are some notable Floridians who have already made an impact wearing the cardinal and gold:
WR Mike Williams (Tampa Plant): A 2003 consensus All-American, the Trojans were 23-3 during his USC career. Williams was a member of the 2003 national championship team, and in 2003 he finished eighth in the Heisman voting and was a finalist for the Biletnikoff Award.
LB Keith Rivers (Lake Mary): A 2007 All-American, Rivers was 47-5 in his Trojans career. He was a member of the 2004 USC national championship team and was a two-time All-Pac-12 selection.
S Jawanza Starling (Tallahassee Lincoln): A contributor to the Trojans secondary, he’ll always be remembered for his 80-yard touchdown fumble return at Notre Dame in 2011 to ensure a 31-17 victory over the Irish.
DL Leonard Williams (Daytona Beach Mainland): A two-time All-American and two-time All-Pac-12 selection (2013-14), Williams was 26-14 in his Trojans career and is considered one of USC’s all-time defensive linemen. “Big Cat” was drafted in the first round of the 2015 NFL draft by the New York Jets and had a banner first season in the NFL.
RB Javorius “Buck” Allen (Tallahassee Lincoln): A 2014 All-Pac-12 selection, Allen is a rags-to-riches story at USC. Riding the bench early in his USC career, the Florida native was eventually given his chance under then-interim head coach Ed Orgeron and running backs coach Tommie Robinson, and Allen just exploded. Leaving after his junior season, Allen completed a successful rookie NFL season with the Baltimore Ravens in 2015.
DT Claude Pelon (Orlando/Arizona Western JC): Playing his high school ball at Orlando Agape Christian Academy before enrolling at Arizona Western Junior College, Pelon was a two-year performer who just completed his Trojans career and now awaits the NFL draft.
The 2016 Trojans roster will also continue to be represented by the state of Florida with players like senior linebacker Quinton Powell (Daytona Beach Mainland) and senior safety Leon McQuay III (Seffner Armwood).
And if you think the Florida-to-USC pipeline for the classes of 2017 and 2018 is going to take a respite, think again.
For the Class of 2017, Helton has already offered athlete Dylan Moses (Bradenton/IMG Academy), DE Joshua Kaindoh (Bradenton/IMG Academy), CB Shaun Wade and WR D.J. Matthews (Jacksonville/Trinity Christian Academy), athlete Jerry Jeudy (Deerfield Beach), WR James Robinson IV (Lakeland), S Cyrus Fagan (Daytona Beach/Mainland), DE Zachary Carter (Tampa/ Hillsborough), CB Trajan Bandy (Miami/Christopher Columbus), RB Christopher Henderson (Miami/Christopher Columbus), S Brian Edwards (Miramar) and CB Shawn Davis (Miami/Southridge Senior).
As for the Class of 2018, the Trojans have already extended offers to corners Ken Montgomery (Tampa/Hillsborough) and Tyreke Johnson (Jacksonville/Christian Academy) and safety Gilbert Frierson (Coral Gables).
And the cross-country recruiting beat goes on.