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End of scholarship reductions opens door for USC to retake lead in Pac-12 recruiting

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Ten extra recruits might not seem like much in the grand scope of things, but given that all the Pac-12 schools like to scour the Los Angeles area for prospects, various coaches acknowledged they must choose the right battles to get involved in. Sarkisian and his staff will probably get their top targets -- that much was evident last winter when Adoree' Jackson, John "Juju" Smith, Bryce Dixon and Damien Mama chose the Trojans even after another coaching change -- and the tricky part for schools is recognizing when to set their sights elsewhere.
"We want to knock on the right doors," Oregon coach Mark Helfrich said. "And, hopefully, we'll be invited in the right doors."
Yes, Sarkisian made sure to point out he's not chasing only the five-star recruits. Ultimately, he wants to attract the players and people -- no matter their ranking -- that fit USC best and will help the program regain national prominence coming off NCAA mandated sanctions. It's a simple blueprint he intends to use not only locally, but across the country as well.
Yet in recruiting, the attraction has to be mutual. Letters will be mailed and invitations will be extended, but prospects have to reciprocate the interest. That's where the Trojans have an immense advantage. More often than not, high-caliber recruits gravitate toward big-name schools such as USC, which has a number of appealing factors that even opponents know are difficult to overcome.
"USC is always going to recruit well," Cal coach Sonny Dykes said. "The tradition of that program speaks for itself. And when you sit down and look at where guys are going, particularly from Southern California and the Bay Area, schools are recruiting the west coast probably much more frequently than they have in the past. USC's presence is always going to be here. USC and UCLA are going to recruit well, particularly in Southern California -- they always have and are expected to do so."
In recent years, the Trojans couldn't take all the top local talent. Washington dug into the Golden State to sign 15 prospects in the 2014 recruiting cycle, while rival Washington State signed 14, Arizona landed 13 and Arizona State bagged 10. There is no question that there are plenty of recruits to go around, but with USC able to accept 25 signatures again, the pool is bound to lose some quality.
"There's a ton of good players down here, I can tell you that," Utah coach Kyle Whittingham said. "It's a very fertile recruiting ground. There are more good players down here than [USC] can take, so this is one of our primary areas."
Said Oregon State coach Mike Riley: "We all understand the draw of USC to athletes everywhere and particularly in this area, so [more scholarship spots] will have some effect, but how much is to be determined. You're not talking big, big numbers. You're talking five or six guys that it will impact. We just don't know how much yet."
And though it's an uphill climb to convince the many recruits who grew up idolizing the likes of Reggie Bush and Matt Leinart to leave town for college, USC's success rate won't necessarily dissuade others from tapping into their backyard or pursuing prospects on the west coast.
"The reality is, USC has a pretty good brand name and they're going to get their guys," Arizona coach Rich Rodriguez said. "But I subscribe to the theory that there are players everywhere. Southern California is a big area for us, so [USC] can't take them all. There will be plenty out there for Arizona."
Said Arizona State coach Todd Graham: "It's about diligence and finding the right guys that fit us.
"You want to be the best, you've got to compete with the best. Obviously, that's the benchmark. We feel like we can compete with anybody with what we've got to offer."
Blair Angulo covers the West region and USC for Rivals. Click here to follow him on Twiiter.
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