This will be a series of interviews or chats with Pac-12 sites on Fansided, focusing on sites in the Pac-12. The first is with Reign of Troy’s Michael Castillo.
USC (football) is a powerhouse in the Pac-12 in both recruiting and play on the field. They have come under sanctions after Pete Carroll left. Yet have remained able to bring in top recruiting classes and top notch play on the field. However, suffice for last season, the Huskies have had USC’s number on the field. They have won two of the last three meetings.
Here is the chat with Michael:
USC has the best recruiting class in the Pac-12 as of right now, do you see this continuing through the season?
I think so. USC’s always had a star advantage on the conference, and the nation actually, with six top classes when you look solely at the quality of the talent, not the quantity. Su’a Cravens, the best athlete in the West is set to announce his decision on June 6, and he’s widely expected to choose USC, which for all intents and purposes, would lock up the conference’s top class.
Having said that, it’s still early. A year ago, everyone had Arik Armstead pegged as a Trojan, and two years ago the same could be said for D’Anthony Thomas, and for UW perspective, look at Shaq Thompson. So it’s still early, but the Trojans should be able to coast to a top class if they hold their commits, as Cravens would give USC three five-star recruits, all in the top 13 of the FanSided 150.
USC has been able to land two of Washington State’s biggest recruits in the last couple of years, why do you think that is?
I’d say it’s more coincidence than anything. With Matt Barkley’s senior season practically here, the need to replace him is at the forefront of Lane Kiffin’s mind. Because of that, I think Max Browne could have been in Maine, and the Trojans would have still gone all for him.
As for Zach Banner, it’s intersting. Banner was a big hoops guy in Seattle, but he was never going to be a two-sport star in college, and both UW and USC knew that. Also, SC used Banner’s attitude and arrogance to recruit itself. If you listen to Banner in interviews, he’s very sure of himself. Because of that, Kiffin and company could really drive the idea of being a ‘star’ in LA to Banner, even though he probably never will be. So I think the idea of USC and the idea of a new, big city, is what sold Banner, which is a way different scenario than Browne. Looking at the two, I’d say UW is more unlikely than anything, as both players probably fit in more with UW immeditately.
Coach O has been deemed the best recruiter in the Pac-12 and so has Tosh Lupoi, in your opinion what has made them successful and who is better?
I think it’s a coin flip, as it really depends on the recruit they’re going for. Coach O is a guy who is going to fly cross country just to meet your parents, and he’s going to make you feel like your uncle during the recruiting process. A lot of recruits and their familes eat that up, which is evidence of his success with players in the south, and a big reason why he got the Ole Miss gig years back.
With Tosh, as you know, he’s a motivator and someone who plays up his connection with the player. He started the whole ‘Cal Gang’ moniker at Cal, and that personal, sometimes hip, relationship he builds with his players, is highly attractive to a lot of recruits. So in the end, with Lupoi and Orgeron, it’s really a question of who you want to play for more, your brother or your uncle? And given their success in sort of playing up those roles, it’s allowed them to get players that aren’t even coached by them, like Lupoi turning Shaq Thompson around.
Who is more of a recruiting rival for USC? Stanford or Washington?
Right now it’s Stanford. I thought once Lupoi went to UW that him and Sarkisian would form possibly a better duo than Kiffin and Orgeron, but they just haven’t ended up going head to head as much USC has struggled with Stanford. Stanford really owned the state in the Class of 2012, as they beat USC for three signatures on Signing Day, with Aziz Shittu, Andrus Peat and Kyle Murphy. Getting Murphy, a big, talented offenisve tackle out of San Clemente was a huge pull for Stanford and really laid down the gauntlet again between the schools, showing that they’re not dead without Jim Harbaugh.
You go deep into USC’s Orange County pipeline and grab a guy who had a Facebook picture with Matt Barkley, and bring him to Palo Alto, you pretty much ensure a rivalry. If UW can steal back a guy like Justin Davis in 2013, or make a run at Cravens, maybe the rivalru changes. But for now, it’s Stanford.
Now that Andrew Luck is off to the NFL, is Matt Barkley the best QB in the country? Can Keith Price give him a run for his money?
Barkley is definitely in the same position that Luck was in 12 months ago, being the odds on favorite for the Heisman and No. 1 overall draft pick, going into the season. But, Keith Price really can be this year’s Robert Griffin III. They have the same style, a simliar skill set and both are mobile without being too mobile that it defines them as a stereotypical running quarterback. Without Luck and Foles, Barkley will surely be the most lauded Pac-12 quarterback, but Price definitely will close that gap, and be where he left off in the Alamo Bowl.
Lane Kiffin has always been known as a good recruiter but so far how would you rate his coaching ability?
If you asked me a year ago, I’d say he was average at best. But when you look at how SC closed the season, I think he put himself into the upper echolon of coaches. The Trojans took too many penalties early on in 2011, and had trouble being too one dimensional on offense.
As the season went on, Kiffin took risks like playing Marqise Lee and starting three freshman linebackers, and it worked. Penalties were minimized, and the team got better after the heartbreaking loss to Stanford, when any team with virtually nothing to play for could have carried that loss with them for the rest of the season. Kiffin didn’t let that happen, and proved himseld as a coach the second half of the season, and I think he won over plenty of critics, both in Los Angeles and around the country. Love him or hate him as a person, people have got to respect him as a coach now.