HOME GROWN

As USC has shown, signing the top local and in-state talent is the foundation for a college powerhouse
January 26, 2009

AS THE WashingtonHuskies prepared for a 2001 Rose Bowl date with Purdue at USC's practicefacility, a soon-to-be familiar figure on the west L.A. campus stood among thefew hundred spectators. Pete Carroll, the coach hired two weeks earlier toreturn the Trojans to gridiron glory, watched the Huskies and began to realizehow much recruiting work was ahead of him.

• Seven ofWashington's starters had played at high schools within 60 miles of USC.

• Meanwhile, inTempe, Ariz., Oregon State was preparing for the Fiesta Bowl with 11 starterswho had played within 110 miles of USC, including future Cincinnati Bengals ProBowl wide receiver T.J. Houshmandzadeh.

• Worse,blue-chip quarterback Matt Leinart, at Mater Dei High in Santa Ana, 35 milesaway, was rethinking his verbal commitment to the Trojans in light of thefiring of coach Paul Hackett. At that moment Leinart was considering playing atOklahoma.

Carroll took thefirst step toward a SoCal recruiting hegemony by persuading Leinart to stickwith USC. Then, on national signing day in 2001, defensive end Shaun Cody, fromnearby Hacienda Heights and considered the nation's best defensive recruit,told reporters that "it came down to a gut feeling," when he pickedCarroll's Trojans over Notre Dame. Using mostly homegrown talent—tackle WinstonJustice from Long Beach (2002), tailback Reggie Bush from Spring Valley (2003)and defensive tackle Sedrick Ellis from Chino (2003) included—USC won moregames (59) the past five seasons than any other Division I-A program.

And it only getsbetter for the Trojans. With national signing day looming on Feb. 4, three ofRivals.com's top 20 recruits in the nation, all whom live within 60 miles ofUSC, have verbally committed to the Trojans: quarterback Matt Barkley (MaterDei, Santa Ana), linebacker Vontaze Burfict (Centennial High, Corona) and backPatrick Hall (St. Bonaventure High, Ventura). USC also is expected to go longdistance for blue-chippers, such as receiver Alshon Jeffrey (Calhoun CountyHigh, St. Mathews, S.C.) and center John Martinez (Cottonwood Senior High, SaltLake City).

It is a priorityfor every major college coach to make his school the top choice for in-stateplayers, but for coaches like Carroll and his colleagues in the talent-richterritories of California, Florida and Texas (map, opposite), the reward fordoing so can be worth the intense recruiting effort. Not only are there fourBCS schools within each of those states fighting over the same recruits, butalso numerous programs from across the country are trying to invade those highschool football hotbeds.

Carroll and hisstaff employ an early-and-often strategy. They build up their summer camps toget players plugged into USC at a young age; Carroll first met Barkley at oneof the 2003 camps. They blanket area high schools; Bruce Rollinson, who coachedLeinart and Barkley at Mater Dei, says, "They get out. They're veryvisible. Pete does not sit around and say, 'Well, we're SC.'"

An SI study ofrecruiting data for the six BCS conferences and Notre Dame found that of thenine schools that won 50 or more games from 2004 through '08, seven signed morethan half their recruits during that span from within their state or fromwithin 200 miles of campus: Texas (93.2% from in-state, 71.8% from within 200miles), USC (72.0, 61.0), Georgia (63.6, 70.1), Florida (62.3, 47.9), OhioState (55.8, 66.3), Virginia Tech (54.3, 44.0) and LSU (50.4, 56.5). Oklahomabarely missed the cut, with 49.1% from within 200 miles. Of the 22 schools thatwon 40 or more games during that span, 16 attracted more than half theirplayers from within 200 miles or from within their state. Of the 44 schoolsthat won fewer than 40 games, only 13 met the homegrown recruitingcriteria.

The datareinforce the findings of three economists who, in 2004, designed a model topredict the college choices of sought-after recruits. That model, created byMike DuMond, Allen Lynch and Jennifer Platania—college football fans who met asPh.D. candidates at Florida State—revealed that among players considering onlyschools in BCS conferences, distance from home was the most important factor ina recruit's choice. (The report was published in the February 2008 issue of TheJournal of Sports Economics.)

"If you wantto be really cynical about it, [recruits] are not going to look at graduationrates and academics because they may not be going [to a school] for thosereasons," says DuMond. "Some probably do. But if they're going there toplay football, and that's really the only basis for their decision, they wantto go to a school that is in a BCS conference, has a big stadium and is closeenough that they can be seen by family and friends."

FOR A school in asparsely populated state such as Nebraska, which produced 43 BCS recruits overthe past five years (of whom 21 remained in-state to play for the Cornhuskers),by necessity more work is devoted to recruiting out of state, from coast tocoast even (map, opposite). Coming off his first season as Nebraska coach, BoPelini, formerly the defensive coordinator at LSU, targeted several recruits inFlorida this season. The work paid off when he landed a commitment from DeAndreByrd, a stellar defensive back from Lincoln High in Tallahassee. Nebraska alsois expected to sign five players from California, the top-rated of whom issafety Dijon Washington from Leuzinger High in the L.A. suburb of Lawndale.Says Nebraska recruiting coordinator Ted Gilmore of luring players from the SunBelt, "We have two indoor fields. We can keep them warm."

The encroachmentsby the Nebraskas, to say nothing of the Trojans' Pac-10 rivals, make the USCcoaches even more determined to defend their turf. With the 2009 class almostwrapped, they're turning their attention to recruiting the best in-stateplayers in the class of '10. The staff plans to visit each of California's1,053 football-playing high schools at least once in the next year. "Ifit's an all-girls' school, we're not going to go there," recruitingcoordinator Brennan Carroll, Pete's son and the Trojans' tight ends coach,says. "But if you're playing high school football, we'll be there."

HOT AND HEAVY

There are oases of talent throughout the nation, butthe Sun Belt is the prime provider of BCS players

The large map is a county-by-county breakdown of whereall recruits of the BCS conference schools and Notre Dame came from for thefive classes of 2004 through '08. To boost their programs, most coaches look tothe Southern regions—especially Florida. In the five-year span, the SunshineState produced the most BCS recruits (983) and the most per capita (1 per18,645 citizens). Texas had 974 signees, and California 826. The smaller mapsillustrate how well each of the six BCS conferences harvests and protects itsrecruiting turf.

[This article contains a complex diagram. Please seehardcopy of magazine or PDF.]

ACC

Big East

Big Ten

Pac-10

Big 12

SEC

SPREAD FORMATIONS

The recruiting patterns for a cross section of BCSschools

By design (USC), reputation (Notre Dame) or necessity(Nebraska), many schools recruit coast-to-coast. But as these maps reveal,others, such as Texas and Virginia Tech, are true home teams. Among BCSschools, the Longhorns signed the greatest percentage of in-state players(93.2%) from 2004 through '08.

[This article contains a complex diagram. Please seehardcopy of magazine or PDF.]

Washington State

USC

Notre Dame

Wisconsin

Nebraska

Texas

Penn State

Virginia Tech

Florida

NOW ON SI.COM

MAPS FOR ALL BCS SCHOOLS

[This article contains a complex diagram. Please seehardcopy of magazine or PDF.]

RUTGERS

View maps showing where each BCS school got itsfootball recruits over the last five years, plus maps that break down overallrecruiting by position and another that pinpoints the locations of the top 100recruits in the class of 2009. The Google Map application (left) allows you tozoom in and out and marks each recruit with a pushpin. SI.com's Andy Staplesanalyzes the data and takes a close look at Rutgers' recruiting philosophy.SI.COM/RECRUITINGMAPS

PHOTOLOUIS LOPEZ/CAL SPORT MEDIAEARLY DECISION Mater Dei's Barkley made his first contact with the Trojans staff as a seventh-grader at one of USC's summer camps. PHOTOCHRIS WILLIAMS/ICON SMIIN THE NEIGHBORHOOD Two-way standout Hall, from nearby Ventura, chose USC last February. SEVENTEEN MAPSMaps by International Mapping Associates PHOTOPHIL SEARS/DEMOCRATLEAVIN' FOR LINCOLN Nebraska's southern swing paid off when it landed Tallahassee product Byrd.

HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
OUT
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN
Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)