It's been well-documented that USC recruits nationally. Under former coach Pete Carroll, the Trojans were perhaps the nation's premier recruiting school by signing the top talent in the Golden State and then venturing out all over the country to land elite players. It was an easy sell for most. The high-energy, competitive coaching style of Carroll and his staff, as well as the fact that they could sell Hollywood and instant celebrity status helped USC reel in many of the country's best. Plus, there is no pro football in Los Angeles, so the Trojans were the hot ticket with multiple Heisman Trophy winners, as well as conference and national championships.
Over the past two recruiting cycles, though, it isn't just USC from the Pac-10 that has cast a wider net for football talent. It's Oregon. It's Stanford and Cal. It's UCLA. Many of the programs in the league are looking east to sign talent as well as focusing on talent-rich California and their own states (in the case of the Oregon, Washington and Arizona schools). During the 2009 and 2010 classes, seven of the conference's 10 programs signed a prospect from the east and 44 prospects (seven ESPNU 150 players) overall from high schools east of the Mississippi River. That's twice as many from the 22 overall in 2007 and 2008.
"I think it's more than a trend," Oregon assistant coach John Neal said. "I think it's the way it is going to be. It's the information superhighway, really. It's easy for kids to see us on TV or to get on the Internet and learn things about a university. It's also easier for us to get information about prospects. For example, they can send us a link to a video on YouTube or we can exchange e-mails. Some kids are pretty adventurous and want to get away. But the information flow is the big difference now. It's not like it used to be."
Neal signed three of the Ducks' four signees from east of the Mississippi in the 2010 class -- three-star linebacker Issac Dixon (Miami/Monsignor Pace), four-star cornerback Dior Mathis (Detroit/Cass Tech) and three-star defensive back James Scales (Greensboro, N.C./Northern Guilford)
Stanford has always recruiting nationally, but has expanded its reach in recent classes. The Cardinal signed seven 2010 prospects from the east. USC and California, which benefited from the work of national recruiter Tosh Lupoi, each inked four in 2010.
"That's the perception out there [that the league is attracting more talent], and in this case, perception is reality. What happens, too, is you may sign a kid out of Miami and he has a good experience, so then another kid comes along and is the type of kid that wants to get away from home and he suddenly is interested because his friend had a good experience," Neal said. "But the bottom line for us is getting better players in here. We don't venture out of our base [the Northwest and California] unless we have a need at a position, and we won't sign a player over a player from our base unless we feel he is a better player."
UCLA on-campus recruiter Angus McClure says his program will always have a core base in California, but that the Bruins comb the country for talented players. For the second straight recruiting cycle, UCLA signed one of the top players from Virginia in this year's class, landing ESPNU 150 linebacker Aramide Olaniyan (Woodberry Forest, Va./Woodberry Forest). They also inked defensive end Derrick Bryant (Columbus, Ohio/Brookhaven) out of Ohio .
"It was pretty impressive for us to go into Columbus, Ohio, and sign [Bryant]," McClure said. "But UCLA is an international brand."
The elite from the 2011 class
Here's a look at five prospects (in alphabetical order) from across the country that any program in America would love to have:
Jadeveon Clowney, DE, (Rock Hill, S.C./South Pointe)
He is a one-man wrecking crew at defensive end (18 sacks this past season and all-state honors) and already holds offers from most of the top programs in the Southeast, including Alabama, Florida and LSU. However, South Carolina and Clemson will fight hard to keep him at home. The Gamecocks signed two Under Armour All-Americans, cornerback Stephon Gilmore and safety DeVonte Holloman, out of South Pointe school in 2009. Clowney has already been named to the 2011 Under Armour All-America Game.
Cyrus Kouandijo, OT, (Hyattsville, Md./DeMatha)
The 6-foot-7, 294-pounder is an extremely athletic offensive tackle with a good frame to add weight and strength to. His older brother, Arie Kouandijo, signed with Alabama in the Class of 2010, so the Crimson Tide are expected to be a major player here. Several programs have made him offers as well.
DeAnthony Thomas, RB, (Los Angeles/Crenshaw)
Nicknamed "The Black Mamba," Thomas averaged more than 10 yards per carry for tradition-rich Crenshaw this past season. The 5-9, 160-pounder is lightning-quick, but also tough and physical when he needs to be (on defense, he had more than 40 tackles and isn't afraid to run over people). UCLA, USC and a host of others are courting the electric back early.
Christian Westerman, OT, (Chandler, Ariz./Hamilton)
He is a lot like Kouandijo because he has all the tools to be an elite offensive tackle. That's something you don't find in every class and a big reason why nearly every program in the country, including USC, Notre Dame, Oklahoma, Florida and others, have already offered. The 6-5, 285-pounder is athletic, has good feet, is strong and will make some program very happy.
James Wilder II, RB/ATH, (Tampa, Fla./Plant)
He led his high school team to the Florida Class 4A title last season, basically by being unstoppable at running back. However, some think he probably will end up shining on defense in college. Either way, he's a special player and, with nearly 50 scholarship offers this early in the process to his name, it comes as no surprise. Last season, he rushed for more than 1,000 yards and 19 touchdowns. On defense, he also was outstanding with 136 tackles. Miami, Florida, Alabama and USC are just four of the teams to watch early in his recruitment.
Trojans jump on Poteat
USC is the latest school to offer running back Jameel Poteat (Harrisburg, Pa./Bishop McDeavitt).
"It was crazy getting that offer," he said. "It's been something I've dreamed about since I was a little kid. I look forward to talking to their coaches and to taking a visit out there to Los Angeles."
The 5-10, 195-pounder rushed for 1,459 yards and 25 touchdowns last season. He also caught 30 passes for 373 yards.
"We run a pro-style offense at my high school, so I get the ball in a lot of different ways," he said. "I am definitely a running back in college, though. I can catch the ball, but I don't want to play receiver in college."
Poteat is the cousin of Cleveland Browns defensive back Hank Poteat. He also goes to the same high school as former Pitt and current Philadelphia Eagles running back LeSean McCoy.
"[McCoy] and I are real tight," Jameel Poteat said. "That's one of the reasons that when I got the offer from USC, I was real excited because [McCoy] got an offer from USC."
Poteat added that he does not plan to base his decision on the depth chart at the school he picks.
"I know that anywhere I go, there are going to be good players, so I am going to need to make sure that I like the area that the school is located in and that I like the coaching staff," he said.
Major offers for Arnett
Last week was a big week for ESPNU 150 Watch List receiver DeAnthony Arnett (Saginaw, Mich./Saginaw). The 6-0, 170-pounder picked up scholarship offers from Alabama and USC.
The Crimson Tide have a connection to Arnett. His head football coach, Gary Lee, coached Mark Ingram when he was the coach at Southwestern Academy in Flint, Mich.
"When I got on the phone with [Alabama coach] Nick Saban and he told me about the offer, he told me that Coach had sent Mark Ingram down to Alabama and that he had won the Heisman Trophy."
Arnett says he is definitely interested in checking out the Crimson Tide and seeing what they have to offer.
"Recruiting is getting crazy," he said. "Everything is picking up and moving so fast with all of the phone calls and everything. I am not going to be making a decision anytime soon."
Michigan, Michigan State, Iowa, Illinois, Notre Dame, Cincinnati, Oregon and Tennessee are among the other programs that have offered Arnett, who is also a standout basketball player.
Texas has 13 recruits from the 2011 class committed on Feb. 17. During the 2010 recruiting cycle, the Longhorns had 16 prospects committed before March 1. They also closed strong with two top five prospects in linebacker Jordan Hicks (West Chester, Ohio/Lakota West) and defensive end Jackson Jeffcoat (Plano, Texas/Plano West). ... Kentucky and Vanderbilt both offered scholarships to ESPNU 150 Watch List defensive end Ray Drew (Thomasville, Ga./Thomas County Central) on Tuesday, giving Drew offers from each SEC East school.
JC Shurburtt covers recruiting for ESPN.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.