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Thursday, January 30, 2014
Crunch time for USC recruiting

By Greg Katz

LOS ANGELES -- Like the final hours of a Black Friday sale after Thanksgiving, this final full week of 2014 recruiting at USC is producing the expected pandemonium of paranoia, second thoughts, and Internet rumors.

With Wednesday’s national letter of intent day rapidly approaching, USC recruiting is producing more than its share of hourly crunch time drama, and the situation is about as fluid as Niagara Falls. Verbals, once thought solidified, have joined hands with locals asking, “When did that come up?” Yes, it’s about time to squeeze the stress ball if you’re a Trojans fan.

Just last weekend it appeared that everything was falling into place quite nicely. No. 1 tight end Bryce Dixon (Ventura, Calif./St. Bonaventure) announced after his official visit to Troy that he was shutting down his recruiting and remained “100 percent” solid for USC and there would be no visit to UCLA.

Juju Smith
John "JuJu" Smith seems solid to USC, but then again, the only sure this is that there is no sure thing in recruiting.
Two other highly touted blue chippers who visited T with Dixon, athlete John "JuJu" Smith (Long Beach, Calif./Poly) and offensive lineman Damien Mama (Bellflower, Calif./St. John Bosco), widely acknowledged they had wonderful official visits. In fact, last weekend was made even more heavenly when 2015 All-World quarterback Ricky Town (Ventura, Calif./St. Bonaventure) switched his commitment from Alabama to USC.

And then the week’s drama began.

Town’s commitment could have been just a coincidence in regards to Trojans junior quarterback Max Wittek, who on Wednesday proclaimed he would graduate this spring and transfer to another university to be immediately eligible, thanks to the NCAA eligibility rule for graduate students. Wittek will have two seasons of eligibility remaining and will renew his own national recruiting intrigue.

Recruiting being what it is -- as unpredictable as the weather -- Trojans fans are now starting to white knuckle regarding Dixon. Glowing after his official USC visit last weekend, there came the jolting news on Monday that Dixon’s official visit to UCLA on the final recruiting weekend is now again on.

But wait, late Wednesday night Dixon went social media and wrote, “I m a Trojan and nothing can change my mind…thank u lady and gentlemen #fight on” Nothing mentioned whether he was still taking a trip to UCLA.

The Trojans revolving, intriguing, recruiting door doesn’t end with Dixon. Word is that highly coveted wide receiver/corner recruit Adoree' Jackson (Gardena, Calif./Serra), who has kept his recruiting extremely close to the vest, may or may not make an official visit to Troy for this weekend’s final recruiting love-in at the John McKay Center.

The rumor is that Jackson’s mother is flying out to Los Angeles from the Midwest to help her son with his college decision. In the ever evolving state of recruiting, the hot rumor that Jackson’s father wants him to go to Tennessee was surprisingly extinguished when Jackson tweeted early in the week that he had eliminated his dad’s alleged preference.

Taking a deep breath from that “latest,” Mama, was apparently going to join Dixon on this weekend’s UCLA recruiting visit, but Wednesday night Mama, who earlier said he wanted to give UCLA a “fair shot,” announced the Bruins were now no longer in his plans. On social media, the prep All-American offensive lineman is down to the Trojans, Alabama, and BYU. If Mama doesn’t announce for USC on Wednesday, it might take a busload of therapists to ease the pain of Trojans followers.

And then there is Smith, who decided after his reportedly successful visit to USC that he would unofficially head up to UCLA this past Monday. Although it would appear it would take an act of the football gods to change his mind from a cardinal and gold to a blue and gold heart, he still made the trip to UCLA and who knows?

Not to be overlooked, there are also the recent recruiting battles between USC and Alabama.

Although the Crimson Tide and the Trojans haven’t played each other since the 1985 Aloha Bowl, they’ve been going at it hound tooth hat and Coliseum torch for the past several months. Sensing a potential crack in the local Trojans recruiting armor, Crimson Tide head coach Nick Saban has continued to attack the Southland recruiting on all fronts looking to make a beachhead.

Saban’s quest of California gold got off to a great 2013 summer start with the initial verbal by offensive lineman Viane Talamaivao (Corona, Calif./Centennial). It seems that a certain former Trojans head coach now at Alabama really dropped the ball on Talamaivao, but in the end with the change of USC coaches and a desire to play his college ball locally, Talamaivao looked at himself in the mirror and knew he wanted to play in front of the homefolks.

Then there was last weekend’s recent Crimson Tide defection of Town, who some consider the best junior quarterback in the country. Only one thing eventually happened on Town’s future roadmap to Tuscaloosa. Crimson Tide offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier, a Town favorite, opted for a move to Michigan and former Trojans head coach Lane Kiffin assumed Nussmeier’s former Alabama position. Connect the dots, as Town has always been a lifetime USC fan.

The recruiting wars between Alabama and USC looked as though it would head into this final weekend when current Alabama Crimson Tide defensive tackle verbal Josh Frazier (Springdale, Ark./Har Ber) was “expected” to make an official visit to Troy. However, late Wednesday he announced that while USC was still his dream school, the Lord felt it best for him to honor his commitment to the Crimson Tide.

Trojans fans, welcome back to “Crunch Time” in the whacky world of college football recruiting where the only predictability is that it’s entirely unpredictable until the ink is dry on a national letter of intent.