A University of Southern California football roster still in flux because of ongoing NCAA sanctions became a bit clearer on Friday with the announcement that starting cornerback Isiah Wiley had been ruled ineligible for the season.
Trojans coach Lane Kiffin delivered the news, while also adding that linebacker Marquis Simmons and cornerback Brian Baucham had each been cleared to play.
Top-ranked USC has until Monday’s first day of fall semester classes to have its roster trimmed to 75 scholarship players as mandated by their NCAA punishment for recruiting violations.
Kiffin declined to say exactly how many players were on scholarship, but said the Trojans were hovering a few below the maximum limit allowed.
“We’re definitely not over,” Kiffin was quoted as saying in the Los Angeles Times. “I’ll leave it at that.”
Wiley, a senior who had transferred from Arizona Western Community College last year, started the final six games last season after both Torin Harris and Anthony Brown suffered season-ending injuries. Wiley recorded 39 tackles, four pass deflections and one fumble recovery to shore up the spot opposite All-Pac 12 cornerback Nikell Robey.
Wiley had not been practicing or attending workouts while his status was determined.
“We didn’t want to invest a lot of time in guys that weren’t sure whether they were going to be here,” Kiffin said. “Now, all of a sudden, we’d be sitting here … going ‘Now what do we do’
“The blow is not so big, I think, because of the way we went about it.”
Wiley is not expected to remain enrolled at the school.
Simmons had also sat out all of preseason practice while awaiting word about his academic status. The fourth-year junior, who is coming off neck surgery, is expected to bolster USC’s linebacking corps and special teams.
Baucham had been ruled academically ineligible last season, but was singled out by Kiffin during spring practice as one of the most improved players on the team.
The Trojans open the season next Saturday when they host Hawaii.