Decommit calls strategy into question

If the recruitment of ESPN 300 defensive end Jason Hatcher (Louisville, Ky./Trinity) is any indication, hanging onto longtime commits for six months is no easy task.

Just ask USC.

There aren’t any guarantees in recruiting -- especially with out-of-state prospects -- until the fax machine cranks out signed letters. The risk is often times greater than the payoff.

Hatcher will sign with Kentucky on Wednesday, his mother, Donna, told ESPN.com on Tuesday afternoon. Not long ago, Kentucky seemed to be looking up at USC and hometown Louisville for Hatcher’s signature. But the No. 3-rated player in Kentucky is staying close to home, forcing USC to shake off yet another decommitment in an offseason that has been nothing short of discouraging.

As far as defensive linemen go, early enrollee Kenny Bigelow (Elkton, Md./Eastern Christian Academy) is the only sure thing for USC. Bigelow is already on campus and working out with the team. There’s a chance that he might be the only newcomer at a position of need.

The scarier thing for USC recruiting fans? The Trojans might not have enough time to scramble for alternatives.

USC quickly stacked perhaps the most star-studded collection of linemen in the nation before the calendar even hit September. Five-star defensive tackle Eddie Vanderdoes (Auburn, Calif./Placer), Hatcher and defensive end Torrodney Prevot (Houston, Texas/Alief Taylor) hopped on board in the summer, joining Bigelow and Kylie Fitts (Redlands, Calif./Redlands East Valley) to form an impressive group. Adding depth was a high priority for position coach Ed Orgeron, and he accomplished that very early in the process.

But as the USC coaching staff has learned by now, it’s certainly much more difficult to hang on to blue-chip recruits, especially from out of state, following a 7-6 season.

Vanderdoes decommitted to fully explore his options, then Fitts did the same upon learning that he wouldn’t be able to enroll early. Hatcher decommitted just days after his Jan. 18 official visit to Los Angeles, then reportedly recommitted following an in-home meeting with new defensive coordinator Clancy Pendergast, lead recruiter Tee Martin and Ed Orgeron.

Hatcher appeared set to follow through with his original commitment, skipping a scheduled official visit to hometown Louisville last weekend. But then something changed and he decided Kentucky was the better option.

Vanderdoes and Fitts still have USC among their finalists. Prevot has not publicly decommitted, but is scheduled to make a signing day announcement.

With the way things have unraveled lately, USC might have to rethink its recruiting strategy for the 2014 class.