Some USC Players Would be Wise To Stick Around

USC seniors weighing whether to return for extra season of eligibility

Adam Grosbard (OC Register)  —  LOS ANGELES — Most senior days, it’s the official goodbyes of a group of student-athletes who played out their full eligibility at a school, a way to honor those who are moving on to the next stage of their lives and careers.

But it’s a little different this year around the country. Because as schools like USC prepare for their final home game — in the Trojans’ case, against BYU on Saturday — seniors will be deciding whether to take the next step or return to school for one more year.

Rewind a little over a year ago, when there was so much uncertainty about what a college football season would look like in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic in a world before vaccines. Many players questioned whether it would be in their best interest to play, due to the health risks and the possibility of wasting a year as large swaths of games being canceled due to high COVID-19 rates on teams.

To ease some of those concerns, the NCAA offered a blanket extra season of eligibility to any player who played in 2020.

So for a group of seniors at the Coliseum on Saturday, there will be a pre-game ceremony, but the question of whether or not this is truly their last home game as Trojans.

One USC player has already made a declaration of intent to return to school for a final season: Defensive end Nick Figueroa (50). But most others are still in the process of thinking through their decision, or have put it on hold until after the season finale against Cal next week.

“I’ve definitely been giving it thought,” safety and captain Isaiah Pola-Mao said. “I think it’s just something that I’ve just got to talk about with my family, reach out to some agents and just get a good plan.”

That is a recurring theme with the USC seniors: Feeling out the NFL to see what their prospects are, and if they would be better off returning to school for an extra year.

There are players like linebacker Kana’i Mauga, with a career-high 78 tackles this season, who have to check if they’ve raised their greatest potential. And then others, like three-year offensive line starter Brett Neilon, who need to weigh what their long-term professional chances are.

USC center Brett Neilon lines up over the football against Washington in the second half Saturday, Sept. 28, 2019, in Seattle. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)

Some people, like why rush out of college? I’m not like a high draft pick or a draft pick at all, it could be a tough road,” Neilon said. “To leave a free year of school at a place like this, gotta weigh the options and the risk-return. But gotta see where my heart goes and see if I want to take that risk or come back.”

There are others in the same boat, like nickel back Greg Johnson and offensive lineman Andrew Vorhees.

“It’s some guys that will be playing on Sundays here fairly soon, but it’s also some guys that will have a chance to come back here and continue to contribute,” interim head coach Donte Williams said. “They’ve got to also look at what’s best for them, and hopefully some of these guys plan on coming back and helping us win a championship.”

Quarterback Jaxson Dart reiterated Williams’ message about this being a personal decision for the players, but the true freshman has done a little recruiting with an eye toward next season.

“They’re going to make the best decisions for them, and I’m going to always support that. It’s just super exciting time for them and for them to live out their dreams and just achieve their goals that they set out for from the start,” Dart said. “But yeah, I’m going to selfishly put in a few words to try to keep some guys back for me.”

But regardless of the uncertainty for some, there are still long-time Trojans like Vavae Malepeai, Liam Jimmons and Erik Krommenhoek who have completed their time at USC.

“It’ll be sad because those are some of the guys that I came in with and lots of ups and downs,” Neilon said. “It should be pretty emotional.”

ocregister.com

_________

TrojanDailyBlog members  —  Always feel free to add information or topics to the TDB which don’t necessarily pertain to any particular moderator post or member comment.

SUBSCRIBE HERE TO RECEIVE NOTICE OF NEW COMMENTS OR REPLIES.
Notify of
35 Comments
newest
oldest most voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
John Weld
Admin
Diamond Member
John Weld(@johnnynumbers)
November 26, 2021 4:11 pm

I have been able to confirm with two different sources that the USC athletic department is going to be having a press conference on Monday, November 29th at the Coliseum. (Confidence Level 99%) I have also been told that Fickell has no interest in the USC job and did not want to leave the Ohio area. Arranda was not ready to leave Baylor because of the support he has been given by the administration. Two people told me the job was Matt Campbell’s and third person thought is was going to be Dan Quinn’s althought he hedged and said since… Read more »

Last edited 1 month ago by John Weld
UtahTrojan
Member
Diamond Member
UtahTrojan(@utahtrojan)
November 26, 2021 4:20 pm
Reply to  John Weld

Arranda was my choice, but if the conference is that soon it will not be him.

Steveg
Member
Mt Rushmore
Steveg(@steveg)
November 26, 2021 6:06 pm
Reply to  UtahTrojan

Huge miss if it isn’t Aranda.

John Weld
Admin
Diamond Member
John Weld(@johnnynumbers)
November 26, 2021 6:21 pm
Reply to  Allen Wallace

A lot of Aranda’s family and friends told him to consider the USC job but he felt like two years at Baylor wasn’t enough time to prepare him to be a great coach.

ATL D.D.S.
Member
Diamond Member
ATL D.D.S.(@atl-d-d-s)
November 27, 2021 6:17 pm
Reply to  John Weld

Fine. Another experimental coach who spoke like Helton in the quotes I heard here recently. This is who we hire….

ATL D.D.S.
Member
Diamond Member
ATL D.D.S.(@atl-d-d-s)
November 27, 2021 6:15 pm
Reply to  Allen Wallace

Color me underwhelmed.

The NCAA did kill us after all. Along with a clown greek who started the decline of university leadership.

Steveg
Member
Mt Rushmore
Steveg(@steveg)
November 26, 2021 5:43 pm
Reply to  John Weld

Who could it be? Someone that would be done without a championship to worry about. Campbell. Tedford. Stoops. Who else? Gary Patterson?

Last edited 1 month ago by Steveg
San Diego Trojan
Member
Diamond Member
San Diego Trojan(@san-diego-trojan)
November 27, 2021 9:13 am
Reply to  John Weld

If it is Campbell, I would be good with the hire. He reminds me the most of Chris Petersen. He knows how to build a good and sustainable culture, and he and his staff know how to develop guys. He’s young enough, enthusiastic enough, and seems to have the energy to put into rebuilding our brand. Hopefully he won’t have Pro aspirations and he wants to stay awhile. The other guys liked to be courted and benefited from the speculation, with new, rich, contracts. Timing is everything. While he may not be the big, sexy choice that gets recruits to… Read more »

ATL D.D.S.
Member
Diamond Member
ATL D.D.S.(@atl-d-d-s)
November 27, 2021 6:20 pm

No doubt he works cheap compared to the top coaches we were said to be pursuing.

John Weld
Admin
Diamond Member
John Weld(@johnnynumbers)
November 26, 2021 10:31 pm

USC Basketball wins the Wooden Legacy Classic Tournament in Anaheim by beating San Diego St 58 to 43 and running their record to 6 and 0.

rleeholder1
Member
Noble Member
rleeholder1(@rleeholder1)
November 27, 2021 5:58 am
Reply to  John Weld

Great defensive effort by USC B’Ball. Would like to see the same from the Football Team.

PN4SC
Member
Noble Member
PN4SC(@pn4sc)
November 26, 2021 8:48 pm
Reply to  Allen Wallace

Sure hope it happens. He would be a great choice. After that, I don’t see anyone else still available that could really make a difference.

Chris
Member
Diamond Member
Chris(@chris)
November 26, 2021 6:07 pm

It has to be Campbell

Last edited 1 month ago by Chris
Steveg
Member
Mt Rushmore
Steveg(@steveg)
November 26, 2021 6:20 pm
Reply to  Chris

Can you expand on that at all Chris?

Chris
Member
Diamond Member
Chris(@chris)
November 26, 2021 4:10 pm
Reply to  Allen Wallace

That’s pretty vague. Good news or not so good?

Last edited 1 month ago by Chris
PN4SC
Member
Noble Member
PN4SC(@pn4sc)
November 26, 2021 3:28 pm

Too bad about Smith signing an extension at OSU. If all of our top candidates bail on us, he would have presented a nice fall back position.

RialtoTrojan
Member
Noble Member
RialtoTrojan(@rialtotrojan)
November 26, 2021 12:04 pm

When I first read the story I saw this Saturday was senior day I considered going to the game just to see what discounts they’re offering.
All jokes aside if a player could get a year of development under a better coach, why not take it? It all depends on who they hire. I am a hard NO on Campbell because he seems like Helton 2.0, “It’s not about winning the conference….” But if Bohn settles for less than the best, I hope he doesn’t go much lower than Campbell.

Last edited 1 month ago by RialtoTrojan
Chris
Member
Diamond Member
Chris(@chris)
November 26, 2021 2:39 pm
Reply to  RialtoTrojan

RialtoTrojan RialtoTrojan I think Campbell is really good and would be a great fit here. He is by all accounts a great developer of talent. Talent is not our issue, even in this era of mediocrity. He does more with less, let’s see him do more with more.

Rock2112
Member
Mt Rushmore
Rock2112(@rock2112)
November 26, 2021 3:39 pm
Reply to  Chris

I’m not a fan of the “does more with less” argument if the coach at issue is playing in a weak conference — because the other side of the coin is he faces that weaker competition. The Big 12 is very weak right now. VERY weak. So is the Pac12 though, so whatever, right?

Last edited 1 month ago by Rock2112
Steveg
Member
Mt Rushmore
Steveg(@steveg)
November 26, 2021 5:47 pm
Reply to  Rock2112

When a guy can take 2 and 3 star players and play up to beat teams with the 4 and 5 star players I think it speaks boatloads. Campbell has built a rock solid program and it was based on mediocre talent. He would surely change the culture, and the results will be the fruit of winning a lot more games and titles.

Rock2112
Member
Mt Rushmore
Rock2112(@rock2112)
November 27, 2021 12:09 pm
Reply to  Steveg

Right, but Campbell has lost to two of the three ranked teams he faced this year — and the same last year. And he lost to Louisiana (not LSU!) last year. I’m not saying he’s a bad coach. I am just saying, people are not consistent in their evaluations of coaches from weaker conferences/teams. We tend to focus on those rare games where their teams leap up and overperform, or where their opposition comes in too confident and lays an egg. If you are an above average coach in a weak conference, with a little luck you are probably going… Read more »

Last edited 1 month ago by Rock2112
Rock2112
Member
Mt Rushmore
Rock2112(@rock2112)
November 27, 2021 3:36 pm
Reply to  Allen Wallace

Well, that’s news to me — I’ve been busy! In that case, my pick is to crawl into a fetal position and cry. We’re screwed! Although, at least we dodged the James Franklin bullet, as he is losing another big game to go to 7-5!

Steveg
Member
Mt Rushmore
Steveg(@steveg)
November 27, 2021 6:23 pm
Reply to  Rock2112

Perhaps I am not following you in what you are saying, but what I am getting is that if you are coaching at a lesser school then you cannot coach as well as the coaches at the better schools. Is that what you are saying? If so, then how do these guys get to the better schools?

Rock2112
Member
Mt Rushmore
Rock2112(@rock2112)
November 27, 2021 8:08 pm
Reply to  Steveg

No, I am definitely not saying that. I am only saying that people often fail to account for the level of difficulty of competition when they get excited about coaches. It is very hard to evaluate coaches that can win most of their games against weak competition. There are great coaches at all levels. And there are mediocre coaches who are able to puff up their record — to the point of fool’s gold. I am just not sold that Campbell isn’t in that second category.

UtahTrojan
Member
Diamond Member
UtahTrojan(@utahtrojan)
November 26, 2021 9:02 am

Interesting situation as we are seeing these players are not all that good. Don’t think any of them will be drafted.

Steveg
Member
Mt Rushmore
Steveg(@steveg)
November 26, 2021 5:49 pm
Reply to  Allen Wallace

So does that mean the seniors that return take a scholarship away that could have been given to perhaps a better 5 star talent?