The Athletic — Was it more difficult getting the message across to recruits this past cycle considering there was so much uncertainty around the program and Helton?
Eric Ziskin — Yeah, it definitely was. I think the kryptonite to recruiting at any program is uncertainty. Especially at USC because we were already at a place where people like to nitpick and talk about us in negative ways. So if you have that uncertainty, it makes it a million times easier for everybody else, not that anybody else knew what was (really) happening, but it’s almost like the entire rest of the world is ganging up on you because they’re all saying similar things. The kids and the parents hear the same message from so many other places and it becomes hard to fight against for sure.
The Athletic — What’s it like to deal with the perception that the sky is falling when you guys sign the No. 20 recruiting class in the country?
Ziskin (former USC Recruiting Director) — The recruiting rankings are always fun and it’s nice but the class is going to be judged a couple of years from now based on their on-field performance. It’s always fun for the fans to look at that stuff and I know that the class was ranked much lower than is acceptable and what we’re looking for at USC, but we like the guys we signed this year. We look at it a little differently than the fans do.
The Athletic — Is that uncertainty why some schools — like Oregon and Washington — were able to have some success in southern California this past recruiting cycle?
Ziskin — Yeah, I think it definitely helps them for sure. Like I said, the uncertainty being there is the hardest thing from a recruiting standpoint to battle. They were definitely taking advantage of it and kind of poaching some guys from our local backyard.
The Athletic — Is the solution to that as simple as winning more games?
Ziskin — That’s definitely a huge part. I think that will be the biggest part of it once the Trojans get back to winning a few more games. That’ll be the biggest step toward winning everybody’s hearts back.
I think it’s just the perception that comes with a couple more wins and stability of the future of the program.
The Athletic — Staff size, being understaffed, was always a topic of discussion around USC. What were your thoughts on it?
Ziskin — It’s talked about a lot. I never really thought about it internally all that much. We had what we had. We made it work with what we had and never complained too much. Took it and ran and did what we did with who we had. The guys that are left there, Trey Johnson, Ryan Miller, Gavin Morris, along with Kelsea Winkle, who (USC) just hired, are an all-star crew, plus whoever they bring in to replace me, they’re going to do a great job. They’ve got a solid crew of people there to take it over.
I never thought about (staff size) too much or thought it held us back at all.