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December 28, 2012

USC commits in focus at Army Bowl

MORE: U.S. Army All-American Bowl

Dallas Jackson is the National Columnist for Rivals.com. Email him your comments or story ideas to DallasJ@Yahoo-Inc.com and follow him on Twitter.

With 13 players in its 15-member recruiting class on the roster, it is easier to list the USC pledges not scheduled to be in San Antonio for the U.S. Army All-American Bowl.

Only Joliet (Ill.) Catholic running back Ty Isaac and Santa Monica (Calif.) wide receiver Sebastian LaRue will not be with the rest of the class. The pair will be representing the Trojans at the Under Armour All-America Game in Orlando, Fla.

Having its entire class playing in the two premier postseason events is an exclamation point on what USC has done on the recruiting trail, but the focus for Army week may not be on which players are staying loyal in the class but who may be leaving it.

Rivals.com West coast analyst Adam Gorney said just the early enrollees would make a great class and that may become the silver lining, depending on how the program closes before National Signing Day.

"Having Max Browne, Su'a Cravens, Justin Davis, Kylie Fitts and Chris Hawkins already in school would be a banner year for a lot of schools," Gorney said. "But there are a lot of concerns right now for USC because some guys have de-committed, some are definitely looking around and some will continue to feel the pressure to stay closer to home."

Five-star defensive back Max Redfield of Mission Viejo (Calif.) High de-committed in November and is reportedly between Notre Dame and USC -- and the Irish are the favorite.

Mesquite (Texas) West Mesquite four-star receiver Eldridge Massington flipped from USC to UCLA in December, and rumors are circulating that the Trojans backed off of him as much as he chose to leave.

Most recently, Placer (Calif.) High four-star defensive tackle Eddie Vanderdoes rescinded his pledge to the Trojans just before heading to San Antonio.

Vanderdoes' father, Eddie Sr., said de-committing was never the plan but that it was the right thing for his son to do.

"When he originally committed, he never thought that word would come up," he told Gerard Martinez of USCFootball.com.

"And then, with the Army game next week, he was dreading talking about it. He was going to get constant questions about whether he was 100 percent committed or wavering. You either tell the truth or say you're a lock. That just seems wrong to me."

Vanderdoes is still strongly considering USC, but he wants to entertain the idea of going to Washington, Notre Dame or UCLA.

Gorney said Vanderdoes will not be the only player at the Army All-American game who could be looking at other schools.

Of the current USC commits playing at the Army game, Gorney said that Bellflower (Calif.) St. John Bosco offensive lineman Nico Falah, Brentwood (Tenn.) Academy cornerback Jalen Ramsey, Louisville (Ky.) Trinity defensive lineman Jason Hatcher and Concord (Calif.) De La Salle linebacker Michael Hutchings could waver to some degree. Under Amour participant LaRue also has been discussed as a player who could choose to go elsewhere.

"Vanderdoes wants to look at those other schools," Gorney said. "I think Falah is really considering Washington, and LaRue could be next to go with Notre Dame and Texas A&M really moving up the board.

"If it were just up to (Ramsey) he would be at USC, but I think he is feeling some pressure to look. It's the same with Hatcher because people want him to stay closer to home. Hutchings is going to take a couple of visits, but I think he is the least likely of the group to flip."

Ramsey has maintained that he is 100 percent committed to USC despite rumors of his de-committment since he gave his pledge to the Trojans.

The five-star said that having all of the players in one place will help reunite everyone.

"It will be good to have all of us together," he said. "It helps build bonds quicker all being in the same place."

Gorney said that could prove true.

"Every year, I think these games play a factor in the final decisions," Gorney said. "One thing that will help USC is that they will have all five of the early enrollees there to help get guys buy back in, and that could play a role with Vanderdoes, Falah and Ramsey.

"It will be interesting to see who those guys are hanging out with because sometimes that is a hint at what is going to happen."

Ramsey said his time on the field with all of the USC players at the Rivals100 Five-Star Challenge over the summer was what made him want to go to the West Coast.

"When I was at the Rivals event and saw all the USC guys working as hard as they did and recruiting me to come with them was when I started to feel like USC was going to be the place," he said. "You don't just get invited to those types of events so I knew those guys were good, and when I saw how much they wanted to compete I felt like that was a group I wanted to be a part of."

Now as Ramsey -- along with the majority of the Trojans class -- prepares to board a plane to Texas, those bonds will be put in focus throughout the week.

"We were talking about recruiting at a historic level," Gorney said. "This was an all-time-type class.

"I think there is some level of panic, but there should be more answers coming out of this week, at least for some of the players."



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