Friday, January 31, 2014
A wild week for the West's best
By Erik McKinney
Plenty of attention will be paid to the West on signing day, as four of the region's top eight recruits are set to announce their commitments on Wednesday. That number -- which includes the top-ranked uncommitted prospect in Adoree' Jackson (Gardena, Calif./Serra) -- dwarfs that of the top eight prospects in any of the other regions.
But before each makes a huge statement on signing day, all made some noise this week, as this region and the Pac-12 conference sets up for a very interesting day on Feb. 5.
Jackson came into the week with six finalists, but took to Twitter on Tuesday to announce a final four, which consists of Florida, LSU, UCLA and USC. Jackson cut Oklahoma and Tennessee from his list in naming that final group. At this point, it's unlikely that any of his four finalists feel entirely comfortable with where they stand in the race for Jackson's signature, though each put their best foot forward this week.
UCLA sent eight football coaches and a track coach to Serra on Monday, while USC sent a group of coaches to the school on the same day. Florida and LSU waited until Friday to send coaches, which will likely make Friday another busy day at Jackson's school.
If the biggest question regarding Jackson is which college he selects on signing day, the second-biggest is whether or not Jackson will take an official visit this weekend. The five-star cornerback still has one available trip left, and could head to Florida, UCLA or USC -- though it's also likely that he could stay home. Jackson's mother will fly out from her home in Illinois before the weekend to be with Jackson while he zeroes in on his decision, which will be shown live on ESPNU.
It looks as if ESPN 300 prospect John "JuJu" Smith will be remaining on the West Coast, as USC, UCLA and Oregon seem to be his finalists.
The region's No. 2 recruit has made noise this week as well, as John Smith (Long Beach, Calif./Poly) narrowed his list to Notre Dame, Oregon, UCLA and USC. With the Fighting Irish a significant long shot, it looks like a Pac-12 battle for Smith, who maintained throughout the season that he saw himself beginning his career at safety, but said last week that he'll start out on the offensive side of the ball at wide receiver.
Smith took an official visit to USC last weekend, then an unofficial visit to UCLA -- with his entire family -- on Monday. Oregon sent several coaches to Southern California to meet with Smith this week and there was some talk that the No. 24 overall prospect could take an unofficial visit to Eugene, Ore., this weekend. That doesn't look like that will happen, and Smith plans to make a final decision on a school this Sunday, then shut off his phone and the recruiting process. While the Trojans appeared to be in very good position following the official visit, the Bruins -- led by assistant coach Kennedy Polamalu -- won't go away quietly, and Oregon has proven to be a threat for any recruit in the country as signing day nears.
There was some back-and-forth this week with offensive guard Damien Mama (Bellflower, Calif./St. John Bosco), the nation's No. 67 overall prospect. Originally, Mama was scheduled to take an official visit to BYU this weekend coming off last weekend's visit to USC. But early this week, Mama flipped his BYU visit for a trip to UCLA as the Bruins looked to make a late push for the big lineman. On Wednesday, however, Mama tweeted a top three that included Alabama, BYU and USC, cutting UCLA from his top group. Now, Mama is likely to take the trip to BYU this weekend, although the Trojans look to have strengthened their grasp on Mama.
Rounding out the top four uncommitted recruits in the West is athlete Michiah Quick (Fresno, Calif./Central East), the nation's No. 75 overall prospect. Quick took a visit to USC on Jan. 17 and is scheduled to visit UCLA this weekend, but much of the talk surrounding Quick has him headed out of the region, as Notre Dame and Oklahoma join UCLA as his finalists. As of last week, there was still some doubt as to whether Quick would take his visit to see the Bruins this weekend, and with two former teammates having signed with the Sooners last year, UCLA will likely have to do some serious work on Quick if he shows up this weekend.
With the Pac-12 so bunched at the top when it comes to class recruiting rankings, the selections of these four will go a long way toward determining the program that ends up with the top class in the conference. No matter how it shakes out, there will be plenty of whispers surrounding these four recruits in the next few days, and plenty of attention paid to them when they announce on signing day.