LOS ANGELES – A helicopter flew over the USC campus last month, carrying precious cargo. The nation’s top non-committal recruiter, Washington fringe rider JT Tuimoloau, sat next to USC coach Clay Helton and assistant Vic So’oto as Los Angeles unfolded in all its glory beneath its feet.
It was a critical moment during the most important month of USC recruitment in the last memory, a litmus test more than a year into creation.
After 15 months of completely remote recruitment, pandemic restrictions on campus visits were lifted until the next dead period began on July 1st. At the close, USC rebuilt its entire operation, more than double the size of its full-time recruitment staff (from five to 11) and launched a creative and creative studio to help athletes eventually take advantage of the name. , their image and similarity.
These investments in USC had already given a top-10 for 2021 amid the pandemic, as well as a strong start to its 2022 group. Now, however, the flood gates were open, leaving the country a raging month of campus visits that has USC eager to repeat its sudden recruitment success was not good.
What’s how Tuimoloau, the only five-star unoccupied prospect left in the 2021 class who decided not to sign during the traditional periods in December and February, ended up visiting Los Angeles by helicopter.
From the air, USC could display in one view the entire city it had to offer – and all of its staff could never articulate on Zoom or FaceTime. Tuimoloau flew over the Coliseum, past beaches and Pier Santa Monica, and near the Hollywood sign, offering a kind of high-flying field that was otherwise impossible over the past 15 months.
That pitch was mostly stagnant before the pandemic. A bare-bone recruitment staff was very thinly distributed. Local prospects were leaving the state in groups and local coaches were whispering about complacency.
As the USC dropped to 64th in the national rankings for its 2020 class, its new administration decided that the recruitment operation was in dire need of rethinking. Leading landing talent is essential if the struggling Helton hopes to continually compete for Pac-12 titles and keep his job.
Now that those changes are in place, “there’s a tangible buzz about USC again,” says Brandon Huffman, national recruitment editor at 247Sports. “They completely turned the narrative.”
Relying on another recruit of its three 2021 class leaders would certainly have helped strengthen this narrative. USC has already introduced recruit no. 1st place, defensive end Korey Foreman, in class in December. But while Foreman signed without making official visits, Tuimoloau refused until he got it all, leaving the USC to avoid Washington, Ohio and Oregon after the pandemic restrictions were lifted and visits were allowed by the NCAA. All Ohio state staff welcomed Tuimoloau at Columbus Airport in the jersey with no. 33 and Hawaiian T-shirts.
Tuimoloau ended up committing to Buckeyes on July 4th. But the five-star rider was just one of countless recruits for whom USC opened the red carpet in June. And helicopters are not the only recruitment tool USC has in its arsenal.
“We’ve been preparing for this for quite some time,” said Spencer Harris, USC’s director of personnel. “After the NCAA said June 1, we knew there would be 27 days of uninterrupted action.”
At USC, the June recruitment marathon focused primarily on high prospects overseas, a strategy that once defined USC’s place among the nation’s recruiting powers. The risk of returning to that approach so far has proven to be worth the reward.
Five-time defender Lineman Mykel Williams was widely expected to stay home and sign with Georgia, but a recruiting visit to Los Angeles in June prompted him to enlist at USC. A week later, four-star New Jersey goalkeeper Jaeden Gould followed suit after his visit.
Their commitments have left the USC feeling quite good about its approach to building the 2022 class, which ranks 27th. “(USC) is beginning to remember who they were,” Huffman said. “They have to beat elite national teams for boys.”
An added support staff has helped in that direction, earning greetings from the recruits ’visits. Finally, having Los Angeles at its disposal has leveled the playing field for a staff who spent just a few months together before the pandemic started.
“Ancient LA is less boundless,” said corner coach Donte Williams, whose recruiting success over the past year has currently ranked him as the country’s best recruiter by 247Sports. “We have everything at our disposal. Some of these places they can go may have a restaurant. We have a million!”
Sometimes even a world class restaurant will not do. So every Friday in June, USC received guest recruits for dinner at SoFi Stadium. Then, every Sunday, they were hosted for one last lunch at a home on The Strand in Manhattan Beach.
In between, there were photo shoots and tours on campus, NIL presentations and even makeshift beach trips, all with the goal of selling recruits not just to USC, but all Los Angeles has to offer.
It is an area that USC has waited more than 15 months to do.
“We have been able to have this success without (Los Angeles),” Harris said. “But now we have to use this city and the platform and talk about the name, the image and the resemblance, and all that this city has to offer … It’s an exciting time.”
Before our 25th season
For the past 12 years, the U.S. citizen’s sports staff has spent July breaking our 25th pre-season rankings. Last year’s College Football Playoff eventual semifinals ranked first, second, third and ninth in our 2020 poll.
Our previous stories for the 25 top teams:
Nr. 25 Ole Miss: The Rebels hope, making a good comeback from Lane Kiffin 3.0
Nr. 24 Washington: Huskies’ Morris looks like a defender to run – for now
Nr. 23 Louisiana: Billy Napier could be the next big thing in college football (if he wants to)
Nr. 22 Penn State: The Nittany Lions’s security sharpened their craft in Lackawanna
Nr. 21 Oklahoma State: Another Gundy (Gunnar) begins his career in the Cowboys
Nr. 20 Iowa: Hawkeyes’ Dane Belton Knows the Road to NFL Leads to Team Success
Nr. 19 Coastal Carolina: Almost or not, Chanticleers tend to stay a little longer
Nr. 18 Texas: Bijan Robinson seems ready to keep the load on the Longhorns
Nr. 17 Wisconsin: Spiritual Spring helped the Badgers bond, players say
Nr. 16 Miami: Manny Diaz seems to be aiming to build Hurricanes from local talent
Nr. 15 Oregon: Ducks Program Now Achieving Recruitment, NFL Draws High Ratings
Nr. 14 LSU: The questions the Tigers have taken with them this summer
Nr. 13 Indiana: Texas A&M transfer of Camron Buckley gives Hoosiers another weapon