A tidal wave of transfers has hit the USC football program in the month of January, with receiver Brice Butler being the latest to announce his departure to San Diego State University.
“For the most part, with the receiver position at our school, if you’re not the guy coming out of camp you’re not going to be the guy all year,” he said. “I didn’t really have a good fall camp. I was out for spring ball and when I got to fall camp I was kind of playing catch up, I played really inconsistent.”
Many felt the news of Butler's transfer was a long time coming after a tumultuous career at USC in which he never reached his full potential.
“I came to SC and I got what I got, which was a degree and a little bit of time,” he said. “I want to go somewhere and get some film, get some tape. I need scouts so I can go to the NFL. Catching 12 balls? That’s not that much tape.”
The redshirt junior attempted to leave the program last season, telling SCPlaybook that he was considering playing at either Tennessee-Chattanooga or Delaware, two Division I-AA (FCS) programs.
But after some discussions with head coach Lane Kiffin and Butler’s family, he had a change of heart, and thought he would give Trojan football one more shot.
“In their eyes, I wanted to leave last year but then I just decided to stay. This year they thought that I would have possibly stayed. But this time I wasn’t kidding about it. There was nothing that was keeping me from it.
“The big games I didn’t play at all. I wasn’t really asking questions, last year I was in the office a lot talking to Kiffin a lot. This year I didn’t really care to ask. I didn’t have a sour attitude just nothing changed.”
In the year since deciding against a transfer, Butler has received his undergraduate degree. Thus, he is free to play his remaining year of football with the Aztecs, a Division-I (FBS) school, immediately, without sitting out a season like most transfers.
“The coaching staff at San Diego is great. I know the receiver coach pretty well because he recruited me out of high school, he’s been there a while. I started following them a lot. My buddy Vincent Brown played there last year and he balled. He was top-10 in receiving yards. They have a great offense,” Butler said.
The 6-4, 195-pound Norcross, Ga. native showed glimpses of top-tier talent while at USC and was well liked by former USC head coach Pete Carroll. In 2009, Caroll gave the then redshirt freshman a chance and played him in all 13 games, even recording a start in the Stanford game. He made the Pac-10 All-Freshman first team with 20 catches for 292 yards and two touchdowns.
“Me and Carroll were cool, we had a great relationship. He was a really good coach. We knew each other pretty well, he recruited me. Kiffin has his guys who he recruits. When Kiffin came in he didn’t really know who I was. It’s just one of those situations.
“I trusted Carroll enough to go to the school. He was the guy who came to my house over the break during recruiting season. I don’t know how it would have been if Kiffin recruited me.”
The coaching transition at USC set him back, and his production dropped by playing behind true freshman Robert Woods. In 2010, he caught 9 passes for 112 yards and scored one touchdown. But Kiffin didn’t want him to say goodbye just yet.
“He tells you if you want to go ‘I’m not going to hold you,’ but he was telling me he wanted me to stay. He said I still have a home here. That’s why it was so easy to come back.”
But 2011 was perhaps Butler’s toughest year to date. Woods was joined by high school teammate Marqise Lee to form the receiving duo that helped USC amass a 10-2 record this past season. Butler played in 11 of the Trojans’ 12 games, but he did not view his 12 catches for 150 yards as a successful season. He wanted to be a playmaker, not a decoy.
“The receivers this past year had a lot more success than last year. So it’s more understandable. [Robert] Woods and Marqise [Lee] had unbelievable seasons,” Butler said. “You can’t say anything about it when they’re balling outrageously.”
So now he’ll go to SDSU where he hopes to become what Woods and Lee are at USC. Butler will join a program with a seasoned coaching staff under head coach Rocky Long and receivers coach LeCharls McDaniel.
“San Diego State is not going to be my alma mater but it’s going to be where I have much success in football,” he said. “Just like coaches do if you’re getting a bigger salary somewhere else you’re going to take it. I have a better situation over there. But I love SC, my alma mater is SC.
“I just want to go somewhere where I’m going to get the opportunity to show what I’m worth.”