There is a lot of college pride shown by the recruits at The Opening with most of the committed players sporting gear from their chosen school. And with eight USC commits in attendance there is plenty of Cardinal and Gold being worn.
“With the amount of commits we have here, people take notice,” said quarterback Max Browne from Sammamish (Wash.) Skyline. “We’re here to let people know that USC is the place to be.”
The Trojans have more commits taking part in the event than any other school and that is a fact which isn’t lost on any of the committed players.
“We’re here to represent USC this weekend,” said Concord (Calif.) De La Salle linebacker Michael Hutchings. “We're missing a few guys but we’ve still got the most commits out here.”
The fact that USC has the most commits is also a comment on how well recruiting is going for the Trojans, especially in a sanction period which limits Southern Cal's scholarships.
“It says that this recruiting class is going great right now,” said cornerback Chris Hawkins from Rancho Cucamonga (Calif.) Rancho Cucamonga. “We’re on a roll with getting new recruits all the time and we could end up having the class filled before the season starts.”
Hawkins said the limited number of scholarships – USC is only able to give out 15 scholarships for this class plus three early enrollee spots – has actually served to get more early commitments from players.
“People don’t want to be the odd man out,” Hawkins said. “We’ve only got 18 spots and if the 18 fill up then somebody is going to be left out.”
One of the ways that the class has filled up so fast is communication between the recruits themselves. College recruiting has traditionally been a process dominated by the coaches as they controlled the contact and the messages that were being sent but in today’s age of social media and 7-on-7 leagues, the players have become much more integral in choosing who they want to play with.
“Even before I committed I was pretty close with the other recruits,” Hutchings said. “I think that plays the most important role, even before the coaches. It’s the commits that want to be together and be a part of the same class. We all want to play with other great players and that thought has kind of taken over the whole class.
“We communicate by phone, by social media, whatever. We just reach out and the guys are happy to talk with you. Recruits always want to talk to each other because there’s a natural connection there, it’s a different thing when it’s peer to peer rather than a coach.”
As expected from a quarterback, Browne is one of the players that the other players mention in terms of being involved in keeping the group in contact with each other but he certainly isn’t the only one as Su’a Cravens (Murrieta, Calif./Vista Murrieta), Hawkins and Hutchings are mentioned often as well.
“It’s a group effort to build relationships with these guys,” Browne said. “It’s easier to relate to. At the end of the day, you play with other players and friendships are what it’s all about so that’s what we’re trying to do.”
The players also have guidance from the coaches in terms of identifying which prospects are on the coaches' wish list.
“We know who the coaches want and we go out and get it done,” Hutchings said. “I’m know Eddie Vanderdoes is a big target for us so I’m going to be in his ear for four days while we’re here.”
An event like The Opening not only provides an opportunity for extensive recruiting between players but it also gives the committed players a chance to get to know each other even more. After all, sharing Twitter messages and an occasional on-field throwing session match-up is different than sharing a hotel for four days and being a part of the same group experiencing the event in such a memorable setting.
“This is fun because we get to stay together and go against the Michigan commits or the Florida commits,” Hawkins said. “That will be good to help strengthen our bond even more because we really don’t see each other that often, this event will be a good chance to spend some time together. It should be a special time.”