USC Football Recruiting

USC's Top-10 Recruits From 2000-2004

August 20, 2020

This originally started off as the top-10 list of recruits from the decade of 2000-2010.   I quickly found out this exercise would be futile, so I tried to do 2000-2005...Nope, still wasn’t going to work!   So I chose the next best thing...2000-2004...and I even then I had to cheat.  

Top-10 lists have no wrong answer.  As my mom would always tell me...”I may not always be right, however, my opinion is never wrong.”   There’s an argument for plenty of names to make the list.  I even included a “just missed the cut” list just to footnote how challenging this was for me.  Here are USC’s Top-10 recruits (give or take) from 2000-2004 and why they deserve my special recognition. 

Matt Grootegoed (2000)

Arguably one of the best high school and college players to ever play the game.  Before Matt arrived at USC he played for powerhouse Mater Dei and for those of you who were lucky enough to remember the 1998 CIF championship  game between Mater Dei and Long Beach Poly, you’ll remember a one-man wrecking crew.   Playing linebacker, the undersized 5-11 and barely 200lbs, “Groots” also played running back and he willed the Monarchs to a win over a LB Poly program loaded with future division-1 prospects.  

The impact “Groots” had on the program coming out of a dark period and helping Pete Carroll build one of the greatest college football dynasties should not be overlooked because his play on the field as a Trojan led to many future defensive players following in his path.

Alex Holmes (2000)

Alex did Alex make the list?!!?  Alex was more than just a big TE from Harvard-Westlake HS (one of the highest-rated high schools in the nation academically) who made plays for the Trojans.  Holmes biggest influence on the program was his love for the Trojan Family and his ability to recruit the next great future Trojan who was taking an official visit.  If USC needed a someone to sell why USC is the place to be to as a student-athlete, Alex, fit the role perfectly.  Not only a great athlete, however, was also a great student.  

Future Trojans would talk about the impact Alex had on their decision to become a Trojan.  This is why Alex Holmed makes the list.  He was a brick in the foundation Pete Carroll would build around.

Coach Keary Colbert (2000)

Colbert from Oxnard, CA would go on to start all four years (2000-03) at wide receiver for USC.   

Colbert is still one of the Trojans all-time leading receivers in the Trojan recod books, and in my opinion was the catalyst for the “WRU” label USC is known for today.   Coach Colbert wasn’t flashy during his playing days, however, his hands were made of velcro and he was a physical receiver in the mold of a JuJu Smith-Shuster, but could still run by you.  The NFL noticed this too.

The lasting impact Keary Colbert has had goes beyond playing football.   Not only did Colbert play the game the right way, he left a legacy at the position other local recruits from Southern California still try and emulate. 

Shaun Cody (2001)

Shaun Cody is often referred to as THE recruit which put USC back into the national recruiting spotlight after Pete Carroll took over for Paul Hackett.  Shaun was considered the top defensive lineman on the west coast, and of the best in the country.   The highly rated Cody from Los Altos HS was all set to sign with USC’s main rival Notre Dame.  

The combination of Pete Carroll, combined with the natural charm and charisma of Ed Orgeron, both were able to sell Shaun’s father who WAS a huge Fighting Irish fan on the idea of watching his son playing at home on Saturdays.   And the rest is history as they say.   Cody would go on to start all four years while at USC, earning freshman All American honors and eventually consensus All American honors while also earning the distinction of being a team captain.   Cody would be another one of the defensive bricks of foundation from USC’s Back to Back National Championship teams in 2003 and 2004.  

The impact Cody had on recruiting going forward is hard to quantify, however, make no mistake about, Cody, signing with USC opened the flood gates to a recruiting bonanza for the Trojan Family to enjoy...and the rest of the country to lament.

Matt Leinart (2001)

Leinart came from Mater Dei high school and became the next quarterback starter following Carson Palmer’s 2002 Heisman Campaign.   The red shirt sophomore’s first pass a college quarterback went for a touchdown to the next person on my list, “BMW.”    It would be the first of many TD passes and the beginning of Leinart’s own eventual Heisman Trophy run.   After Leinart was drafted No. 10 overall in the draft, he was often “criticized” for just having to get the ball to the talent surrounding him while playing for USC and just get out of the way, however, it’s a lot easier said than done.   Matt would manage to figure out along the way how keep all of the Trojan receivers happy.  Leinart would go on to make critical game changing plays in some of the most high pressured game situations, and he was doing it in Hollywood under the lights.  The Trojans with Matt Leinart at quarterback were rock stars and the impact he had again cannot be measured.  However, for anyone who was watching the program when Matt was quarterback, they know things would have been a lot different than they are now if he chose to go to Michigan out of high school.

Mike Williams (2002)

Everyone kept telling Mike Williams he wasn’t a wide receiver at the next level...”You’re too big and you should play tight end or consider moving to the defensive side of the ball.   Williams was set to sign with the Florida Gators...until Lane Kiffin saw him.   Coach Kiffin at the time was in charge of Williams recruitment under Pete Carroll and opened the door for, Norm Chow, USC’s offensive coordinator got involved.    Williams impact on the early Carroll years, even if it was for only two years can only be described as, dominant.   MIke’s unique combination of skill and size helped Carson Palmer and the Trojans take the offense to another level during their Orange Bowl season, and to a national championship as a sophomore.

For two years BMW was unstoppable.  A Man. Among. Boys.  The big wide receiver was sexy and BMW was showing the nation why coming out west was the right choice. 

Williams got to spend two season at SC, before challenging the NCAA’s power to leave college early for the NFL.  One quick note; Remember, Alex Holmes?  He played a role in Mike’s decision when Williams took his visit.  The impact BMW had on future recruiting opened the door for the Patrick Turners, Dwayne Jarrett’s and Kyle Praters to follow and try and be the next BMW.

The LBPoly 4 (2002)

Here’s where I started to move the goal posts around just so I can make this list work!   2002 was Pete Carroll’s 2nd full recruiting class and USC would finish with the 8th rated class nationally.  The class included Winston Justice, Hershel Dennis, Manuel Wright, Darnell Bing from Long Beach Poly HS.  They were all from the same high school team!   Poly has seen more student-athletes come through their halls and eventually play in the NFL than any other high school in the country, and this particular Jackrabbit team was loaded.   The one player who USC also wanted from LBPoly got away was, Marcedes Lewis.  The star tight end would learn what it would feel like to never beat USC.

Each one of those recruits at their respective positions were considered the best coming out of high school and the Trojans landed each one.  USC even took Mike Garrett’s Heisman No. 20 out of retirement so Bing could wear it while he played at USC.   Each one made a huge contribution in some shape or form which would add to the Trojan dynasty.  Manuel Wright’s defensive series against (2004) Cal at the Coliseum...Winston Justice being a 4-year starter on the Oline...and let’s not forget, it was Dennis who started at running back in 2003.

When everything was all said and done, USC, was back on the recruiting map and the Southern Californoia backyard was now on lockdown.  Coming in and taking  the best local recruits away from USC was no longer allowed.

Reggie Bush (2003)

Very few words are necessary.  The impact Reggie had on the program still exists today.   Period!

Welcome Home Reggie.

LenDale White (2003)

Reggie Bush may have stole the headlines with his flash, however, LenDale White, made the noise when he ran the ball for the Trojans.   USC has been and will forever be known as Tailback U....and LenDale White belongs right at the top of the list along with OJ, Garrett, Davis, Bell, White, Allen, Bush, et al.,...  While at USC,  the 6-2, 235-pound running back teamed up with Reggie Bush to form one of the greatest backfields in college football history, and for a few years, The Thunder and Lightening storm were an unstoppable force.   White proved to other national recruits, playing in the same backfield with another Heisman level talent works.    White left his home state of Colorado to play football in Southern California, and his performances on the field was spreading the word nationally, which would lead to more national recruits leving their comfort zone and follow in White’s path.

The 2004 Recruiting Class....Look At The National Pull.  USC was officially the program to chase for the top recruits.

#55 Keith Rivers...No 1 rated linebacker from the state of Florida.

Jeff Byers...the No.1 rated center from the state of Colorado.

Fred Davis...the No.2 tight end in the country from the state of Ohio

Dwayne Jarrett...the No.7 receiver in the country from the state of New Jersey


There were a few more who could have made the list, however, like I mentioned at the top, this was far more challenging than I anticipated when I started.  Here a some who just missed the cut.

Just missed the cut list BKU, Mike Patterson, Dominique Byrd, Fred Matua, Sam Baker, Lawrence Jackson, 

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