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Monday, June 24, 2013
USC must fend off SEC appeal

By Blair Angulo


CORONA, Calif. -- One SEC power already swooped into Southern California to nab one of the region’s top prospects. ESPN 300 offensive guard Viane Talamaivao (Corona, Calif./Centennial) surprised many by committing to Alabama last month, and it might not be the last time it happens before national signing day.

The four-star lineman certainly isn’t the only local athlete the Crimson Tide have set their sights on, with USC targets Tyler Luatua (La Mirada, Calif./La Mirada), Damien Mama (Bellflower, Calif./St. John Bosco) and John “JuJu” Smith (Long Beach, Calif./Poly) all garnering heavy interest and planning to visit Tuscaloosa, Ala., on the Nov. 8 weekend, when Alabama hosts LSU.

The SEC appeal is real.

Luatua, Mama and Smith grew up rooting for the Trojans, but Alabama and other out-of-state schools have evened the playing field by turning up the heat in an area it doesn’t frequent much. Talamaivao found out about the intrigue quickly.

“It was too much to turn down,” Talamaivao’s father, Chris, said.

Tyler Luatua
Top-ranked tight end Tyler Luatua, who has a brother at Alabama, is not communicating much with USC these days.
USC, which at one point sat atop Luatua’s short list, appears to have fallen completely out of the race for the nation’s No. 1-rated H-back/tight end because of a lack of communication.

“They haven’t even called me,” Luatua said Saturday at Prime Time Polynesian’s “The Kumite” camp.

Luatua’s brother, Isaac, is an offensive lineman at Alabama, giving the Crimson Tide a serious recruiting edge. But his diminishing interest in the Trojans stems from the departure of former assistant coach Kennedy Polamalu, which might explain why USC was compelled to offer tight ends Bryce Dixon (Ventura, Calif./St. Bonaventure), Ryan Izzo (Sparta, N.J./Pope John XXIII) and Dalton Schultz (South Jordan, Utah/Bingham) during this past evaluation period.

The Trojans didn’t sign a tight end in the 2013 recruiting class and figure to take up to two in this cycle.

ESPN 300 defensive tackle Ainuu Taua (Lompoc, Calif./Lompoc), who also competed in the Prime Time Polynesian event Saturday, has high interest in Ole Miss. He attended USC’s junior day in February but has not picked up an offer from the Trojans.

Mama, meanwhile, said he plans to attend USC’s Rising Stars Camp this week, though he will not participate in drills. Smith, who also worked out in Saturday’s event at Corona High School, said he would likely hitch a ride with Mama and watch the action from the sideline. Both intend to use the camp to socialize with the USC coaches and support their peers.

Even without participating, a prospect's attendance is important as far as USC is concerned, given how fond they’ve grown of the likes of Alabama, Michigan, Notre Dame and Ohio State.

Mama visited UCLA twice last week to catch up with offensive line coach Adrian Klemm and said the Bruins are back in his recruitment, adding yet another obstacle for the childhood favorite Trojans.

“It was pretty cool getting to talk to coach Klemm again,” Mama said. “I hadn’t talked to him for a while. Getting to discuss football and life was pretty chill. Just being able to relate with him. He went to the University of Hawaii so he knows my traditions, my backgrounds and where I come from. He also speaks a little Samoan, which is really cool.”

Mama hopes to narrow his list to a top 10 before the high school season kicks off in late August, and both local schools figure to make the cut.

Don’t be surprised to see a few SEC schools sprinkled in there as well.