Simply put, it’s been a bad week to be a former five-star football recruit now enrolled at a Pac-12 school.
Earlier today, Crystal Ball Run told you about the sad fall of Oregon All-American cornerback, who has been suspended from the team indefinitely, after his second traffic related offense in the last six months.
And right after that article was posted, news broke that former five-star high school All-American Dillon Baxter is no longer with the USC football program.
Today, USC coach Lane Kiffin released a statement which said:
“The decision has been made for Dillon Baxter to focus on his academics. As he does so, he will not be part of our football program. However, we will continue to support him with our academic services department.
“There will be no further comment regarding this from me or any member of our program.”
For anyone who has followed Baxter’s career at USC, this news is hardly surprising.
Out of San Diego, Baxter was one of the last elite recruits who committed to Pete Carroll, before the former coach left USC for the NFL in January 2010. He finished his high school career with over 2,900 yards rushing and 60 touchdowns, and was one of three five-star skill-position players (along with Robert Woods and Kyle Prater) expected to carry on USC’s tradition of explosive and exciting offenses.
And for Baxter, that expectation was only heightened when he had a huge spring after enrolling early before his freshman year. In that season’s spring game, Baxter rushed for 94 yards on nine carries, including one 50-yard run that was captured on video, and practically blew up the internet as we knew it. At the time, new USC coach Lane Kiffin wasn’t afraid to compare Baxter to the most famous Trojan of the last decade, Reggie Bush.
“I thought Dillon Baxter was phenomenal. His scoring run looked like Reggie Bush’s against Fresno State in 2005,” Kiffin told reporters that day. “It didn’t matter who was in front of him, nobody could tackle him. He’s exciting, but we realize he’s still got a ways to go.”
(The video is below. Go to the 50 second mark for Baxter’s run)
Needless to say, Baxter never came to close to reaching those lofty expectations, and in large part, it seemed due to a frosty relationship with Kiffin. Expected to be a key contributor and one of the team’s most dangerous big-play threats as a freshman (thanks in large part to the hype surrounding that video), Baxter rushed for just 252 yards on 59 carries in his first year on campus.
If anything, maybe the headline that Baxter was best known for that first year, was when he was suspended for the Oregon State game, after accepting a “ride” from an agent prior to that week’s game. The irony of course, was that the “ride” was in a golf cart, and the “agent” was actually a fellow student. But after getting hammered by the NCAA just months before, the Trojans took nothing to chance, and Baxter was suspended. In his return for the final two games of the season, Baxter had just two carries for four yards.
But entering 2011, Baxter was expected to be more prominently involved in the USC offensive attack, after last year’s disappointing 8-5 campaign.
From the beginning though, it never happened. Baxter didn’t get a single carry in the Trojans opener, at which point it prompted a meeting between Kiffin, the player and his family.
“It happens a lot, especially with your highly-recruited players. If they’re not playing, the expectations are so high on them among everyone around them. It’s not abnormal to have those type of meetings.
“I call them tell-the-truth meetings, where you just explain exactly where everything is and why things are happening and go from A-Z.”
Baxter appeared to rebound from there, and got his only meaningful time this season two weeks later against Syracuse. In that game, he rushed seven times for 29 yards. Up until last weekend, it was USC’s most impressive win of the season, as they dismantled the Orange 38-7.
Speaking of last weekend, Baxter was again in the headlines for all the wrong reasons, when he did not travel with the team to Notre Dame for their showdown with the Fighting Irish. It was later reported that Baxter had stayed home with his girlfriend, who gave birth to the couple’s first child, but regardless, the team went onto a huge win without him. The 31-17 victory was likely the biggest in Kiffin’s time at the school.
And now, just days after that, it appears as though Baxter’s career is on hold. It appears as though for the time being he will remain at the school, although it would surprise no one if he transferred. Those rumors have been rampant for over a year now.
Stay with Crystal Ball Run as we continue to keep you updated on this story.
Follow Aaron Torres on Twitter @Aaron_Torres.