Geography is not the only aspect of a crosstown rivalry.
Southern California is a recruiting hotbed, and since UCLA and USC are the only Power Five programs in the area, they target many of the same players. High school teammates frequently become college rivals.
“There’s a lot of guys that played high school football together and then one went here, one went there, so I think that’s part of the unique thing about the rivalry,” said coach Chip Kelly. “Not only the proximity of the schools but how many guys on their team played with guys who are on our team. There’s a real familiarity with this team more than any other team we play.”
Sophomore safety Quentin Lake is among the Bruin players who are the most familiar with the Trojans.
Lake attended Mater Dei High – a high school that has sent six players to USC in the past five years compared to only two to UCLA – where he was teammates with Trojan starting quarterback JT Daniels and receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown.
“I know we’re probably going to text them or communicate with them this week and talk a little smack, but we’re good friends off the field,” Lake said. “(Daniels), a good quarterback, was great in high school. (St. Brown), I knew him for two years, went against him two years straight.”
Both Daniels and St. Brown were five-star, top-20 recruits according to 247Sports and are starters for USC this year as freshmen.
Daniels has had an up-and-down campaign, completing only about 57 percent of his passes with an 11-to-8 touchdown-to-interception ratio. St. Brown ranks second among all USC players in receptions and receiving yards, so on Saturday, he’ll often match up with his former teammate, Lake.
“I obviously want to say that I won all the battles (in high school), but I would say that it was back-and-forth,” Lake said. “But coming into this game, I’m really going to try to lock him down. … I’m trying to go out there and stop every pass. I’m not trying to let them catch the ball, so it should be interesting.”
While Lake is participating in his second game against USC, redshirt junior running back Joshua Kelley will be playing in his first.
Last year, Kelley said he could feel the intensity even on the sideline.
“You know all your friends and family are coming around,” Kelley said. “Everybody from the Los Angeles area is coming to see that game, that’s what it’s all about. The energy, the atmosphere, it was incredible.”
Health trending up
Redshirt junior outside linebacker Keisean Lucier-South practiced fully Monday, although he continued to wear a wrap on his left elbow after injuring it several weeks ago. Junior linebacker Krys Barnes switched from a yellow jersey to a white practice jersey, indicating he is fully healthy.
There were four players in yellow jerseys – freshmen wide receivers Michael Ezeike and Kyle Philips, freshman running back Kazmeir Allen and graduate transfer tackle Justin Murphy.
Ezeike sustained a lower-body injury and was limping slightly after sprinting through a practice rep. Philips worked with the punt returners and wideouts in the first 20 minutes of practice.
Allen worked with a trainer off to the side of the field near the weight room, while Murphy practiced with the offensive linemen on the far side of the field.