Hey Judes is back for another round. This time we take a look at how Clay Helton has returned the Trojans to the limelight, Ole Miss’ postseason ban and the Fighting Irish’s surge on the recruiting trail.
This week’s edition of Hey Judes will start off by moving the microscope out west.
Aside from the fact my roommate is in San Diego visiting his family, leaving the apartment all to myself for a week, I have other reasons to be thankful for the West Coast.
For starters, I don’t know if I’ve ever written it, but I haven an irrational love for the Pac-12. It doesn’t make any sense. I was born and raised in the Southeast and attended an SEC school. It’s bonkers, I know.
But I love it nonetheless.
I had the pleasure of speaking with 5-star quarterback and current Washington commit Jacob Sirmon this week. He seems like a great kid, and I’m hoping to have a story on his future with the Huskies out soon.
On top of that, I finally got a chance to interview USC offensive coordinator Tee Martin, and I couldn’t have enjoyed that conversation more. We discussed the job Clay Helton has done in his short time as head coach of the Trojans and the momentum they have in recruiting. Oh, and we also touched on their star quarterback, Sam Darnold, too.
However, this is a recruiting column, so let’s pick this up with the progress USC has made on the recruiting trail.
It’s incredible, really. I can hardly believe the gigantic step forward the program has made in the past year. I will gladly admit I was wrong to raise an eyebrow at the decision to name Helton as the full-time head coach. When the Trojans parted ways with Steve Sarkisian, I felt they needed to find a big name to replace him.
Helton was the right man for the job. It’s clear now.
We all saw that ridiculously strong finish they had to close out the 2017 recruiting class, but USC is now accelerating through the 2018 cycle. It has six total commits at No. 3 in the recruiting class rankings, and two of those six pledges are from 5-star quarterback Matt Corral and 5-star linebacker Palaie Gaoteote. The latter joins 4-star linebackers Raymond Scott and Bo Calvert, a now-former high school teammate of Corral, who committed to the Trojans in April of 2016.
Corral could end up being the next great quarterback to roll through L.A., but let’s pause and look at how Helton is rebuilding the program. With the trio of linebackers currently committed, the Trojans are putting an emphasis on defense, and it’s exciting. Former 4-star safeties Bubba Bolden and Isaiah Pola-Mao are expected to make instant impacts as true freshmen next season, and when you factor in former 5-star defensive tackle Jay Tufele, USC could be building an elite defense in a conference known for putting points on the board. That’s exciting.
Ole Miss’ Postseason Ban & Rebels Recruiting
Let’s be honest. Those of us who have our ears to the ground on the recruiting trail knew back in 2013 — when the Rebels landed Laremy Tunsil, Laquon Treadwell and Robert Nkemdiche — that something would surface regarding Ole Miss in the coming years. We didn’t know when; we didn’t know how; we just knew.
The most interesting portion of the situation going on in Oxford right now is the fact none of the allegations have to do with Tunsil, who made some questionable comments about his time at Ole Miss when he was drafted by the Miami Dolphins last year.
Regardless, Hugh Freeze’s team will not be able to compete in a bowl game next season, as the university self-imposed a postseason ban. It sounds like a big deal, but, in terms of recruiting, it won’t affect a whole lot. I spoke to a couple of Ole Miss targets in the 2018 class, Asa Martin and Jett Johnson, who echoed that sentiment.
The reality is opposing coaches have been negative recruiting against the Rebels for awhile, and Ole Miss struggled this past year compared to what fans have come to expect from the Freeze era. The Rebels lost out on Cam Akers; they lost out on Willie Gay. It’s clear the arrow is pointing down, but it’s not directly related to a postseason ban. This has been going on for quite some time.
Fighting Irish Fighting Back
The 2016 season did not go according to plan for Brian Kelly. He had a team led by a probable first-round pick in DeShone Kizer, and it was flipped upside down on its head beginning in Week 1.
Now, Kizer is gone, and Notre Dame is looking for the next chapter in the Kelly era. It appears the answer lies in the 2018 recruiting class.
The Fighting Irish made noise earlier this month when they landed 5-star safety Derrik Allen and 4-star cornerback Kalon Gervin. This week, Notre Dame added another big piece to its future secondary when it received a commitment from 4-star cornerback Braden Lenzy. Clearly, the Irish are putting an emphasis on improving the defense, and it’s starting in the secondary.
Notre Dame will certainly be a team to watch closely as this recruiting cycle continues.