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Clay Helton's biggest recruiting misses at USC

Bryce Young
Bryce Young (USA Today Sports Images)

The Clay Helton era is officially over at USC. There are a lot of people pointing to various mistakes he made along the way but not landing top recruits will doom a head coach. Here is a look at 10 recruiting misses that doomed Clay Helton.

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FIVE IN-STATE MISSES

Missing on the five-star was a huge blow to USC. Young was committed to the Trojans for over a year but then he flipped to Alabama in late September of his senior year. Not being able to close on the prospect many viewed as the future of the program was definitely a contributing factor in Helton dismissal.

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Another miss at quarterback in the same class as Young, Uiagalelei showed a lot of early interest in the Trojans but USC wasn’t able to capitalize on any momentum they had. He was such a popular recruit in California that getting a signature from Uiagalelei would have really helped the Trojans recruit a number of other major prospects. Now he’s across the country at Clemson steering their ship as a first year starter.


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One of the next great linebackers in college football, Flowe had plenty of chances to get very close with the USC staff while he was a recruit. The Trojans wanted Flowe badly and were able to get him to visit a number of times but they weren't able to keep him from landing elsewhere. The Trojans fell behind Clemson and Oregon before he eventually signed with the Ducks.

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Historically, the Trojans were known for flashy and explosive offenses with dominant running backs and Milton could have been the next one. Inserting the big, strong running back into the USC offense would have given this team an added dimension for defensive coordinators to worry about. Helton and his staff weren't able to keep Milton from heading to the SEC, where he is seeing plenty of playing time at Georgia.

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Perhaps the biggest miss under Helton, Thibodeaux would have been a game changer for the Trojans. The projected first overall pick in the upcoming NFL Draft was close with the USC coaching staff when he was a recruit but the Trojans had a hard time getting real traction when it came to getting him on campus and picking up any momentum. The Southern California five-star ended up picking Oregon a few days before the Early Signing Period.

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OUT-OF-STATE MISSES

Spencer Rattler
Spencer Rattler (USA Today Sports Images)

USC was one of Tagovailoa's favorite schools when he was growing up and he did make it to campus for a visit when he was a prospect but the biggest contender early on in his recruitment was Oregon. Soon his focus shifted to Alabama and LSU and the rest is history. The 2017 class was Helton's first full recruiting cycle without the "interim" tag but there was an opening for him to make a splash in Tagovailoa's recruitment.

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It's hard to recruit against Oklahoma for quarterbacks these days but Helton and his staff didn't have any luck gaining traction with Rattler. Historically, a five-star from Arizona is always a major target for USC but Rattler and the Trojans never really clicked. Not getting much of a look from major prospects from Arizona is a big problem for any USC head coach.

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Not landing the future top-10 NFL Draft pick was a major miss for Helton and his staff. The Trojans were in the lead at one point for Sewell's commitment but not closing on him hurt a lot. He ended up at Oregon and flourished in Eugene before heading off to the NFL.

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See above. Sewell was interested in pretty much the same schools as his brother, Penei. That was good and bad news for Helton. The Trojans had a shot with Sewell this time around but the Ducks had the inside track. Now he's suiting up for the Ducks as one of the best young linebackers in college football.

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USC was playing from behind with Robinson but Helton and his staff fought hard and landed in his top three. They eventually lost him to Texas, finishing third behind Ohio State. Robinson would have slid into the starting lineup early in his career and brought his impressive playmaking abilities with him.

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