High School athletes from all over the Southland are turning some of their childhood dreams into reality. Over the last three months, many have signed the dotted line and have made their decisions on where they’ll continue their education and athletic careers.
During the early signing period in December, USC made noise early and often by signing 19 players to national letters of intent (NLI) including the nation’s No.1 recruit in Korey Foreman from Corona Centennial (CA) in January.
Head Coach Clay Helton is “extremely excited about the young men he signed, it filled a lot of needs for the future, where a veteran team of players will be lost to the upcoming NFL Draft or to graduation”.
Among the signees included Jaxson Dart who also had offers from other Pac-12 bluebloods in Arizona State, Washington State, and UCLA and the nation’s fifth ranked quarterback Miller Moss, along with promising wideout Kyron-Ware Hudson to add depth to an already stacked offensive core.
USC fans moaned and groaned last season on the depths of recruiting. While there are still some issues with losing homegrown talent to Pac-12 rivals across the west, USC is steadily on an upward trajectory to becoming a force to be reckoned with.
On the opposite side of town, UCLA added 16 players during the early signing period in December, seven of them being from Southern California. Head Coach Chip Kelly explained the process of recruiting amongst the global pandemic.
“A lot of kids were pressured into commitments early with (COVID-19) and not visiting and all those other things”, Kelly said. “We had stayed in touch with them, they were kids we’d been recruiting for awhile, and as things got closer to signing day, they decided that UCLA was the best spot for them.”
While the Bruins only rank fourth in the latest recruiting ranks (per 247Sports), UCLA did most of their damage through the transfer portal. With the 2020 season not counting towards eligibility as a result of the pandemic, many chose to explore the waters with new programs.
The Bruins picked up four graduate transfers, including former Texas A&M wideout Kam Brown, and former Michigan standout Zach Charbonet who hails from Southern California. Let’s not forget prior to the season, UCLA picked up four grad transfer students who’ve already announced their intentions to return for the 2021 season.
In February, the Bruins didn’t make much noise, as most of their recruiting targets signed on with the program in December. Any new players that wish to come aboard, would more than likely arrive from the transfer portal. Nonetheless, UCLA is primed to make a splash in the conference.
While UCLA may have ended the season under .500, the future looks bright for the Bruins heading into the 2021 season. So, what’s next for both local programs going forward?
Both teams look to head into spring practice with high hopes. USC ended the season on a disappointing note, losing to an inferior Oregon squad in the Pac-12 Championship Game. Helton and the Trojans empty the cupboard, and look to turn over a new leaf with the return of Kedon Slovis under center and a corps of players ready to make an impact.
With their treasure at signing day, and their returning players UCLA is poised to be a contender in the always tumultuous Pac-12 South division that’s if they play their cards right.
While no spring practice dates have been announced for either school, we look ahead to what the 2021 season has to offer.
Editor’s note: Featured image showcases student-athletes from Junipero Serra (Gardena). Serra prepares their football class recruits to sign off commitments to collegiate institutions. Photo courtesy of @SerraFootball via Twitter