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Arizona football: Plugging the talent gap

USC's starting lineup littered with 4-, 5-star recruits; UA's has two
2012-10-24T00:00:00Z 2014-10-10T11:31:54Z Arizona football: Plugging the talent gapRyan Finley Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
October 24, 2012 12:00 am  • 

Patrick Onwuasor grew up in Inglewood, Calif., seven miles from USC's campus. Matt Scott lived further inland, in Corona, and grew up watching the Trojans' powerhouse teams on his home television.

Sir Thomas Jackson wanted to follow in the footsteps of a fellow Seattle O'Dea High School graduate, Taylor Mays, who chose USC over Washington as a high school star.

There's a reason all three are currently Arizona Wildcats.

Because USC, frankly, wasn't interested.

"I want to get people back," said Jackson, a walk-on linebacker who has started all seven games this season. "I want to show that I can play with four-star, five-star recruits."

The UA (4-3 overall, 1-3 Pac-12) will take on the 10th-ranked Trojans on Saturday at Arizona Stadium in a game that, at least on paper, shouldn't be close. The talent gap between the two programs is unlike any Arizona will face all year.

Sixteen of USC's 22 starters were rated as either four-star or five-star recruits in high school, according to the Scout.com recruiting service.

Arizona has two: Wide receiver Dan Buckner was a five-star talent, and linebacker Marquis Flowers earned a four-star rating. The rest of Arizona's starting lineup includes 11 three-star recruits, six two-star players and a trio of players - safety Jared Tevis, linebacker defensive end Dan Pettinato and Jackson - who weren't even rated.

The Trojans have produced 55 NFL draft picks since 2006; Arizona has 19.

Of course, highly rated recruits don't necessarily become college stars (See: Holmes, Louis), and programs that produce pros don't necessarily win every game.

But it's as good a formula as any.

UA coach Rich Rodriguez said this week that's it's "our goal" to recruit as well and produce as many pros as USC. Asked how many of his players could start for the Trojans, he demurred.

"I wouldn't tell you, because that wouldn't be fair to our guys or their guys," he said. "But how many guys on our roster were offered (scholarships) by USC? Y'all can go back and check that out. That being said, I think we have guys that could play with them, no question. But how many were offered by them?"

The answer: Two. Flowers and safety Adam Hall both visited USC before choosing the UA. And only one, Flowers, will play Saturday.

Hall is rehabbing his second knee injury in as many years and has left the program with hopes of playing somewhere else, eventually. Fact is, if USC had offered almost anybody currently on Arizona's roster - well, they probably wouldn't be on Arizona's roster.

Not even NCAA sanctions can slow USC's recruiting roll. Though the Trojans dropped to No. 20 nationally in last season's recruiting rankings, according to Scout, it was still only five spots below the highest recruiting class ranking the UA has ever had. The Wildcats' 2005 class was ranked 15th.

Playing the role of have-nots against USC is an Arizona tradition that dates to 1917, when - according to a Star report - the Trojans "began utilizing their splendid scoring machine, winning 20-7."

Former UA coaches Larry Smith and Dick Tomey were always quick to praise USC's talent level. In 2001, his first season at the UA, John Mackovic famously asked Trojans coach Pete Carroll if he wanted to trade rosters.

Rodriguez was quick to acknowledge the talent gap between this year's teams, but said he's been impressed with the Wildcats' drive to succeed.

This week, motivation comes easy.

"There's a big chip on our shoulders because it's a competition to play the best of the best," Jackson said.

On StarNet: Join Ryan Finley to talk about the Arizona Wildcats, Pac-12 news and college football in a live chat at noon Thursday at live.azstarnet.com

On paper, it's a mismatch

Arizona will take on 10th-ranked USC on Saturday in what should be, on paper, a blowout. The Trojans have out-recruited and out-performed the UA over the past decade.

"Will we ever catch them in recruiting? I don't know," UA coach Rich Rodriguez said. "That's our goal. Would we mind having a class of 15 five-stars? Sure. You'd love to have them." Here's how the two programs compare, by the numbers:

16

Number of USC starters who were rated as either four-or-five-star recruits out of high school

2

Arizona starters - wide receiver Dan Buckner and linebacker Marquis Flowers - who were ranked as four-or-five-star recruits.

55

Number of USC players taken in the NFL draft since 2006

19

Number of UA draftees since 2006.

Up next

• Who: No. 10 USC (6-1) at Arizona (4-3, 1-3)

• When: 12:30 p.m. Saturday

• TV: Channel 9

• Radio: 1290-AM, 107.5-FM, 990-AM (Spanish)

Recruiting powerhouse

Here's how USC and Arizona's recruiting classes have compared by national rank since 2008:

Year USC UA

2008 9 39

2009 9 47

2010 5 39

2011 4 70

2012 20 46

2013 1 22

Note: The programs' 2013 recruiting classes have yet to be filled, and their rankings won't be official until February.

Source: Scout.com recruiting service

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Pac-12 South football standings

Team W L T PCT
Arizona 5 1 0 0.833
Utah 5 1 0 0.833
USC 5 2 0 0.714
ASU 5 1 0 0.833
UCLA 5 2 0 0.714
Colorado 3 4 0 0.429

Pac-12 North football standings

Team W L T PCT
Oregon 6 1 0 0.857
Oregon State 4 2 0 0.667
Stanford 4 3 0 0.571
Washington 5 2 0 0.714
Cal 4 3 0 0.571
Washington State 2 5 0 0.286
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