Three games into his college career, E.J. Price has decided that he no longer wants to be a USC Trojan.
USC head coach Clay Helton confirmed on Monday that Price will be transferring closer to home for personal reasons. The 6-foot-6, 325 pound offensive lineman from Lawrenceville (Georgia) has apparently been dealing with a bout of homesickness to go along with family issues.
Rumors that Price had actually punched Helton in the face, leading to unrest at USC, were false, per the head coach.
Here’s what Helton had to say, via Kyle Bonagura of ESPN:
“I’m not a big social media guy, but I got told today about E.J. Price hitting me, which is funny. I wouldn’t be here; I’d be dead, one,” Helton said. “May make my face look better, but when it comes to E.J. — I know a lot of times when a guy doesn’t show up on the field there’s questions.
“I talked to E.J. a couple days ago. E.J. has some personal family issues that are going on — a lot of homesickness and missing family really bad. With us sitting down and visiting, really felt, mutually, that it was important for him to go find a school that is closer to home, where he can deal with his family.”
College message boards are infamous for stirring up false rumors, and that appears to be the case in this story. Of course, some may say that where there’s smoke there’s usually fire, but outside of USC’s 1-2 record to start the season and a recent quarterback switch — there isn’t much that would indicate unrest in Los Angeles.
Is there frustration surrounding the slow start? Sure… but enough frustration that would lead to a freshman who has not played yet (he was expected to redshirt, per ESPN) to punch the head coach? Those kinds of rumors are crazy talk, and if they were true, Helton would have been more concerned about saving face and tackling the issue head on both in the locker room and in public.
Instead, he’s talking about a young player who traveled across the country to a big city and campus to play football, and — while waiting to take the field — realized how much he misses home and his family. That, unlike the other rumors, is not crazy talk. It’s something plenty of players — even the big-time ones — deal with.
With all the craziness surrounding this story and the rumors that preceded it, it could be easy to gloss over the fact that the loss of Price is a big deal for USC.
In a 2016 class that was ranked No. 10 nationally and No. 1 in the Pac-12 on signing day, Price was USC’s fifth-highest-rated recruit, only behind five-star defensive end Oluwole Betiku, five-star cornerback Jake Jones, and four-star wideouts Tyler Vaughns and Michael Pittman.
Price was a big-time commitment for the Trojans at the time, especially considering the competition.
Helton and the Trojans landed Price in the spotlight of signing day in 2016. Of course, the in-state Georgia Bulldogs were a major option for the four-star, but he was also high on Auburn as well, per reports.
Nationally, Price had the type of profile that one would expect from a big-time USC commit. He was an Under Armour All-American and boasted 35 total offers. LSU, Alabama, Michigan State, Arkansas, Clemson, Florida, Florida State, Michigan, Notre Dame, Ohio State, Oklahoma, Tennessee and Wisconsin had offered him. According to the 247Sports Composite rankings, he was the No. 9 offensive tackle in America as well as the No. 11 recruit from the talent-laden state of Georgia.
The laundry list of accolades and offers is brought up to make this point: No matter what you want to believe happened regarding Price and USC, it’s a huge loss for the program that he has decided to leave.
He could one day be an NFL lineman — had he stuck with USC, he could have eventually been one of the top players on the team — he’s projected to be that kind of talent.
The fact that Helton and the Trojans couldn’t help Price feel at home is the biggest story to come out of the rumor mill. The Trojans never even got a chance to tap into his potential, and eventually some other major college football program will. UGA is only a 48-minute drive East of Lawrenceville.
No punches had to be thrown. The loss of Price is a slap in the face for the Trojans,