Tuesdays With Gorney: USC Appears To Be Re-emerging As Elite Program

Tuesdays With Gorney: USC Appears To Be Re-emerging As Elite Program


Is USC finally going to return to its status as college football king, a title it has owned so many times throughout the program’s storied history but not for two decades?

After a recruiting weekend like the Trojans just finished on Sunday, there are many reasons to believe that answer is yes and the monster might be getting awakened.

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Coach Lincoln Riley is one of the best offensive minds in the sport. And he’s finally taking defense seriously by bringing in competent coaches who have NFL connections and recruiting chops.

Over the weekend, USC held a recruiting event and it could not have gone much better.

Five-star defensive tackle Justus Terry flipped from Georgia to USC despite being committed to the Bulldogs for more than a year and being from Manchester, Ga.

The Trojans also landed a commitment from four-star defensive end Isaiah Gibson from Warner Robins, Ga., long considered a Georgia lean. Four-star defensive backs Hylton Stubbs (considered a Florida lean for a while) and Dominick Kelly out of Tampa (Fla.) Robinson also made their pledges. The night got polished off when high three-star DE Gus Cordova from Austin (Texas) Lake Travis also committed.

It has been long argued that working off the Pete Carroll recruiting model works best at USC: The Trojans have to recruit nationally for linemen and locally for skill players.

After such a productive weekend, the Trojans now have commitments from the two best players in the state of Georgia – five-star quarterback Julian Lewis and Terry. The other five-star in the state, Savannah Christian’s Elijah Griffin, was also on campus but sources say it could be really tough to pull him that far away from home as the Bulldogs still lead.

But sources said the same thing about Terry, from small-town Manchester, as Alabama and Florida State looked like the biggest threat.

USC has built-in advantages that the Southeast powers cannot boast. Los Angeles is a destination city and in a world of NIL, that could matter a great deal.

It seems for years that USC couldn’t get its NIL ship in order but after talking to a few people about this that seems to have changed. The well-heeled donors finally get the idea of Name, Image, Likeness and how it impacts recruiting.

All the sun and surf of Southern California won’t mean a thing unless dollars back it up and that’s starting to happen. And in a game where money speaks loudest in a lot of recruitments, USC has a lot of it coming in from Bel Air to Beverly Hills.

Aaron Donald was at USC’s recruiting event this past weekend. Not many teams nationally have that kind of pull. You think it was a coincidence that on the weekend Terry and Griffin show up that Donald is there as well?

Now it’s a question of whether the Trojans can capitalize on all those things or if it will slip through their hands like the Manhattan Beach sand.

There are reasons to be hesitant. Despite having expected No. 1 pick Caleb Williams running the show, USC slipped from 11-3 to 8-5 in Riley’s first two seasons. Miller Moss probably takes over at QB and even as impressive as he was in the bowl game, he’s not Williams.

It is also nine months to signing day as well, an eternity.

If Lewis, from Carrollton, Ga., flips to Georgia it wouldn’t be a shock. Will Terry be Mykel Williams 2.0, enamored by an early visit to USC that led to a commitment only to see him flip to Georgia in the end? What has started as a phenomenal recruiting class runs the risk of fading away, especially as Southeast programs re-engage in the coming days.

USC’s schedule this season is also challenging especially if the Trojans are looking to build back into a national power. They open with LSU in Las Vegas. They go to Michigan in mid-September. Penn State visits in mid-October. Notre Dame, Wisconsin and Washington are on the schedule. Getting to double-digit wins will not be easy with that lineup of opponents.

The Trojans had a phenomenal weekend and have the chance to turn it into something long-lasting and special. But there are potential landmines along the way.

So much talk has centered around other programs being the sleeping giant of college football. Perhaps USC just woke up.



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