A great man once said, "They wish they all were Trojans." He's probably right, but that doesn't mean it always holds true for high school kids.
Last week's NFL draft was a great reminder of this. So many Trojan almost-weres and shoulda-beens, like Andrus Peat and Arik Armstead. They're not the only ones. Did you know Monte Kiffin recruited Dante Fowler Jr? Me neither. He must not have been a Tampa-2 guy. Shaq Thompson might have been a pretty decent Trojan as well, but he had his reasons to go elsewhere. His head coach must have been a heck of a recruiter.
Anyways, it got me thinking about some current shoulda-beens and how they could have helped the 2015 squad. So let's take a look at some ex-targets who opted to play at other schools, despite their probable unconscious urges to wear Cardinal and Gold.
Thomas Duarte - TE, UCLA (Junior)
Class of 2013 - 4-Star TE
Thomas Duarte has earned honorable mention all-conference as both a freshman and a sophomore. He was named to the Mackey Award watch list entering last season and then went out and led his team with a 19.3 yards per catch average. That was good enough for 15th in the nation and 1st in the PAC-12 among all receivers, not just tight ends.
If he were a Trojan, Duarte would provide some badly needed depth to an already depleted and mostly untested unit. Bryce Dixon and Jalen Cope Fitzpatrick have both missed significant time due to either conduct or academic issues, but when they have seen the field they've combined for only 17 receptions and 214 yards. Even worse, the majority of those come from Dixon's freshman campaign, and nobody's sure he's even on the team.
In two seasons, Duarte has hauled in 44 receptions for 754 yards. He would probably be USC's best pass-catching tight end right now, with or without Dixon.
It's probably worth noting USC never officially offered Duarte, but they certainly recruited him heartily. One has to believe they would have pursued him even more heartily if they weren't dealing with scholarship restrictions at the time.
DJ Foster - RB, Arizona State (Senior)
Class of 2012 - 4-Star RB
I really like Justin Davis and Tre Madden. I don't think we've even come close to seeing what they're capable of. Probably because they both have a history of season-ending injuries. They've collectively missed 36 games throughout their careers (29 for Madden, 7 for Davis). By comparison, DJ Foster has proven surprisingly durable, never missing a game due to injury in his 40 game career (he did leave the 2013 PAC-12 title game with an injury, but only after gaining 142 total yards against a stout Stanford defense).
Running back depth shouldn't be an issue this season, but the harsh reality is that the unit is one major injury away from being pretty shallow in the experience department. It sure would it be nice to have an extra senior at the position who statistically compares pretty closely to Buck Allen.
DJ career (40 games): 5.3 yards per carry, 11.5 yards per reception
Buck Career (27 games): 5.5 yards per carry, 11.2 yards per reception
Pretty close, right? It would be like Buck never left.
USC recruited Foster intensely, but mostly for his athleticism and wanted him to play defensive back, which is probably why he didn't come in the first place. Maybe Lane should have looked a little closer at his Dillon Baxter-esque senior season when DJ rushed for 3,058 yards and 54 TDs.
Eddie Vanderdoes - DL, UCLA (Junior)
Class of 2013 - 5-Star DL
The defensive line is tasked with the impossible this season: replacing Leonard Williams and his other-worldly production. Projected starters Antwaun Woods, Delvon Simmons and Claude Pelon certainly have their work cut out for them. Cody Temple, Greg Townsend Jr, and Kenny Bigelow will help add some nice depth (as will some really good freshman), but it sure wouldn't hurt to have Eddie Vanderdoes in the rotation right now.
In 2014, he had equal to or better production than Woods, Simmons, and Pelon in almost every area:
Woods: 37 1 1 0 0 0
Simmons: 44 3 1 0 1 0
Pelon: 19 7 2.5 0 0 0
He also had a rushing touchdown which is so Jim Mora.
Vanderdoes initially committed to USC, but as we all remember changed his mind in late December 2012, deciding he would rather play for a school that practices on an 80-yard field. It probably had nothing to do with USC going 7-6 that year.
Jalen Ramsey - DB, Florida State (Junior)
Class of 2013 - 5-Star DB
Jalen Ramsey has legit NFL talent and will easily be the first defensive back off the board in next year's draft not named Vernon Hargreaves or Kendall Fuller. If USC has a weakness in the secondary, it's at safety. Last season, the defense was ranked 115th nationally in passing yards allowed per game (to be fair 11 of the 12 PAC teams ranked 90th or worse in passing yards allowed per game thanks to some pretty decent quarterbacking). An elite defender like Ramsey would certainly help improve upon that number.
Ramsey's 2014 season stats:
73 total tackles, 3 sacks, 11 TFL, 2 INTs, 12 PBU
Which roughly translates to:
- All-ACC First Team (Media/Coaches)
- USA Today All-America First Team
- Scout.com All-America First Team
- Associated Press All-America Second Team
- FWAA All-America Second Team
- Sports Illustrated All-America Second Team
- Sporting News All-America Second Team
The idea of Jalen Ramsey playing with this defense is almost unfair. If he were a Trojan, they would likely have the best secondary in college football.
Alas, Ramsey was a signing day heartbreaker back in 2013. Again, it probably had nothing to do with the team coming off a 7-6 season after opening the year as the unanimous #1. No, you're still bitter.
So while the 2015 Trojans should have their best depth in years thanks to the sheer numbers, these four guys would have been nice to have in tow. If only everyone shared the same sentiment as Mike Garrett.
But let's put it up for debate, who would you include on this list and why?