LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Kent Turene knew he'd get a response from coaches of the other schools recruiting him when he committed to USC earlier this month. He just didn't expect that response to be so strong.
"They asked what I was thinking," said Turene, a linebacker from Fort Lauderdale, Fla., who joined dozens of other top prospects last weekend for the Champion Gridiron Kings seven-on-seven tournament. "They said I was a fool. It was crazy."
Turene estimates coaches from about 20 schools sent him e-mails or private messages on Facebook questioning his decision. It's a common refrain among the members of USC's class of 2011, which will enter the program as it deals with sanctions resulting from the Reggie Bush scandal (something that took place when USC's recruits were still in middle school).
The recruits' reactions are interesting, because they seem less bothered by the sanctions or the two-year bowl ban than just about anyone. Turene, for example, explained that he discussed the bowl ban with his parents, and they concluded that since it represented only one missed game in an entire college career, it shouldn't weigh heavily into Turene's decision.
Recruits' attitudes may change as the season goes on -- especially if transfers or the specter of reduced scholarships cast doubt on the prospects of the Trojans' future success -- but for now they seem to hold USC in the same regard as recruits in previous years who didn't have to worry about sanctions.
Devon Blackmon, a receiver from Summit High in Fontana, Calif., who is considering USC along with Alabama, Cal, Florida, Oregon and UCLA, said he hears about the sanctions from other coaches. "They don't really bother me," he said. Blackmon said he would prefer the coaches from the other schools on his list play up their positive attributes instead of bashing USC for the sanctions. "If they did [rip the Trojans]," Blackmon said, "I'd look at them like, 'That's a low blow.'"
Victor Blackwell, a receiver from Santa Ana, Calif., who has been committed to USC since May, said he didn't develop much of a relationship with many other staffs before committing, so he didn't get the same response as Turene. Still, Blackwell may have to answer future questions from coaches about why he'd want to join a program facing harsh sanctions. He said he's intrigued by Miami, and he's contemplating taking a visit to the school that grabbed former USC signee Seantrel Henderson earlier this month.
Despite his desire to check out the Hurricanes, Blackwell said the Trojans remain the runaway leader. He said that because he might redshirt, the bowl ban didn't factor into his decision because the Trojans will be eligible to play in a bowl if he doesn't see the field until 2012. "I'd like to sit back, have a year, watch the program and get my education under control," Blackwell said.
Whether USC coach Lane Kiffin and his staff can hang on to their recruits remains to be seen, but it seems for now that the sanctions have not scared top players away from Troy. Sunday, Turene proudly wore his USC hat as he explained why he didn't appreciate coaches from other schools questioning his decision.
"I really didn't say nothing," he said. "I just told them I wish them the best on their seasons. I hope they wish me the best on my season."
For the second consecutive year, the Southeast team -- made up of players from Florida, Georgia and the Carolinas -- blew through the Gridiron Kings tournament. On Sunday, the Southeast capped its run with a 36-0 win against the Southwest team, which included players from Texas, Oklahoma and Missouri.
No defense could stop Southeast tight end Nick O'Leary. The 6-foot-4, 235-pounder from Dwyer High in Palm Beach, Fla., dominated the linebackers who tried to cover him. O'Leary is considering Alabama, Florida, Florida State, Georgia and Miami. Meanwhile, opposing quarterbacks will have nightmares about Southeast safeties Karlos Williams and Ha'Sean Clinton-Dix, who each returned an interception more than 100 yards for a touchdown in the final. Williams is committed to Florida State, where older brother Vince is a linebacker. Clinton-Dix, known as "Ha-ha" to his teammates, is committed to Alabama.
ESPNU will televise the highlights of the Gridiron Kings tournament on Wednesday at 7 p.m. eastern.
Any defensive back who believes Jaxon Shipley got a scholarship offer from Texas only because older brother Jordan starred in Austin will live to regret underestimating the younger Shipley. Sunday, Shipley was the Southwest team's most reliable receiver, even after opposing defenses realized the future Longhorn was future Texas Tech quarterback Michael Brewer's favorite target. Shipley turned short passes into long gains, and he never hesitated to dart into traffic to snag a pass.
"Everybody out here is the best in the country. Every play, you're going against the best," Shipley said. "I just think it's a good learning experience."