(NOTE: Since this was posted, the Pac-10 has opted to not follow the NCAA decision and will not waive its transfer waiver for within the conference. So, any USC players who wants to leave and stay within the conference will still have to sit out a year. So, what follows is just a what-could-have been situation.)
The NCAA has ruled — in the wake of imposing a two-year postseason ban on the USC football program — that the team’s juniors and seniors are eligible to immediately transfer without having to sit out a year.
OK, then …
Which players should Arizona coach Mike Stoops go recruit off the USC free-agent roster?
Just for fun, here’s our top five list of Trojans who would make good Arizona targets. This isn’t a list of the best USC juniors and seniors — but the ones who would be the best fits from a talent/position/need standpoint.
1. CB Shareece Wright
The senior missed all of the 2009 regular season because of academic problems, but he returned for the bowl game and intercepted a pass against Boston College. If Arizona could have paired Wright with junior Trevin Wade, the Wildcats might have had the best pair of cornerbacks in the country.
2. DT Jurrell Casey
Arizona is replacing its starting interior defensive line, and although there is depth at the position — and an intriguing fall newcomer in Willie Mobley — there is no sure-fire star. Casey, a junior who had 59 tackles, including nine for loss last season, would have provided that star power while joining potential all-conference ends Brooks Reed and Ricky Elmore. Nice.
3. C Kristofer O’Dowd
The Salpointe Catholic graduate could have come home for his final season of college football. Arizona doesn’t have a need here because it has senior Colin Baxter … but having two All-American-caliber centers would have been a pleasant problem to have, and one of those guys could have just slid to guard.
4. LB Malcolm Smith
Arizona isn’t set at weak-side linebacker, listing junior college transfer Paul Vassallo and sophomore R.J. Young as co-starters heading into the fall. Smith, a senior, started at the position for the Trojans last season, making 72 tackles — including 10 vs. the Wildcats. Given Arizona’s inexperience at all the linebacker spots, junior middle linebacker Chris Galippo and senior strong-side ‘backer Michael Morgan would have been welcome transfers from USC, too.
5. RT Tyron Smith
Smith, a former Parade All-American, has big upside after starting as a sophomore, and he is projected as one of the top offensive tackles for the 2012 NFL Draft. He would have fit nicely, given that right tackle is the only spot on the Arizona offensive line that doesn’t have a returning starter, although senior Phillip Garcia has experience.