- Erik McKinney, ESPN Staff Writer
Jaelen Strong (Woodland Hills, Calif./Pierce) left little doubt this season that the 6-foot-3, 205-pound pass catcher is one of the top receivers in the junior college ranks. He ranked first in the Pacific Conference with 1,263 receiring yards and 15 touchdown receptions in only 10 games.
But when it comes to his recruiting, things aren't quite as clear.
At this point, Strong is a member of the 2013 class and is certain that he will sign with his school of choice in February. However, with several academic hurdles still to clear, there is a chance that Strong could need one more semester at Pierce College, which would shuffle him into the 2014 class, as an early enrollee.
Strong would very much like to finish things up this summer in order to begin at a four-year school next fall, and one program is doing what it can to make sure that happens.
"Arizona State recently came up here and is working on getting me out by the summer time," Strong said. "I have to take a few more online classes and it will be a heavy load, but it can be done. If all goes well with that, it might be an option there."
Strong said the Sun Devils have been the only coaches to lay out a detailed plan to keep him in the 2013 class, but other schools have shown plenty of interest.
"In no order, it's Arizona State, Texas Tech, Miami, South Carolina and Tennessee," Strong said of his top five, adding that if he were to sign with one of the SEC schools, he would definitely move into the 2014 class. "Any team that contacts me, I'm very grateful for. Arizona State is just the team that has been the most active.
"I'm very close to coach [Mike] Norvell. I've been in contact with him since he was at Pittsburgh. We have sort of a different bond than the rest of the coaches."
One school that could make things interesting when it comes to Strong's recruitment is USC. The Trojans have expressed interest in Strong, though only as a signee for the Class of 2014.
"I'm definitely taking an unofficial visit to USC," Strong said. "They said to come down whatever day, so I'll probably do it the day after my semester ends, which would be Dec. 15."
The interesting thing with Strong is that while he might eventually be part of next year's class, he will still sign his letter of intent on Feb. 6, in case he is able to finish up this summer. And schools hoping to jump into the process after that date could be in trouble.
"Wherever I sign in February is where I'm going," Strong said. "Once I sign, that's my signature on that paper and I'm a man of my word."