Ohio State's CJ Stroud says California recruits see a 'boring' atmosphere at USC, UCLA games
CJ Stroud played his high school ball about an hour away from USC’s campus. When he committed to Ohio State during the December signing period in 2019, his choice was the Buckeyes over the likes of Georgia and Michigan. The Rancho Cucamonga (Calif.) product was a 4-star in the 247 Composite (a 5-star in the eyes of 247Sports’ evaluators) but the interest between Stroud and the LA schools was never significant.
Instead, he left California for Columbus. In total, 23 of the state’s top 25 prospects in the 2020 class left the state to play elsewhere. One went to USC, another to Stanford. Nine of the class’s 10-highest-ranked California players went outside the state; that includes Heisman Trophy winner Bryce Young, Clemson’s DJ Uiagalelei, and Stroud.
At least for Young and Stroud, it would appear they made the right decisions for immediate results. USC went 4-8 and changed coaches. Young’s Crimson Tide are in the College Football Playoff again. Stroud’s Buckeyes are playing for a Rose Bowl after the Heisman finalist led Ohio State to a 10-2 record.
It was at Rose Bowl media availability Wednesday that Stroud spoke to why he and other Southern California prospects have been leaving the state, and the answer was pretty telling for the work that still sits in front of new USC coach Lincoln Riley.
“You go to USC and UCLA games and quite honestly it’s just kind of boring without all the people,” Stroud said, per the AP’s Joe Reedy. “They kind of just are there on vacation. You go to the other schools out of state and their fans are kind of like fanatics.”
It’s not the first time someone has questioned the gameday atmosphere for the Bruins or Trojans, and for opposing teams (or Oklahoma fans) it has become a popular talking point.
Prior to this season, USC’s five-year attendance average was around 85% capacity at the LA Memorial Coliseum—seventh among league teams—while UCLA was hovering just above 70% capacity at the Rose Bowl on a five-year average, the second-worst average in the Pac-12.
Of course, Riley has had no trouble convincing top prospects to remain in-state since he took over the Trojan program a month ago. USC has signed or gained verbal commitments from five different 5-star players across the 2022 and 2023 classes, signed the top two players in the state of California for the 2022 cycle, and has commitments from two of the top four players in the 2023 cycle.
Riley’s task is putting a product on the field fans and recruits alike can get excited about. “If you build it, they will come,” and whatnot. Early signs are promising.