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Monday, January 21, 2013
Official visits cement some USC pledges

By Blair Angulo

USC’s big weekend didn’t produce any commitments, but with at least three verbal pledges publicly shutting down their respective recruitments, it can be viewed as a positive step en route to national signing day.

Linebacker Michael Hutchings (Concord, Calif./De La Salle), receiver Steven Mitchell (Pasadena, Calif./Bishop Alemany) and offensive lineman Khaliel Rodgers (Elkton, Md./Eastern Christian Academy) took only one official visit during the recruiting process, yet returned home Sunday afternoon with the realization that USC is the place for them.

Michael Hutchings
LB commit Michael Hutchings was all smiles during his USC visit over the weekend.
The three commits intend to entirely cut off contact with other schools and not take any other trips.

The Trojans also hosted top target Eddie Vanderdoes (Auburn, Calif./Placer) and, though the five-star defensive tackle didn’t re-commit, he liked the hire of new defensive coordinator Clancy Pendergast.

Hutchings said USC recruits did not smother Vanderdoes during the weekend.

“Eddie was just enjoying his visit, he wasn’t saying too much about recruiting,” Hutchings said. “I didn’t want to bother him about it. I know he has a lot going on, so I just let him be. We’ll see that unfold here in the next two weeks.”

Vanderdoes has two more official visits scheduled, to Notre Dame (Jan. 25) and Alabama (Feb. 1). Joining Vanderdoes in South Bend, Ind., will be former USC defensive end commit Kylie Fitts (Redlands, Calif./Redlands East Valley), who visited UCLA over the weekend.

“UCLA is very appealing because I can do spring ball there,” said Fitts, who decommitted from USC on Jan. 8 due to limited early enrollment spots. “But, no, I didn’t feel any pressure. The coaches were great.”

Notre Dame is scheduled to swing by the Fitts household Monday, while UCLA coaches are expected to drop by on Wednesday, he said. USC will meet with Vanderdoes on Tuesday at his home, while fellow finalists UCLA, Notre Dame, Alabama and Washington will do so later in the week.

Fitts, who as of Sunday night had not heard from USC assistant coach Ed Orgeron about a possible in-home visit, was hosted by Bruins all-conference offensive lineman Xavier Su’a-Filo.

“He was really cool,” Fitts said of Su’a-Filo. “He has the same personality as me. We don’t really like to go out and party and stuff like that, so we got along good.”

Fitts -- who previously tripped to USC and Washington -- added that the UCLA visit was “definitely up there” compared to the other schools.

“It went really good. They are coaches that I can have normal conversations with,” Fitts said. “But their biggest selling point was how good the football program is going to be and how coach (Jim) Mora has turned it around to become national competitors.”

Four-star defensive end commit Jason Hatcher (Louisville, Ky./Trinity) was also on the USC campus over the weekend, but the Trojans will have to sweat out his final visit to Louisville on Feb. 1.

Elite linebackers make it to Los Angeles
No. 1-rated outside linebacker Matthew Thomas (Miami, Fla./Booker T. Washington) followed through on his plan to visit USC, but the Trojans face an uphill battle for the five-star prospect. Thomas has pending trips to Florida State (Jan. 25) and Georgia (Feb. 1), as well as to backyard candidate Miami (Fla.).

The more likely option at linebacker appears to be four-star Quinton Powell (Daytona Beach, Fla./Mainland). Hutchings said both Thomas and Powell had a great time on their visits, but a signature from Powell would not surprise Hutchings given Powell's relationship with former high school teammate and USC freshman defensive tackle Leonard Williams.

Powell has visits scheduled for South Carolina (Jan. 25) and Arkansas (Feb. 1) before signing day.

“Well it was a great weekend!!! Next stop south carolina,” Powell wrote on his Twitter account.

On the topic of linebackers, Hutchings said Pendergast will also be “in control” as coach of the position “for a while."

Trying on the jersey
Mitchell’s father, Steven Mitchell Sr., couldn’t put down his phone in the locker room while the recruits tried on their respective jerseys. Steven Sr. said he snapped numerous photographs of his son before walking onto the field at the Coliseum.

“It was surreal, man,” Steven Sr. said. “Just looking at him put on the jersey in the locker room at the Coliseum was surreal. It was unbelievable. Wow.”

Rodgers also had goosebumps while he stood at his locker.

“It was amazing,” Rodgers said. “That’s probably one of the best feelings ever, putting on that No. 55. Coach (Lane) Kiffin told me I’ll be one of the first ever to wear 55 on the offensive line. It’s an honor to wear that number. It gave me chills to put that jersey on. Then when we walked onto the Coliseum field and watched that video, man, it was amazing.”

Potential target has change of heart
Three-star tight end Thomas Duarte (Santa Ana, Calif./Mater Dei), a UCLA commit, was set to officially visit USC despite not having an offer from the Trojans, but canceled on Friday morning. Duarte unofficially visited UCLA instead as the Bruins hosted a number of top targets.

Hashtag goes viral
Hutchings might have started a new recruiting trend by tagging the updates on his Twitter account with the #SCofficial hashtag.

“The coaches joked that I’ll be the media guy when I get to campus,” Hutchings said with a laugh.

Hatcher, Rodgers and four-star offensive tackle Nico Falah (Bellflower, Calif./St. John Bosco) got on board, too, using the hashtag to provide followers with a stream of updates throughout the weekend.

“The water in the hotel has strawberry in it #SCofficial,” Falah tweeted at one point Saturday.