Laying the Foundation: USC Football Recruiting in 2009—Markeith Ambles


The one thing USC fans feared with Pete Carroll’s departure was the effect it would have on this year’s recruiting class.

Would there be a backlash from the verbal commitments who have already pledged to USC? What about those who were considering the Trojans but have yet to decide? Would they still cross USC off of their list?

Ummm…no and no.

With the announcement of Lane Kiffin as USC’s head coach to replace Carroll, the response of those who had verbally committed to the Trojans, by and large, was immediate.

They are sticking with USC.

Almost all of the in-state recruits were expected to stay with the Trojans, but this was not necessarily the case with those beyond the friendly confines of the state border.

Kyle Prater, the all-everything wide receiver from Illinois, said that when Carroll accepted the offer to become the Seattle Seahawks head coach, he would open the recruiting process back up. Same thing with the No. 1 tight end, Xavier Grimble, from Las Vegas.

So, what happened?

Well, Prater has just enrolled for classes and will be joining the Trojans for spring practice.

And Grimble reaffirmed his commitment to the Trojans.

The hiring of Lane Kiffin has turned out to be quite a coup for USC, who brought a coach back to the Trojans already familiar to the system that Pete Carroll left behind and who obviously has the juice to recruit both locally and nationally.

Which brings me to Markeith Ambles.

Ambles, the highly sought after wide receiver from McDonough, Ga., was recently spotted on USC’s campus and is expected to sign with the Trojans on Feb. 3.

Is this a good thing?

Normally, when a prominent recruit signs with a college team, there is cause for rejoicing for those who follow the team.

This may not be the case with Ambles.

Pete Carroll had initially targeted Markeith Ambles as a wide receiver due to his incredible speed and athleticism.

That has not changed. Ambles is supremely talented.

But he also comes with some baggage.

Due to questions regarding impropriety with Markeith Ambles recruitment, Carroll backed off Ambles and stopped recruiting him back in July.

With the Reggie Bush investigation looming in the distance, Carroll thought that the increased exposure Ambles would bring USC would not help with the NCAA.

Carroll was probably right.

But with the departure of Carroll, things have changed.

Lane Kiffin, who went after Ambles hard while he was head coach at Tennessee, has no such compunctions. Kiffin picked up the recruiting of Ambles when he was named head coach at USC and thus, Ambles’ interest in the Trojans has been reciprocated.

If there is nothing to the smoke billowing around Ambles regarding any fire associated with his recruitment, then Kiffin should go forth with his recruitment, and the Trojans should be thankful if he signs.

However, if there are any improprieties with Ambles, then Kiffin should back off and end the recruiting process now.

There are at least two reasons for not recruiting Ambles if there is even a hint of truth to questions regarding him.

One is obvious and has already been stated. USC does not need any additional exposure with the NCAA.

The other is that the Trojans are absolutely loaded at the wide receiver position with this year’s recruiting class.

Depending on which recruiting service you subscribe to, the Trojans already have three of the top 30 prep receivers verbally committed to USC come signing day.

Please note, this is not just three of the top 30 prep players (the Trojans have more than just three of those), but those three are all wide receivers.

In addition to Kyle Prater, the Trojans also have Robert Woods, the speedster from Serra High School, who many consider an even better prospect than Prater, and Dillon Baxter from San Diego.

All Baxter has done is set a state record for scoring and was named state player of the year.

Now, it is possible that Baxter will be tried first at running back, since Kiffin has taken over for Carroll.

Nonetheless, the Trojans are stocked at the position.

So, be careful Lane Kiffin.

Be damned certain that Markeith Ambles doesn’t bring more than a soft pair of hands and exceptional speed if and when he signs with the Trojans.

While we may need his talent, we don’t need any suspicion with the football program.

We have enough of that already.