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January 1, 2013
SAN ANTONIO - No USC commit here at the U.S. Army All-American Bowl is thrilled by the Trojans' season, capped by an unflattering loss to Georgia Tech in the Sun Bowl. A season that could have ended with a national championship became a 7-6 dud.
The recruiting class is not falling apart, but the disappointing season has resulted in de-commitments: Max Redfield, Eddie Vanderdoes and Eldridge Massington. But eyebrows -- and questions -- are being raised around this town about exactly what's going on with the Trojans.
USC, preseason No. 1 of numerous publications, dropped five of its last six games, and the week in El Paso, Texas, could be summed up as disastrous.
"They had a great amount of time to prepare for that bowl game, so that does raise a few things," four-star linebacker Michael Hutchings said. "They had a lot more time, and they still came out the same way they were the rest of the season. That was a little bit concerning.
"They didn't look like they were in sync at all. They didn't look like they were into it throughout the whole game. I saw one play late from T.J. McDonald, who came up and made a hit, but that was about it. It's a little concerning. We'll talk to some coaches after the (Army) game to see what's going on with that situation."
Hutchings, who plans to visit Washington and is being courted by Notre Dame commits, is not the only one with queries about the Trojans. Four-star Torrodney Prevot isn't uneasy about the USC situation, but he said there are things that need to be cleared up as signing day gets closer.
Prevot, still a solid commit to the Trojans who is unlikely to switch his pledge, plans to visit Notre Dame in January.
"I do see it as an opportunity to build on the (USC) program and help them have a great season next year and make sure everybody is committed to play," Prevot said. "We want to make sure all the commits are still there even though the season went bad. We're not there yet, but we're going to get there and we're going to make it happen.
"I have a few questions for everybody, just to know this is the right choice for me, this is the right place to be for the next four years. I want to know where I'm going to stand, what's the plan for me. I want to see my teammates to figure out who's going to be there, if the coaches are going to be there."
The coaching situation, albeit tenuous especially after a disappointing season, does not seem to be a big factor, at least at this point, for the USC commits at the Army game. USC athletic director Pat Haden has affirmed that coach Lane Kiffin will return next season, but promises have apparently not been made if things go bad again.
The high-stakes game of college football lends to coaching changes, and Prevot, Hutchings and five-star quarterback Max Browne said they realize it. They also seem to know that good coaches at major programs could be enticed to the NFL and unsuccessful coaches get booted.
The loss to Georgia Tech was the latest body blow to a proud USC program, but Browne said he sees it as an opportunity to turn things around quickly next season.
"I wasn't really able to see the game because of practice and all the stuff we do back at the hotel but I heard it wasn't pretty just to sum it up," Browne said. "I look at it as an opportunity. As far as wins or losses, you'd like to have them win a national championship but I'm looking forward to getting down there and competing. No matter what happened this season I was going to have an opportunity to compete for the job whether it was undefeated or 7-6 so things really haven't changed.
"Guys talk about it. They do. We all love Kiffin and at the same time we love his assistants. I know I'm looking forward to playing for Kiffin but I'm also looking forward to playing with coach (Clay) Helton. It's kind of the nature of college football. If you're doing really well you might move and if you're not doing well you might move so you really never know."
Hutchings said the coaching situation is out of his control and something he's really not focused on. Most likely sticking with his USC commitment, the Concord (Calif.) De La Salle standout said there are constantly rumors but those could stop by next year with a big season.
"I just want to go to a winning program and one that's getting better," Hutchings said. "At least if they were into it and enthusiastic and into the game. It doesn't matter what bowl game you're in, you still have to play the game. It's the game we all love.
"Other guys are up for jobs, too. (Washington coach Steve Sarkisian) is up as a candidate for NFL jobs. (UCLA) coach (Jim) Mora is, too. All those guys are always candidates. When you run great programs you're always going to be up for jobs so that's where we're going so I can't worry about it too much."