Not only is humor a big winner in the great crumbling of the USC empire, but it appears UConn is, too.
With the Trojans on the verge of being dealt a thunderous blow from the NCAA, complete with bowl bans, vacating of victories and loss of scholarships, among other potentially program-handicapping sanctions, several USC players have begun to jump ship this past week, chief among them uber-offensive-line prospect Seantrel Henderson.
And several programs, including Tennessee, Miami (Fla.) and California community college powerhouse L.A. Harbor College, have been waiting with open arms waiting to reap the benefits.
Now, add the Huskies to that list.
USC junior fullback D.J. Shoemate became the latest to join what's shaping into a perennially awesome backfield in Storrs/East Hartford, telling ESPN's Shelly Smith on Thursday that he intends to transfer from Southern Cal to UConn.
Shoemate, who was used at both wide receiver and fullback last season and was expected to compete for a starting position at the latter this season, said he's changing coasts to escape the Trojans' crowded backfield and for a shot to tote the rock as a tailback.
"I have much love for the USC," he said. "The school is great, the fans are phenomenal and I'll be a Trojan for life. This was a business decision. When the sanctions came, the opportunity came to go. Playing running back is what my passion is and at UConn I will have an opportunity to play right away and hopefully contribute to an up-and-coming program."
Shoemate, the fourth player to leave USC this spring (or are we in summer yet?), appeared in four games last season and accumulated two yards on just two carries (consistency!) playing behind Stanley Havili, widely believed to be one of the best FBs in the nation last year. He also finished the season with 23 receiving yards and a touchdown on two receptions, all of which coming in an opening-game 56-3 route of San Jose State.
But despite his low production last season, Shoemate still has the pedigree to be a valuable contributor when he's eligible to play in 2011 (UPDATE) next season -- one year sooner than normal thanks to looser restrictions for USC transfers. As Smith points out, he was a Super Prep All-American out of Servite High School in Anaheim, Calif., and was one of a select few to play in the Army All-America game. In addition to being rated as a four-star prospect by Rivals in high school, he was dubbed the 10th-best prep athlete, the 11th-best California player, and the 98th-best player in the country in the 2008 class. In fact, aside from Dwayne Difton and maybe Jarrell Miller, Shoemate may be the highest-rated high school prospects every to join the Huskies.
And the fact that he comes from a program as celebrated (was celebrated?) as USC is enough to convince me he's worth any risk.
Although I've never seen him play, his size (6 feet, 220 lbs.) and former position lead me to believe he's more of a bruiser than a finesse runner, which would provide a nice complement to Jordan Todman for the next two years, should the mercurial scatback stick around for his senior season. The fact that Shoemate was often employed as a wideout will also be a valuable asset, especially for a UConn team that likes to get its backfield involved in the passing game and has ... issues at wide receiver.