College and high school football stars talk USC, UCLA to the Big Ten


UCLA quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson, like many reacting to major college sports news on Thursday, immediately jumped into the hypothetical as a USC draft and UCLA as new members of the Big Ten.

“Man, I wish it was this year,” Thompson-Robinson said.

All parties confirmed initial reports at the end of the day, as it appears college football has once again resulted in a realignment. From the notion of super conferences to simply an adjustment in expectations, not to mention the shock of it all, the reactions appeared mixed in Los Angeles as jokes about the iconic venue now part of “Big Ten Country.”

For Thompson-Robinson, who is entering his fifth and final year of college football this fall, the spark of the news cycle has him excited for the next wave of Bruins looking to make their mark. The son of a Michigan graduate who was considering dropping out of high school before joining UCLA, he was quick to see the call.

“We all know the tough competition that thrives in the Big Ten,” Thompson-Robinson told SI. “Just being able to move to a different environment, a different area, because those environments there are pretty crazy.”

Elite 11 college counselor CJ Stroud, a Southern California native who plays quarterback for Ohio State, would also like to speed up the schedule so he can play against his city’s programs. native.

“It makes me want to play against them,” Stroud said. “I think it’s a good thing, the more mixing the more teams come together, I think it creates more competition. Better entertainment, better for the fans and an opportunity for the players to express from coast to coast.”

Stroud admits, while his recruitment peaked around his victorious run in Elite 11 in 2019, it was his visits beyond the Pac-12 footprint that opened his mind to the passion and opportunities for sport in other parts of the country. Stroud made official visits to Ohio State, Michigan and Georgia before picking the Buckeyes on national signing day.

“I grew up watching USC and UCLA but when I went to visit other schools, the vibes are totally different,” he said. “People really come to the games and support…I feel like in California they don’t really talk about USC and UCLA and people don’t really go to the games like that.

“But I feel it’s about to happen now.”

As for the football prospects who should now be playing in the Big Ten instead of perhaps a childhood desire to play in the traditional Pac-12 footprints, the news was taken in stride on Thursday.

Malachi Nelson, who finished the Elite 11 fourth out of 20 competitors according to SI evaluators, sees the move as a step up in profile, even for a brand like USC. The Los Alamitos, Calif., high school star has been with the Trojans since November after pledging Lincoln Riley while in Oklahoma.

“It’s something you dream of, playing against the best competition,” Nelson said. “It’s going to be exciting and I can’t wait to be there.”

USC QB Nelson commitment after the 2022 Elite 11 Finals.

Nelson smiled when someone brought up the potential weather differences between the Los Angeles area and some of the more extreme climates in the Big Ten footprint.

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“I think you have to do it (play in cold weather) in the NFL and that’s the goal.” said Nelson. “Being able to do it sooner will only acclimate you more and get used to it.”

The headliner for Riley’s recruiting class of 2023 says the move should boost recruiting in the Midwest and East Coast, though Trojans were seen as a brand that still recruits from a national basis.

The top-ranked Elite 11 arm of the week, Dante Moore, is a product of said region. The Detroit (Mich.) King High School star has considered programs like Oregon in the Pac-12, but of course has the most ties to the regional programs he grew up around. On Thursday, he said Ohio State, Michigan and others remain in contention for his commitment.

Moore, like Nelson, views the move as increased competition for new members of Big Ten football.

“I’m pretty surprised,” Moore said. “There’s a lot of great schools in the Big Ten…a lot of great talent, so I think joining them is going to make it even better. Having west coast schools coming in in the cold is going to be pretty tough, but it’s going to be pretty tough. is going to be a great competition.

“It’s pretty dope.”

Roderick Robinson has a unique perspective on different parts of the country. Not only does the Lincoln prospect from San Diego, Calif. understand the local recruiting prospect having committed to UCLA for next year, he grew up in the traditional South and toured around the country before the decision to be a Bruin is locked in. in more Oregon, Auburn, Tennessee and others in May.

Consider the 230-pound back who isn’t worried about weather variance once his future program’s move to the Big Ten is complete as well.

“A lot of West Coast kids will be fine,” Robinson said. “It’s football, at the end of the day. The adrenaline will surge and you’ll get used to it quickly.

“Certainly great opponents in the Big Ten, of course. I think it will be a great competition.”

Most agree that the level of competition is increasing, which is something future recruiting could possibly do for all concerned. It presents itself as an opportunity for talent east of the Mississippi River to potentially hang out in one of the country’s major metropolitan areas on occasion while offering Californians a chance to literally play across America. without leaving the new Big Ten footprint.

“All the guys we recruit aren’t afraid of competition,” Nelson said of USC’s prospects. “I think that helps when we go to play against better competition, so I think that will help.”

At the end of the 2022 recruiting cycle, SI ranked three Big Ten teams — Ohio State, Penn State and Michigan — in the top 10. Neither USC nor UCLA made the final rankings in February.

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