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Wednesday, January 29, 2014
USC primed for fruitful finish

By Blair Angulo

With only a week until national signing day, the final stretch in the 2014 recruiting cycle has arrived.

On the surface, USC appears to be in a favorable position with its remaining top targets. Unlike last year, when the Trojans lost a handful of recruits in the waning moments, new head coach Steve Sarkisian & Co. seem primed to finish strong.

USC hosted ESPN 300 athlete John “JuJu” Smith (Long Beach, Calif./Poly) and ESPN 300 offensive guard Damien Mama (Bellflower, Calif./St. John Bosco) last weekend hoping to seal the deal with the two local prospects. They were joined on campus by good friend and fellow ESPN 300 member Viane Talamaivao (Corona, Calif./Centennial), an offensive lineman who has been committed to the Trojans for two months.

“Overall, it was a great trip,” Mama said. “What made it great was that I was with my boys. I had both my parents and my little brother on the trip as well and they enjoyed it. They had a great time. It was good having them see things and experience everything first hand.”

ESPN 300 cornerback Adoree’ Jackson (Gardena, Calif./Serra), USC’s other obvious priority in this class, narrowed his list a bit Tuesday night. The five-star athlete named a final four of Florida, LSU, UCLA and USC -- this after the Trojans’ coaches met with him at Serra on Monday. Jackson is scheduled to announce his decision on signing day live on ESPNU. He has one official visit slot remaining, with USC, UCLA and Florida vying for an opportunity to woo him.

Juju Smith
John "Juju" Smith plans to make his college decision on Sunday night.
Smith, meanwhile, went on an unofficial visit to UCLA on Monday after spending the weekend at USC.

“Both visits went great,” Smith said. “Even though it was just an unofficial at UCLA, I still had a lot of fun. We took a tour and we talked academics and talked with the coaches one on one. It was a great deal. USC was nice, too. I liked being there with my boys and talking to the coaches about the depth chart on both sides of the ball.”

The final four for Smith’s signature are Notre Dame, Oregon, UCLA and USC. He is set to host all four coaches this week: Notre Dame and Oregon on Wednesday, USC on Thursday and UCLA on Friday. The four-star prospect intends to make the final call this weekend.

“I have some thoughts on my choice already, but it’s going to come down to a few things,” Smith said. “Most likely, I’m going to sit down and decide on Sunday night.”

Mama, as Smith did Monday, will swing by UCLA on Friday for his final official visit after canceling his scheduled trip to BYU.

“I decided I'd rather take an official to UCLA because you get to see the big picture of the school,” Mama said. “I’m looking forward to that. I want to give them a fair shot by visiting officially. I’m very familiar with the coaching staff and the offense. I’m excited to see the campus and get a feel for everything on the academic side.”

The visit to USC, Mama said, will be difficult to top.

“I enjoyed the moment when you walk down to the Coliseum,” Mama said. “You just soak it all in. I had my whole family with me, so that was real cool for them to see. And hanging out with Viane and Toa Lobendahn was great. We didn’t talk about recruiting. We talked about what we could do if we’re all there together.”

Smith is set to announce on ESPNU at around lunchtime; Mama said his ceremony would be earlier in the morning.

The Trojans will tune in expecting great news.

“On Monday, I’ll talk to all four schools and then turn off my phone right after that,” Mama said. “I want to think about everything. It’s a big life decision, but I’m excited.”