Armond Armstead likely to transfer

It appears more likely than ever that USC defensive tackle Armond Armstead will not be returning to the Trojans next year as a story today in the OC Register indicated that he is “strongly considering transferring” to another school.

Armstead listed Notre Dame, Auburn and Arkansas as three possible destinations. He has a meeting with USC administrators on Monday to review the transfer request.

His reasons for transferring revolve around undisclosed medical issues which have resulted in Armstead not being cleared to play by the USC doctors.

This transfer scenario appeared likely in December when his brother Arik -- an ESPNU 150 recruit -- dropped USC from consideration after being a longtime verbal commit to the Trojans.

Arik Armstead had been an early USC commit for the Class of 2012 and had seemed to be as solid a verbal as one could find. He first decommitted from USC in October, but at the time he left the door open for the Trojans. The fact that he has now dropped USC completely was a sign that the situation with Armond was probably not headed in a good direction, as Armond had previously said that he would likely follow Arik to whatever school he chose so that the brothers could play together.

The details of the medical situation with Armond remain murky. The university cannot comment due to privacy laws and the Armstead family isn’t filling in the blanks either. What we know is that Armond was originally held out of spring practice as a precaution when the issue first emerged. He was later allowed to practice on a limited basis but was never officially cleared and was eventually given the mandate to redshirt for the 2011 season.

The Armstead family didn’t like the way the situation was handled with USC. They have maintained that they have no problem with the USC coaches, it was more of the uncertain process with the medical side of things.

The Armsteads claim that Armond has passed the necessary tests which they believe should allow him to return to the field, but he was still held out. Nobody will confirm if the USC doctors have currently cleared him to return to the field or no,t but the fact that he is looking to transfer elsewhere leads to reasonable speculation that he has still yet to be cleared.

There is bound to be a natural comparison between this situation and that of Jarvis Jones, the one-time Trojans linebacker who was not cleared by the USC doctors due to a neck condition. Jones transferred to Georgia, eventually gained medical clearance, and had an All-American season in 2011.

The Armsteads frustration with the process is understandable. Armond obviously has realistic aspirations of playing in the NFL and he could have used a good senior year to help enhance his draft prospects. The fact that there doesn’t seem to be a clear reason why he is being denied the ability to play is something that the family is having a hard time understanding.

While one can sympathize with the Armsteads, this is not a cut-and-dry situation on the USC side. The USC doctors are professionals and they make their decisions without worrying if a football player is going to be eligible or not. Without knowing the exact details of the case, it is still reasonable to think that the doctors had the overall best health interests of Armond in mind when they made their diagnosis.

Regardless, the current situation is that neither Arik or Armond Armstead is likely to be playing for the Trojans next fall. Both players would have been welcome additions on the defensive line -- Armond for his experience and Arik for his sheer potential. The loss will be felt particularly hard in the middle of the line next year, when Armond would have been the only senior in a group of relatively inexperienced players.

The departure will have an impact on the USC roster in terms of the number of available scholarship roster spots. The Trojans need to be at the 75-scholarship limit next fall due to the NCAA sanctions -- a restriction which will require some roster adjusting since the coaches plan to sign 15 players on signing day, which will leave them several spots above the limit . If Armond leaves, that is one less spot the coaches will need to worry about when it comes time to meeting that scholarship limit.

Armond will be able to transfer to another school without having to sit out since he graduated from USC in December. That is the irony in all of this, as USC was good to the Armstead family in so many ways. Armond got a good education and his degree. His football career had been progressing nicely. It was enough to initially attract his younger brother, who wanted to experience the same things his brother did.

It was a mutually beneficial relationship between the Armsteads and USC -- one that looked to continue in future years with Arik. Then the medical issues surfaced and now it looks like neither player will be here in the future. That is a shame. For both sides.