Rising Stars Camp recap


LOS ANGELES -- Three-star offensive tackle Jordan Austin (Claremont, Calif./Claremont) became the sixth member of USC’s 2014 recruiting class by verbally committing to the Trojans late Wednesday night, but that wasn’t the only headline the annual Rising Stars Camp produced.

The coaching staff extended seven confirmed scholarship offers during the two-day event and might add to the class soon enough, as ESPN 300 outside linebacker D.J. Calhoun (El Cerrito, Calif./El Cerrito) and four-star athlete Jaleel Wadood (Bellflower, Calif./St. John Bosco) are set to announce their decisions next week at The Opening in Oregon.

Outside linebacker Jaylen Johnson (Corona, Calif./Centennial) was one of the prospects the Trojans offered on Wednesday afternoon.

“I was excited. I’ve been talking to USC for a while, having attended both junior day and the spring game, so when coach [Lane] Kiffin offered, I was very excited to know they’re now really part of my recruiting process,” the 6-foot-3, 230-pound Johnson said. “Not to take anything away from the other schools that are recruiting me, but I can now say USC is definitely up there.”

Assistant coach James Cregg, the lead recruiter in the Inland Empire, has already received a verbal commitment from Johnson’s high school teammate, three-star defensive tackle Austin Maloata (Corona, Calif./Centennial), and is still after Alabama offensive line commit Viane Talamaivao (Corona, Calif./Centennial), who holds a USC offer.

“The entire defensive staff was inside the defensive war room when coach Kiffin extended the offer,” Johnson said. “It’s great because USC is so close; my mother and family could get to all my games. They could get out here whenever I need them. Plus, the academic side is a real appealing aspect. I don’t want to say I expected this, but I was looking forward to this camp and seeing how I would fit in the defense.”

Johnson, who also has the likes of Notre Dame and Oregon on his offer list, intends to check out a handful of schools before arriving at a decision.

“I would want to want to make a decision sooner rather than later,” Johnson said. “If not early on in the season, then before my senior season. The USC coaches love me at the weakside linebacker position and told me they’d be real excited to have me. There are guys at my position that are leaving after this season, so I would have the opportunity to come in right away and play.”

ESPN 300 tight end Jacory Washington (Lake Charles, La./Westlake) said he also picked up a Trojans offer, though his commitment to LSU remains strong. The 6-5, 210-pound Washington is scheduled to stay in Los Angeles through the weekend while he competes at the B2G Elite Camp.

Washington was a part of a loaded Louisiana contingent, which also included No. 1-rated prospect Leonard Fournette (New Orleans, La./St. Augustine) and No. 6-rated receiver Cameron Sims (Monroe, La./Ouachita Parish).

Florida also had an impressive list of representatives, including No. 4-rated running back and Florida commit Dalvin Cook (Miami, Fla./Central), ESPN 300 safety Quincy Wilson (Ft. Lauderdale, Fla./University School of Nova South), four-star linebacker Richard Yeargin III (Ft. Lauderdale, Fla./University School of Nova South) and three-star safety Kendall Gant (Lakeland, Fla./Lake Gibson).

Arizona prospects enjoy camp experience

USC might have lost ESPN 300 offensive tackle Casey Tucker (Chandler, Ariz./Hamilton) when he decommitted earlier this year, but the Trojans appear to be in good shape with two other Arizona-based prospects who shined at camp Wednesday.

Tucker’s high school teammate, ESPN 300 defensive end Qualen Cunningham (Chandler, Ariz./Hamilton), made the trip to Los Angeles with hopes of competing against top-notch competition and got his wish.

“It was a great trip,” the 6-4, 220-pound Cunningham said. “Visiting USC is something I’m definitely going to do again. Out here, athletics and academics go hand in hand. I’m still trying to narrow things down in regards to recruiting, but I’m definitely getting there. I might pursue an official visit to USC, but it’s still getting worked out. This was another day of work to show out and prove why the offered me early.”

Cunningham said he’s aware of the fact that the Trojans signed only one defensive lineman in the 2013 class.

“Coming into my freshman year and being able to play right away, especially at a place like USC, is a big thing for me,” said Cunningham, who is being recruited by assistants Ed Orgeron and Tommie Robinson. “I’m going to graduate early and I want to start early. The coaches like my speed, quickness and way I come off the edge. They want to utilize me to get to the quarterback.”

Cunningham wasn’t the only prospect from the Grand Canyon State to make noise, as three-star free safety J.T. Gray (Chandler, Ariz./Basha) received a scholarship offer -- his 13th -- and named the Trojans his leader.

“I feel great. I was very excited,” Gray said. “Coach Robinson is recruiting me at free safety, which I prefer. I thought I did great. USC is up at the top now. They didn’t ask me to commit, but I’m thinking hard about it. I want to decide after the season, so I’m thinking about taking an official.”

Underclassmen prove to be rising stars

Class of 2015 outside linebacker Cameron Townsend (Missouri, Texas/Ridge Point) attended the same event last year, but didn’t receive an offer. On a West Coast swing with his father, David, Townsend decided to try again this year and succeeded.

“I was real excited about it,” the 6-1, 196-pound Townsend said. “USC being a powerhouse program and with it getting off probation after this season, I’m real excited about the offer. I really like the city, too. I was here at camp last summer, which got my name on their board. I sent my highlight tape out to them after my sophomore season and they liked me.”

Townsend also has early offers from the likes of Baylor, Michigan, Oregon State and Texas. He attended camps at Oregon and Oregon State prior to arriving in Southern California.

“The linebackers coach, Mike Ekeler, told me during drills that I moved real well,” Townsend said. “Coach Kiffin didn’t say much to me, but I know he talked with the position coach and told him he liked my film. I’m excited to know I can play for them. They definitely went up on my list. I’m interested in whichever school is interested in me, but I definitely like USC.”

CeCe Jefferson (Glen St. Mary, Fla./Baker County) became the second defensive tackle in the 2015 class to pick up a USC offer, doing so on Tuesday following his camp performance.

“I’m from Florida, so I don’t usually see a lot of the stuff I saw out here,” Jefferson said. “I had a real good time. I’m planning on coming back. I’ve liked USC for a while and have them in my top five. The weather stood out to me, and the facilities are top notch. USC’s weight room, oh my goodness, I love that place.”

Last but not least, 2016 linebacker Dele Harding (Elkton, Md./Eastern Christian Academy) was also offered by the Trojans, according to 2015 quarterback commit David Sills (Elkton, Md./Eastern Christian Academy).

Local standouts flock to campus

Highly regarded 2015 quarterbacks Josh Rosen (Bellflower, Calif./St. John Bosco) and Ricky Town (Ventura, Calif./St. Bonaventure) camped with the Trojans on Wednesday, showing their talents to position coach Clay Helton while longtime verbal commit and fellow class member Sills did the same. The attendance of Rosen and Town was an interesting side note given Sills’ unwavering commitment and the possibility that USC opts not to take a signal-caller in the 2014 class if top target Keller Chryst (Palo Alto, Calif./Palo Alto) chooses Stanford or Pittsburgh. Theoretically, the Trojans would take two quarterbacks in 2015, with Rosen and Town being two prime candidates.

Five-star cornerback Adoree' Jackson (Gardena, Calif./Serra) reportedly registered the fastest 40-yard dash time, running it in neighborhood of 4.4 seconds.

One of the most significant receivers in attendance was The Opening invitee Erik Brown (Fontana, Calif./Summit), but he didn’t return home with an offer in hand. According to a source at the event, Brown is content without an offer and has Notre Dame, UCLA and Washington atop his list.

ESPN 300 offensive guard Damien Mama (Bellflower, Calif./St. John Bosco) followed through on his plans to attend the camp, though with an offer already in tow, he didn’t compete.

Another notable camp participant was Cal running back commit Tre Watson (Corona, Calif./Centennial), who recently landed an offer from UCLA.

“The camp went very well,” Watson said. “Coach Robinson and Coach Cregg told me they’ll be keeping in touch and an offer should be coming soon. Coach Kiffin just wants to evaluate my film from the drills.”

UCLA receiver commit Jordan Lasley (Gardena, Calif./Serra), who has burst onto the recruiting scene with strong camp performances this offseason, had yet another solid showing on Wednesday. Lasley gave his verbal pledge to the Bruins last weekend after being offered at the UCLA Elite Camp. According to a source at the event, Kiffin might do the same later this week.

Lasley’s high school teammate, four-star linebacker Dwight Williams (Gardena, Calif./Serra), attended camp at the request of the coaching staff, but did not participate. He previously eliminated the Trojans from consideration and, despite being one of the more highly coveted linebackers in the West region, has yet to pick up an offer from USC.