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Thursday, March 28, 2013
OL Tucker still committed but looking

By Blair Angulo

Aside from being one of the best offensive line prospects in the Class of 2014, Casey Tucker is as straightforward as any recruit in the country. There is no hesitation when he speaks, as unfiltered thoughts flow effortlessly off his lips.

When the Chandler (Ariz.) Hamilton offensive tackle says he assumed his recruitment would slow down considerably after he committed to the USC Trojans last summer, he means it. When Tucker says he’s kept his ears open as numerous coaches have made their pitches, he suggests his commitment to USC isn’t as solid as it once was, even though he never completely cut ties with other programs.

“I’ve been in contact with every school I can think of,” Tucker said. “My head coach tells me everyone has me on the top of their board. It’s probably exaggerated, but it is incredibly humbling to be thought of so highly.”

James Cregg
OL Casey Tucker was recruited to USC by James Cregg, who is no longer the team's offensive line coach but remains of the Trojans' staff.
The ESPN Watch List member gave a verbal commitment to then-offensive line coach James Cregg on July 18, then attended his first USC game in October where he met Trojans great Sam Cunningham randomly at a Los Angeles hotel.

Still, the phone calls from other schools never stopped.

“I definitely thought it was going to go down a little bit,” Tucker said. “It was all starting to pick up last summer, so I said, ‘Oh, I can’t do this for much longer.’ I committed because I also wanted to seal my spot when (USC) had limited scholarships. I wanted to make sure I had my spot. That’s why I committed early.”

The significance of an early commitment in the modern recruiting world, of course, is debatable. Some prospects pledge early and shut down their recruitments completely, but that’s become the exception. A majority of players, like Tucker, go on as if a commitment never happened. It’s an interesting dynamic that both prospects and coaches alike have had to take into account.

“It’s a little different because I’m not completely open, so schools don’t know if you’re for real about your interest,” Tucker said. “They don’t know if you’re really looking at them or listening to them, so there are conversations to figure that out before. Coaches ask if I’m willing to talk to them or if I’d consider them even though I’m committed, and I tell them I’m definitely open to looking at them to make sure I actually find the right place for me. I need to make sure I have the best fit.”

The 6-foot-6, 290-pound athlete cited academics, coaches, campus, facilities and location as reasons why he committed to USC in the first place. Those factors haven’t changed, though Cregg now serves an assistant to new offensive line coach Mike Summers.

The Trojans had a lackluster 2012 season, but Tucker said it has no effect on his mind set moving forward.

“It’s not like the performance of the team before me is going to affect my decision either way,” Tucker said. “Yes, it was hard to watch, but it’s not going to affect my decision. I know the school and I know who’s there, so I’m looking at that mostly. I’m looking at where my opportunity is, where I can help and where I feel the most comfortable.”

Arizona State, Stanford, Texas A&M and UCLA have been the most aggressive suitors, Tucker said, while Alabama and LSU have come on strong in recent weeks. Tucker is unsure if the Tide have actually extended a scholarship offer, though.

“They said I was a priority, but I’m not sure what that means,” he said. “They said I was a priority for them.”

Tucker has stashed away boxes filled with mail. There are piles and piles of Arizona State and Texas A&M “stuff,” but not to be left behind, the Trojans have gotten into the act, too.

“USC sent me 20 letters a couple days ago,” Tucker says. “Washington sent me like 50 the other day and A&M also sends me like 50 at a time. It’s a crazy amount. ... But USC just started to pick up their recruitment of me again. They sent me a bunch of stuff, so I called them. It’s definitely picking up because they know I’m getting recruited as if I’m not committed. They’ve picked it up a lot.”

Tucker was the third 2014 offensive lineman to commit to the Trojans last year, joining guard Toa Lobendahn (La Habra, Calif./La Habra) and tackle Jordan Poland (La Jolla, Calif./Country Day School).

Tucker, who has committed to play in the 2014 Under Armour All-American Game, is perhaps the gem of a loaded group of Arizona prospects that includes quarterback Kyle Allen (Scottsdale, Ariz./Desert Mountain), tight end Mark Andrews (Scottsdale, Ariz./Desert Mountain), receivers Jalen Brown (Phoenix, Ariz./Mountain Pointe) and Dionte Sykes (Chandler, Ariz./Chandler), defensive end Qualen Cunningham (Chandler, Ariz./Hamilton) and athlete Cameron Denson (Tucson, Ariz./Salpointe Catholic).

“It’s great to know I’m up there with the best of the best,” Tucker said. “I truly believe I can compete against anybody that I go against. It’s a great honor to be up there with all of these guys.”

After making the six-hour drive from the Phoenix area to the USC campus a handful of times last year, Tucker has not made plans yet to visit Los Angeles this summer.

“Hopefully I’ll be able to, but I haven’t talked with my family about traveling,” he said. “I still have to figure that stuff out.”

It appears that’s not the only decision Casey Tucker will weigh in the coming months.