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USC wondering what happened to its traditional powerhouse

November 24, 1991|By Danny Robbins and Elliott Almond | Danny Robbins and Elliott Almond,Los Angeles Times

Because USC has a policy that is more restrictive than the NCAA's, Trojan coaches, unlike their counterparts at the other schools, cannot guarantee a recruit who hasn't met Prop 48 requirements on the signing date that he will have a place at USC.

At the same time, USC's best recruiting tools -- its tradition and the bright lights and exposure offered by Los Angeles -- have been blunted by negatives associated with its location between downtown and South-Central L.A.

"The times are changing for Los Angeles schools," said Allen Wallace, publisher of Super Prep, a Costa Mesa, Calif.-based football recruiting publication. "Tommy Prothro, John Robinson, John McKay -- I don't think those guys had to worry about gang violence."

Mark Vander Poel, an offensive tackle from Chino, Calif., who attended Colorado and is now in his rookie season with the Indianapolis Colts, remembers giving the Trojans serious consideration as a recruit -- until his luggage was stolen during his official visit to the USC campus.

In Lucas' view, USC coaches have not worked hard enough in building relationships with Southern California high school coaches.

"You've got high school coaches now who don't necessarily have the allegiance to SC anymore," he said. USC coaches "haven't cultivated it. It's 'We're SC. We're coming in. And it doesn't matter if you are going to help us or not.' You've got to recruit the coaches as well as the players."

Smith's most dramatic confrontation with a player at USC occurred last year when he feuded with Marinovich.

Said Alfred Jenkins, the former Lynwood (Calif.) High star who had a tumultuous career as a quarterback for Smith at Arizona: "When I saw what happened with Todd, I thought, 'Here it is again, a quarterback controversy.' "

This season, Smith and Royster, the junior tailback, have been at odds since late September, when Royster publicly stated that he wanted to carry the ball more.

After Royster's comments appeared in print, Smith told reporters at a news conference: "Maybe he ought to move to the press box and call the plays."

Once billed as an All-American candidate, Royster is now the Trojans' third-string tailback. He has not played a down since the Cal game Nov. 2, when he carried the ball four times.

Royster said he was shocked when Smith criticized him for speaking out.

Said Royster: "I was reading all kinds of stuff [from Smith] after that. 'You need to get a long run. You need to get more than five yards a carry.' I was just offended. We haven't really talked about it since then. I still feel I should be getting a couple of plays."

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