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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Arizona will have to overcome difference in pedigree against No. 10 USC

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Tyler Besh
Tyler Besh / Arizona Daily Wildcat UA Football vs Washington

At the end of practice on Tuesday, head coach Rich Rodriguez gathered the team together for the final huddle before sending the team home for the night.

Rodriguez posed a question to his players: who was offered a scholarship to play at Southern California?

“I think three of them raised their hand, and two of them were probably lying,” Rodriguez said.

Arizona currently has the fifth-best offense in the nation, but the gap in pedigree between the Trojans and the Wildcats is stark.

Quarterback Matt Scott, running back Ka’Deem Carey and receiver Austin Hill have all put up top-20 numbers this season, but not one was offered a scholarship from USC.

The lack of respect is becoming a battle cry for the Wildcats.

“There’s a big chip on the shoulder because it’s good competition playing the best of the best,” said linebacker Sir Thomas Jackson, a walk-on.

“So that’ll be a big chip, and plus I want to get people back, show I can play with four or five-star recruits.”

Rankings out of high school aren’t necessarily cut and dry, but the difference between the talent the two teams capture via recruiting is staggering, especially considering the sanctions the NCAA placed on USC in 2010, leaving them bowl-ineligible for two years.

Since 2008, the year Scott and other redshirt seniors came to Arizona, the Wildcats’ recruiting classes have been, on average, 44th in the nation, according to Rivals.com. USC has been just a tad higher.

Since 2008 the Trojans have been fifth in recruiting, including the No. 1 class in 2010.

“They’re phenomenally talented,” Rodriguez said. “They do a great job recruiting and we want to catch them in that point.”

For the 2013 recruiting season, the Arizona coaching staff has done a good job assembling the 23rd class in the nation. But even with the early jump, Arizona won’t catch USC’s No. 1 class.

“Stars don’t mean anything,” cornerback Derrick Rainey said.

“Those stars, you get those in high school — but once you come into college, this is another level.”

The talent gap isn’t a new obstacle for the Wildcats to overcome — USC has had elite talent since former coach Pete Carroll took over in 2001. But with Arizona giving young walk-ons playing time, such as Jackson and injured safety Jared Tevis, the perceived talent pales in comparison.

The Trojan passing attack is led by Matt Barkley (No. 5 overall in 2009), Robert Woods (No. 6 overall in 2010) and Marqise Lee (No. 36 in 2011).

“Everyone’s got Division I players, obviously,” said linebacker Jake Fischer, a three-star recruit in 2009. “But these guys have round-level talent, you know what I mean. You got to cut down on mistakes, you got to know where they’re trying to hit you, like I said. And just run to the ball, man.”

One player who was recruited by the Trojans, and Arizona’s only top 100 recruit since 2008, is linebacker Marquis Flowers.

Flowers, a four-star player out of high school, took an official visit to USC when Carroll was still in charge.

During Tuesday’s practice, Flowers was one of the players to raise his hand, and said he was surprised by the number of players that the Trojans recruited from the UA.

“I was expecting more. I didn’t really realize it,” he said.

“I think it’s going to motivate the guys, especially guys like [Jackson] who had to walk on.”

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