The “A” word is what’s missing in Athens.

I don’t think anyone who watched the Cap One and Liberty Bowls will be surprised by Gentry Estes’ comparison of where the Alabama and Georgia programs are today.

… I’ve been asked a lot since I took this job about the differences in Nick Saban’s Alabama, which I covered from 2007 through the 2009 BCS title, to Mark Richt’s current Georgia program.

I’ve thought about this for a while and wanted to wait until a full season was complete to form a fair judgment. So here goes. My conclusion is the raw talent gap is actually not that large, but …

First, there’s the eye test. Overall, Alabama players look bigger and in far better condition. Richt addressed this with the recent strength and conditioning swap. And while some rolled their eyes at the shuffle of long-time employee Joe Tereshinski to head Dave Van Halanger’s former department, former players loved this move, because Joe T’s plan is to put his foot to some rears to find out who really wants to earn his way. Bravo. It needed to happen a while ago.

Second, and more important, football has just got to mean more.

Georgia’s players need to take their commitment to the sport more seriously. They need to stop getting into silly off-the-field situations. They need to start showing up to watch more film on their own. There needs to be more leadership. There needs to be more accountability from actual players, not just the coaching staff. If you can’t depend on a teammate to show up for an academic appointment under threat of suspension if he doesn’t, how can you trust he’ll make a key block when required?

I asked somebody this the other day – can you think of another school which pinned so much hope in turning its fortunes around on a change in its strength and conditioning program?  I’m not sure which bothers me more, that it seems so strange, or that it might work.

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66 Comments

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66 responses to “The “A” word is what’s missing in Athens.

  1. D.N. Nation

    Shrug.

    Richt should hire RichRod as OC. For the laffs. If you’re gonna go down, at least make it interesting.

  2. simpl_matter

    I made a similar comment to a friend at the game in Jacksonville two years ago, Florida’s guys just looked like beasts. We had big guys (of course) but, our big uglies seemed to have the bigger bellies and non-muscle weight.

    With how gassed our D seemed to get this year, changing S&C has to have some positive effect (Thomas Brown joining the team gives me even more reason to be optimistic).

    • Regular Guy

      Hell, South Carolina was bigger and stronger than us! Not that UF or ‘Bama being clearly bigger and stronger is acceptable, but when the South Carolina’s of the world are surpassing you physically, that’s not good. I just remember being shocked early in the game against the ‘Cocks at how much bigger they seemed than us. It was the first time I can ever remember them looking physically superior to us. They’ve looked our equal at times in the past, but never clearly looked physically superior………..until now, of course.

  3. Dog in Fla

    Preview of what the dudes in Coach T.’s you can’t grow without burning Georgia weightroom will be like next season

  4. DawgPhan

    I dont think that there is a single player on UGA how looks the part the way that Marcell Dareus does. I commented to my wife about it during Bama’s game. You can barely tell he is wearing pads and just looks like a giant monster looking to hurt someone. Ben Jones might like to eat grass, but he isnt a hulking beast looking for fresh meat. Dareus looks like the Berserkers from lord of the rings…

    • Bryant Denny

      To be fair, this kid has looked the part since stepping on campus.

      When surveying the field last year (2009), Mt. Cody definitely stood out physically from the rest of the team. The #2 guy was Dareus. He just looks like a dadgum beast.

      BD

  5. Keese

    I have no facts to back this, it’s just pure speculation, but McGarity comments that he “expects Richt to be back next year”. This is entirely different than if he were to say, “Richt will be our coach next year”…which he hasn’t done. What if Richt steps down after national signing day and UGA is in the coaching market as we speak? Can anyone confirm or deny…? or is this just inaccurate speculation on my part?

  6. Chuck

    I do not see coach Richt as being one that quits. He will see this through the end or he will be let go. But I do agree with the comment. Our players need to be more accountable to the program, and yes I do agree that the coaches should hold these players accountable. They should also have more pride than they have to be playing for Georgia and as stated players should be holding players accountable. I have preach that many times to those that will listen. You play a lot harder if you believe in the team and are commited to the team.

  7. Daniel Simpson Day

    I read that article the other day…but the line that stood out for me was “If you can’t depend on a teammate to show up for an academic appointment under threat of suspension if he doesn’t…” I wonder how much this attitude of unaccountability (or worse) can be attributed to more than just the S&C portion of the program. For that matter – with respect to Caleb King, his position coach has four scholarship backs to oversee. Where is his ownership in all this? The “A” problem is more like a cancer that has been festering beneath the surface and which its symptom(s) has finally alerted the patient that they are in serious trouble. This started years ago and, although attributed to a myriad of causes (blown calls, bad bounces, individual players, or Willie etc.) – my 2 cents is that it can be traced back to no accountability to the program – for both the players and coaches. Saban expects (and usually gets) 100% out of each player on every play. I haven’t seen that from this program in a while and we are reaping the consequences.

    • hailtogeorgia

      At the same time (and you can say what you will about the tactic), the players Saban signs know that if they don’t produce, there’s a good risk they’ll lose their scholarship. Richt, on the other hand, gives a scholarship for good…once you get it, you keep it. When you’re not at risk of losing your financial means to go to school (and thus losing your job interview with the NFL), then what’s the big deal? If Caleb King isn’t going to lose his scholarship for not going to academic appointments and is only going to be suspended for the Liberty Bowl, then why does he care?

      Saban’s oversigning tactics and quick hook with the scholarship may be frowned upon by some people, but the bottom line is that it puts the pressure on the player to perform. This is something about which I’ve always disagreed with Richt. If the player comes and doesn’t perform (be that physically, academically, or behaviorally) then he needs to risk losing his scholarship. How many academic scholarships have you heard of that don’t mandate some sort of performance metric to keep the scholarship? Very few.

  8. Keith

    He won’t lie, but he will let his incoming coaches do it. Such as LB coach Belin lying to the kids he was recruiting to Vandy, and then leaving to take the UGA a couple of days later.

    • Let me see if I’ve got this straight. Even though Belin was gainfully employed by Vanderbilt, Mark Richt “let” him lie to recruits.

      Pretty nifty trick.

    • GreenDawg

      What? You mean to tell me you believe that Richt allowed Belin to recruit for Vandy after he had told him he was hired? All while Richt was trying to hold together a recruiting class that was already one of his weakest ever. I guess every coach that interviews for a job should immediately quit recruiting.

  9. Mayor of Dawgtown

    Did any of you see the Orange Bowl? Stanford runs almost exactly the same offense as the Dawgs. Going through a position by position analysis of the offense Stanford does not have any better personnel than UGA. QB: Luck is a little larger and a little more physical (and older) than Murray but he does not have any more ability as a passer than Murray. If anything, Murray is a little quicker, too. RBs: The Stanford backs are good, competent college runners but no more than that. On talent alone Ealey and King certainly are at least as good. The Stanford receivers are actually not as talented as UGA’s–certainly Stanford does not have an AJ caliber receiver. Their O-line is about the same size and experience as UGA’s although the Stanford O-line looked in better shape. What the difference appeared to be was effort. The Stanford offense played harder than the UGA offense does. Also, the Stanford O-line really opened holes. It also looked like everyone on the Stanford offense was on the same page. They reminded me a lot of the 2002 UGA team. This all happened for Stanford in 3 years. UGA can get back to where the program was. We are nowhere near as bad as Stanford was 3 years ago and look at them now. It will just take work and accountability.

    • hayduke

      No.
      The Stanford offense may look the same, in that they run out of the I a good bit, but the difference is centered around the fact that they will commonly shift multiple receivers from one side to the other, and then will put one or more in motion back across the shift. This is an excellent method of reading a defensive play call, and sets up elaborate methods for audibles. We simply don’t have anyone on our staff that has embraced or can interpret that kind of complexity in offensive play calling. It is an exceptional system, especially if you don’t have an Ingram in the backfield, and really the only way to successfully run the I under such circumstances. Look what they did to a good-very-good Bud Foster defense last night.
      Our version of the I has always had Herschel at tailback. There is no reason to fear Ealey or King or the smurf, so play-action is ineffective at best. Having said that, if we are not going to utilize shifts and motion based deception under this formation (when our play action is laughable) , then why are we running it as our base formation? I’ve been asking (somewhat rhetorically) this question for several years now.

      • Mayor of Dawgtown

        Very cerebral analysis, Hayduke. And I think you are right about shifts and motion confusing Stanford’s opponents. My point was personnel, however. Stanford’s ain’t better than ours–yet look at the results.

        • hayduke

          Thanks Mayor. I’ve enjoyed your commentary to this blog for a while now. Sorry for the seemingly bitchy earlier response. As to the personnel point you make, I’d have to say I generally agree. Our line(s) probably outweigh Stanford’s, but thats obviously not a good metric to measure overall performance. Ealey and King might be as good (I personally don’t thinks so), but they totally lack the drive and ambition of a champion. AJ is awesome, but needs another year (heavy) in the weight room before he goes pro.
          Ultimately, our personnel should be much much better. We can accept student athletes to our institution that would never have the credentials to be accepted to Stanford. Our options for recruitment are huge compared to the Stanfords of the world. So.. yeah, we should have better personnel, but why don’t we?

          • Mayor of Dawgtown

            We do have better personnel already. That’s the point. They just don’t perform. It’s like they think that they don’t have to give effort to succeed. The whole thing gets down to motivation, IMO, and the of the field problems are a symptom of that, too. The UGA team doesn’t seem to have any motivation. I do not think it is everyone. However, when even a small group of guys get away with not putting forth effort and the others see that (particularly when there are no consequences) that undermines the moral of the entire team. It seems to me that Job 1 is to identify the malcontents and troublemakers and get them off the roster–no matter who they are.

    • 69Dawg

      Lets look at the real difference between Stanford and UGA. Stanford’s players are smart enough to grasp the system and make no mistake the Pro Style is complex. Look at the UGA learning curve on the 3-4, still a work in progress. I have said it before and I’ll say it again we have players that are not smart enough to run our systems. They can not in the 20 hours mandated learn the system enough to run it without it looking like a Chinese fire drill. Can some of them make up for their lack of smarts by being a great athlete, yes but the marginal ones can’t. the majority of our players are unwilling to do the extra film work that it takes to excel. We need smarter players and players willing to go the extra mile.

      • BMan

        I agree 69Dawg. The Dawgs don’t have the smarts to manage the shifts and complexities of Stanford’s offense, and that includes the OC most likely. Hell, how many times have we seen Georgia come off a freaking time out and get a delay of game penalty or be called for having 12 men in the huddle? Georgia misses blocks and assignments because they don’t focus also. It deosn’t seem to be demanded of them by the coaches. Focus on the field, focus in class, and keep your ass off scooters, your hands off women’s asses, and don’t drive without a license.

    • Benjamin

      Murray whishes he had the mechanics that Luck has, at least thats my opinion. And I should add that I have seen very little of Luck’s play and a lot of Murray’s.

  10. Will Trane

    There is no doubt S&C is an issue. And there is no doubt there is a culture problem not only in the football program but the entire campus. Look at how the campus was trashed at some games. It became a circus.
    And much has been written about CMR being complacent or laid back or too slow to make changes or his personality or how he looks on the sidelines. I think he can coach. Personally I had issues with his OC for over 3 years. Can the pro style work. Yes. Look at Stanford. Any system requires coaches and players. I do not think we have a good OC. I prefer the spread because of what I see it does to a defense. And I think he has two QB built for it.
    I’ve read the comments about Clemson 02 4th down call and the Liberty Bowl. The 02 team was hungry. They had seen the bad. Now some of the younger players are experiencing that. As a player you hate it. It eats you up. Lately there is no team in Athens. It is all individuals. Going pro. Their stats. And why not.
    Here is my beef now. I do not think the President and the AD has served us well in past few years. McGarity is on track. What troubled me was our scheduling, the long trips, the lack of back bone to defie the SEC office like the call against Green in ’08. The 2010 suspension. Why take those 4 games against an Idaho State. Select the ones you want and to hell with the NCAA and SEC office. That ’08 game against LSU should have been a win. There have been others. Like the Liberty Bowl incident. Yes players have had issue. But if you are a Green and you sit for 4 games that does impact you mentally. More so when you OSU, the Sugar Bowl, the Big 10 commish, and the money Pryor took. Then you look across the campus and the river and you see what is going on at AU, MSU, the SEC, and the NCAA. As a coach, as a player, you say to your self who at UGA really cares about us in the end. We want the same field of play. Frankly, if I was CMR, I adopt this out look…just do it…better to ask foregiveness than permission…get the wins and worry about the crap latter. In the end that is all they want… wins.

    • Hackerdog

      Encouraging Richt to cheat is like encouraging him to fly. It ain’t gonna happen.

      And I am firmly in the ranks of the apathetic regarding Richt’s future status. But if we replace him, it had better not be in favor of someone who will cheat.

  11. Keith

    What I am saying Senator, he hired Belin before NSD only it wasn’t announced till after NSD. That would infer that Belin knew he was going to UGA but recruited kids for Vandy. He allowed him to say at Vandy till after NSD so that it wouldn’t hurt what little recruiting Vandy does.

    • Hackerdog

      Since you’re obviously in the know, I’m interested in how long before signing day, 2/3/10 was Belin unofficially on the UGA payroll?

  12. OldDawg55

    If you want some fodder for your opinions about what is wrong with the Dawgs, look no further that the recruiting blogs on AJC. “Star” recruits with comments like “I’ll flip a coint to see if I go to UGA or Bama”, “I can’t really make up my mind which program I want to play for..”, Is this who Garner brings to the table..no commits since August? The UCF DE who came from Woodstock but was not looked at because he was a two star played against us like a wild man…many kids long for a chance to play for Georgia but the hype has bypassed them. You see them every day..6’7″, 280 pounder to UNC..not pursued by Dawgs. Where are the people who do quality control? Richt, Bobo, Garner, CTG?? We get the Geathers or the big kids who never see the field but use up schollys and play/practice as scrubs. It starts with recruiting and we are sucking hind tit to most SEC programs!

    • Keese

      Old Dawg55 or anyone else wondering about recruiting should read this interview yesterday with all the dream team recruits http://sports.espn.go.com/ncaa/recruiting/football/news/story?id=5985211

      These kids are all staging their announcements at key times. Some of them are already silent commits but holding off going public so it will make headlines at the right time. This will be Mark Richts best recruiting class ever.

    • Mayor of Dawgtown

      There are 4 kids from Georgia on the Stanford team. All of them were first team All-State. All were ranked at or near the top at their respective positions coming out of HS. 4 years ago Stanford was 1-11. How did Stanford sign these kids? More importantly, why are they not at UGA when we don’t even use up all our available scholarships?

      • Hackerdog

        Why didn’t we sign a bunch of great players from Georgia? Because Richt’s time machine, the one where he can go forward 3 years to see which kids are All Americans before deciding whether or not to recruit them, is broken. So yawn.

        The recruiting services all rank Georgia’s classes in the top 10 nationally every year. And those are the guys who spend countless hours following things. All that proves is that it’s more art than science.

        You can fault Richt for many things. But bringing in highly ranked recruiting classes isn’t one of them.

        • Mayor of Dawgtown

          I appreciate your wit about the time machine HD. I guess Harbaugh’s is working, though. Look ‘em up. The 4 Georgia kids at Stanford were All-State and in the top 10 at their positions coming out of HS. Maybe it’s just an anomaly and the emphasis on recruiting for this class will really result in a “dream team.” BTW, I wish I had a dollar for every kid that those recruiting services said was a “can’t miss” who ended up being a total bust. Remember Bryan Evans? He was a 5 star coming out of HS. And last year’s UGA recruiting class wasn’t so highly rated plus we haven’t used our full complement of scholarships in several classes in a row now either. I actually think this recruiting service rating thing is part of the problem. It is too easy to let somebody else decide who’s good then go chase ‘em with the pack while a kid like Bruce Miller at UCF goes under the radar because Jamie Newberg didn’t like him. It takes work to actually identify who is good yourself.

          • PatinDC

            Why haven’t we used all of our scholly”s? That is a bit disturbing to find out. It seems to put us at a disadvantage right there.

            • ThePetis

              You can sign 25 guys every year, but can only have 85 scholarship players at any given time. Simple math will tell you that it’s not possible to give out every scholarship every year.

              • Mayor of Dawgtown

                UGA only has about 76 players on scholarship right now. That number may be different if CMR put more walk-ons on scholarship recently, though. My understanding is that Vandy is the only SEC team with fewer kids on scholarship than UGA. Senator, do you have any insight into this?

          • Hackerdog

            I agree that recruiting services are flawed. But it’s not because they’re all idiots. It’s because predicting how a kid will perform in college is a crap shoot. But the Senator has posted in the past about how 4 and 5 star kids are more valuable to your program (on average) than 1 and 2 star kids. So it’s not total BS either.

            So it’s just way too easy to identify Bruce Miller as somebody that we (and every other SEC school) should have gone after. But the fact is, for every untouted kid like Miller, there are five more untouted kids who never crack the two-deep rotation.

            So the fact is, Richt can recruit. Garner can recruit. And Belin can recruit. Whatever problems exists in the program, failing to identify future stars with 100% accuracy is a silly one to be harping about.

      • Benjamin

        Georgia needs to shore up there borders as far as keeping talent in state. Players like Cam Newton and Greg Reid should play for your team, not somebody else.

        • Dawgwalker07

          I get really frustrated when people talk about us not signing cam newton as some big miss in recruiting. The kid stole a laptop and was under investigation for cheating while he was at Florida then his dad shops him around. Can you imagine the shit storm he would have caused in Athens? I’m glad we didn’t recruit him.

          • Mayor of Dawgtown

            I absolutely agree with that!

          • Benjamin

            and whats your arguement for Greg Reid or Eric Berry. The fact that you wouldnt want the current heisman trophy winner aside, my point is still the same, that poor recruiting in state is part of the problem. oh yeah, bug shit storm Cam caused in Auburn and at UF huh?

      • Dawgfan Will

        In addition to Hackerdog’s comments, any player who signs with Stanford definitely considers academics to be very important, and as good a school as UGA may be, it can’t compare to Stanford academically.

      • sUGArdaddy

        Well, to be fair, as Colin Cowherd says: “If you’re smart enough to get into Stanford, you’re not dumb enough to turn it down.”

    • hailtogeorgia

      Well, you must have forgotten, OldDawg, but there was a pretty good player whose matriculation at UGA came because of a coin flip between Georgia and Clemson…his name was Herschel Walker.

    • sasssybritches

      I am a DAWG fan not matter what and always will be. The young man who needs to flip the coin needs to go BAMA. GEORGIA needs men to want to live and die to play for Georgia. After the UCF game, it might serve us well to look long and hard at the 2 and 3 star recruits who will play with heart and soul for the “G” on the their helmet. We need men of pride, toughness and dedication to the integrity of the opportunity to play for UGA. Enough of the showboating.

      • hailtogeorgia

        Again…Herschel flipped a coin to decide between Georgia and Clemson. This whole “we need men who want to live and die to play for Georgia” is a joke. These are 18 year old kids who are trying to decide where they want to go play college football…something that’s going to influence the rest of their lives greatly. They’re allowed to look at a few options.

      • Hackerdog

        Exactly. Who needs kids like Orson Charles? That kid even took a visit to Florida! We would be much better off with a 5′ 9″ 182lb tight end out of Toccoa who has been to every UGA home game for the last 10 years.

        No?

      • Chuck

        Cannot agree more with any post so far! We need individuals that want to play for Georgia. AMEM!

      • sasssybritches

        Well—–Dickson is going to BAMA. May the DAWGS deal with him on the field.

  13. Keith

    So hackerdog, you think that absolutely no contact was made before NSD? So CMR called Belin after Feb 3rd and he was announced on Feb 5? If that is what happened, then fine. No harm. But if I remember correctly, it came out that Belin was contacted before Feb. 3 and he held off leaving till after NSD.

    • 69Dawg

      This is tiring. He did nothing wrong. It’s a business and that’s what happens in a business. I’m not aware of any Vandy commitments that did not sign with Vandy. You are beating a dead horse.

    • Hackerdog

      I didn’t say that there was absolutely no contact. Because I have no idea.

      You’re the one saying that he was secretly on the payroll before NSD. I’m just curious as to why you say that, and how long he was on the staff before officially joining the staff.

  14. wildawg

    Great blog and responses. I also was mightily impressed with Stanford’s offense last night. Who’s their OC? Harbaugh needs to hang onto him. I noticed their OL was very mobile, and got considerable “push” on many plays. They also did a pretty good job of keeping their QB upright.

  15. Russ

    Stanford did look mighty impressive. However, I was surprised at just how big a dick Harbaugh is. He struck me as just as bad as Spurrier at his 1990’s worst. The OL flip/shift in the fourth quarter when they were up by 20+ points was just being an ass. His “interview” after the game was also low class. He and Carroll seem to deserve each other.

  16. Irishdawg

    Re: losing Greg Reid. Yes, that hurt, but the kid signed with a school 45 minutes from his mom, while Athens is a 4 hour jaunt. While I think UGA should do a better job recruiting south Georgia, it’s not a real surprise if we lose a few Valdosta guys to Florida State.

  17. Reptillicide

    It’s just hard for me to believe that the S&C program is so responsible for our woes. How can that be? We are quite literally the ONLY fans I have EVER heard ever blame S&C for our woeful results.

    Is it just a meme that began as unsubstantiated rumors that “NFL scouts say Georgia’s strength program leaves a lot to be desired?”

    If it is the S&C program… what does that say about Richt that he allowed that part of the program to become so inferior to the rest of the conference’s programs, that it became the primary contributor to our poor seasons? And if one can logically conclude that Dave Van Hallanger, who was the scapegoat there, was indeed responsible for the slide… then does that only make it look worse for Richt, who kept his friend Willie Martinez too long, AND Van Hallanger? In my mind, it makes me skeptic that there aren’t others who should go that he is hesitant to release. Namely, Rodney Garner… who despite having his salary raised almost annually, isn’t much of a D-Line coach apparently, and as he IS the “recruiting coordinator” must be held responsible for the mistakes we’ve made recruiting. Is Richt capable of firing him?

    I don’t know… I’m skeptical at this point that if we have all these issues in multiple areas in the program, maybe it’s just time to clean house.

    • Tenn_Dawg

      This is the same BS we have been hearing for years. Last year Richt said his S&C guys go to seminars and visit other campuses to make sure they are up to date with the latest techinques and there is not an issue there. Come to find out there is problems with it and the S&C does suck compared with others in our conference and around the country. So Richt’s brilliant idea is to put a guy in that has been editing videos for the last 15yrs in as S&C overlord and bringing in a couple of former players who majored in housing is suppose to fix the problem. I can’t say I am totally surprised because Richt has gotten lazy and this is a lazy hire.
      Since Richt has gotten lazy and there a multiple problems within the program I doubt this S&C change is going to be the cure all.

  18. Bulldog Joe

    A rebuilt strength, conditioning, and nutrition program is important but there is more to be done, in my opinion:

    1. The current discipline approach is not working. Stop giving players days off (suspensions) while keeping all the privileges of their scholarships. This hurts the player and the team and is counterproductive because you do not give the player the immediate opportunity to make amends by improving himself and his team. Use conditioning drills instead. Time out may work in kindergarten. This is not kindergarten.

    2. Improve the value of a UGA scholarship. Anticipate a higher turnover and recruit to those numbers. Be prepared to pull scholarships (even for a semester) to those who are not carrying their weight. Lindsey Scott was working to earn his scholarship back when he made the catch and run at Florida. You don’t have to wait until someone is banned from a city or gets a DUI on the night of a bad loss to make a move. You don’t have to oversign to SEC West numbers, but you must remove the sense of automatic entitlement that exists at UGA. Have talented players available to compete for the open scholarships instead of letting these scholarships sit unused thoughout the year. If you lose your scholarship, there is a chance you might not get it back. This is a very good motivator.

    3. Reinstate two-a-days and #1’s vs. #1’s in practice. This immediately identifies who you can count on in the fourth quarter of big games and who you can not count on. It also gives team members a clear understanding of why certain players are starting, why others are not, and what it takes to earn it. Also bad habits (such as poor pad level and footwork) show up and are addressed more quickly when the match ups are competitive in practice.

    4. Establish your offensive philosophy and have a plan “B” in case of injury or underperformance at a particular position. It was clear to our competition early in the season that we did not have much of a threat at tailback, we were hurting at fullback, and we had poor strength and technique in our run blocking. Yet we still ran up the gut on second and long. We still ran play action out of the I formation on 3rd and long. No well-prepared team is going bite on play action if there is no threat in the running game.

    These four things are my two cents, for what it is worth.

  19. Anonymous

    Murray 2010 = Luck 2010? Afraid not. And, Colin Cowherd was quoting Pete Carroll, who said that about Stanford recruits when asked why USC lost recruits to Stanford.