Tuesday, February 26, 2013
Local standouts highlight USC junior day
By Blair Angulo
LOS ANGELES -- Eighteen of California’s 23 ESPN Watch List members converged on the USC campus Sunday for the school’s junior day, providing the Trojans coaching staff with the opportunity to make an impression on a loaded group of high-caliber prospects.
Defensive tackle Tashon Smallwood (Fresno, Calif./Central) verbally committed to USC shortly after assistant coach Ed Orgeron extended a scholarship offer. High school teammate Michiah Quick, a dynamic two-way player, was also offered and included the Trojans in his initial top five along with Alabama, Notre Dame, Oklahoma and Oregon.
While several players received offers at USC's junior day, DL Tashon Smallwood was the only one to commit to the Trojans.
Elite running back Joe Mixon (Oakley, Calif./Freedom) was offered by coach Lane Kiffin just moments before departing from campus, and said the signing of versatile backs Justin Davis and Ty Isaac in the 2013 class would not affect how he looked at USC.
“It’s a big one to pick up, for sure,” said Mixon, who has piled up nearly 40 offers already. “I’m glad I got the offer. It was expected kind of but it feels like I’ve been waiting for it so long.”
Local standouts Adoree’ Jackson (Gardena, Calif./Serra) and John “JuJu” Smith (Long Beach, Calif./Poly) were on campus for the first time since receiving scholarship offers in the week leading up to national signing day, and both had one-on-one conversations with Kiffin. It is evident that Jackson and Smith are high priorities in the 2014 recruiting cycle.
Offensive guard Toa Lobendahn (La Habra, Calif./La Habra) was the lone USC commit to attend. He had a strong relationship with former assistant coach Kennedy Polamalu, so it was crucial for him to meet the new coaches.
“It was a pretty good junior day,” said Lobendahn, who recently transferred from Lakewood. “I met the new offensive line coach, Mike Summers, and met some of the other new coaches, also. It felt really good when I was there. Coach Summers said he’s excited to have me. He can’t wait for me to come and do big things there.”
Summers takes the reins from James Cregg, who remains on staff as an offensive line assistant. The decision to keep Cregg aboard solidified Lobendahn’s stance with the Trojans.
“It was also good that they kept Coach Cregg on staff,” Lobendahn said. “I’ve always kept a good relationship with him, and he adds a lot to our O-line. It’s only going to make us better.”
Quarterback was another position that was well represented, as watch list members Keller Chryst (Palo Alto, Calif./Palo Alto), Brandon Dawkins (Westlake Village, Calif./Oaks Christian) and JaJuan Lawson (Petaluma, Calif./Casa Grande) dropped by.
Local linebacker “close” to landing offer
Los Angeles Salesian linebacker Jamardre Cobb, a Watch List member, didn’t leave the USC campus Sunday with an offer in hand, but his father, Al Tillmon, said it’s only a matter of time until the Trojans extend one.
“I think they’re pretty close to offering,” Tillmon said. “He’s probably the most physical linebacker on the West Coast. He’s gotten bigger, faster and stronger. He’s a true linebacker. We’re going to attend the Rising Stars Camp and the Kiffin Camp at USC. We’re trying to compete with the best and get to The Opening.”
Tillmon said Cobb, who was joined on the visit by teammate and highly recruited tight end Marquis Ware, enjoyed getting a closer look at campus and meeting with academic advisers.
“He likes the atmosphere and absolutely loves the school,” Tillmon said. “He’s looking for a great education, first and foremost. I tell him that when he makes a college decision, he has to know that college is what he might have to fall back on. As a recruit making a decision, you have to really focus and think about it.”
Cobb has offers from Boise State, Colorado, Memphis, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Southern Methodist, Stanford, Texas Tech and Washington State. Ware is being pursued by the same schools, plus Arizona, Oregon State, Texas A&M, UCLA and Vanderbilt.
And though USC appears to be in great shape with Cobb even without the offer, Tillmon wouldn’t necessarily call his son a lock to the Trojans.
“Right now he doesn’t have any favorite,” Tillmon said. “It’s wide open. We’re trying to take it all in right now and shoot for the stars.”
Receiver braces for evaluation
Receiver Jeff Farrar (Upland, Calif./Upland) has been on the radar of both local schools and attended the UCLA-USC game at the Rose Bowl last year. It’s no secret that Farrar favors the Bruins, but he gave the Trojans a closer look over the weekend in anticipation of his recruitment picking up steam.
“The biggest thing I took away from the day was getting a look at the facilities,” Farrar said. “It was my first time seeing all the renovations, so that was great. I sat down with receivers coach (Tee) Martin and Coach Cregg, who recruits my area. They said they have seen my film, but they want to see what I can do this spring.”
Farrar was accompanied by high school teammate Tyler Hilinski, a 2015 quarterback who recently transferred from Sherman Oaks (Calif.) Notre Dame. Hilinski’s older brother, Kelly, is headed to Columbia. Farrar, who himself transferred from Mission Hills (Calif.) Bishop Alemany before the season last year, has a strong relationship with USC signee Steven Mitchell. It’s a bond that could play a factor in his decision if the Trojans were to extend an offer to the 6-foot-1, 195-pound receiver.
“Steven Mitchell is like my brother,” Farrar said. “I played him with him in youth leagues and Pop Warner, so it would be great to play together again. We could have a relationship like Robert Woods and Marqise Lee in terms of having played together in high school and teaming up in college. We talk about it sometimes.”