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Thursday, October 17, 2013
USC recruits to visit Notre Dame

By Blair Angulo

A midseason visit to South Bend, Ind., last season convinced Max Redfield,, then a USC commit, that Notre Dame was the place for him. The same trip nearly swayed longtime Trojans fan Chris Hawkins, too, as the Fighting Irish laid out the golden carpet on their way to securing the No. 4-rated recruiting class.

This season, USC will have an opportunity to offset the infamous glow when some mutual targets take their official visits to Notre Dame. A Trojan victory would not only boost recruiting, but also deal a blow to the rival’s efforts.

Top offensive line priority Damien Mama (Bellflower, Calif./St. John Bosco), who grew up rooting for USC, will be in attendance after taking his first official visit last weekend to Wisconsin.

“I expect a great game,” Mama said. “USC and Notre Dame have the same record, and I know it’s a great rivalry. I can’t wait to see a great game. This is definitely one of the trips I have been really looking forward to. It’s a rivalry, so there’s not much else you need to get excited [for]. And I’ll be out there with family, practically. It’s going to be cool. I can’t wait.”

Juju Smith
John "JuJu" Smith will be on hand to take in USC's game against Notre Dame.
Mama will be joined by fellow Southern California-based prospects Tyler Luatua (La Mirada, Calif./La Mirada) and John “JuJu” Smith (Long Beach, Calif./Poly), as well as No. 4-rated athlete Michiah Quick (Fresno, Calif./Central) and ESPN 300 receiver Erik Brown (Fontana, Calif./Summit). No. 4-rated inside linebacker Nyles Morgan (Crete, Ill./Crete-Monee), whom assistant coach Mike Ekeler has targeted, is also expected to be on hand, while 2015 quarterback Blake Barnett (Corona, Calif./Santiago) has planned to be there, too.

It will be the second official visit for Smith, the nation’s No. 3-rated athlete and perhaps the top skill position player on USC’s board. He visited Ohio State in late September and has trips scheduled for Oregon (Oct. 25), Alabama (Nov. 9) and Michigan (Nov. 29).

“I’m very excited to see what Notre Dame has to offer,” Smith said. “My expectations are high. I’m looking for the right program and school, but I’ll also be interested to see what USC is about and what it can do on the road against a good program like Notre Dame.”

Luatua, the top-rated tight end, has all but eliminated the Trojans from consideration, recently naming a top five of Alabama, BYU, Notre Dame, Ole Miss and Wisconsin. Assistant coach John Baxter dropped by his game earlier this fall, though, and a strong showing Saturday in South Bend could help USC sneak back into the conversation.

Though multiple unofficial trips are likely, neither Mama, Quick nor Smith are expected to officially visit USC, making this weekend all the more important as interim head coach Ed Orgeron continues to build his case.

For the No. 3-rated offensive guard, the weekend trip will undoubtedly serve as a measuring point.

“Mostly I’ll try to see if I can live there for four or five years,” said Mama, who also has a Nov. 8 trip to Alabama on the calendar. “I also want to get a feel for things from an education standpoint. The fact that it’s a rivalry game against USC only makes it more exciting for us.”