Monday, January 20, 2014
Notebook: ESPN 300 ATH Smith trims list
By Blair Angulo
TUSTIN, Calif. -- A decision might still be two weeks away, but the picture is getting clearer for ESPN 300 athlete John “JuJu” Smith (Long Beach, Calif./Poly).
The four-star prospect named a final four of Notre Dame, Oregon, UCLA and USC on Sunday -- this after rescheduling his last official visit to USC for Jan. 24 and making it to campus Thursday with ESPN 300 offensive guards Damien Mama (Bellflower, Calif./St. John Bosco) and Viane Talamaivao (Corona, Calif./Centennial). The trio spent the weekend together attending Polynesian All-American Bowl events, and a photograph of them posing in USC jerseys generated most of buzz on social media and message boards.
“It’s an awesome feeling being able to go through all of this with those two,” said Smith, who caught two touchdown passes Saturday in the all-star game. “They are my cousins and it’s awesome to have others there to lean on and talk about things with.”
Smith, Mama and Talamaivao have all scheduled official visits to USC for Jan. 24. Mama has a trip set for BYU on Jan. 31 and Smith said he might accompany his good friend to Provo, Utah, that weekend. Smith said he also intends to check out UCLA sometime in the next two weeks, with new assistant coach Kennedy Polamalu being an influence, but it’s no secret that the Trojans continue to tug at his heart, as evidenced by Smith wearing a USC shirt to registration at the Under Armour All-American Game last month.
“Since the staff changed, my recruitment was a bit slow, especially during the dead period,” Smith said. “Now it’s pretty fast, though. I talk to Johnny Nansen, Tee Martin, Steve Sarkisian and Clay Helton. It’s been great. As of right now, they want me at receiver, but they tell me they could try me on both sides of the ball. I’ve got to talk to the defensive backs coach to find out the plan.”
The coaches aren’t the only recruiters working in USC’s favor, as Smith has become a major target for Talamaivao and mid-year enrollee Toa Lobendahn (La Habra, Calif./La Habra).
“They don’t really have a pitch,” Smiths said. “Toa has been telling me to come, but there’s also Ainuu Taua at UCLA. It’s been back and forth. It’s pretty crazy. They haven’t had to recruit me that hard, but we’ll see what happens when it comes down to it.”
USC and longtime commit part ways
After participating in the Polynesian All-American Bowl on Saturday, three-star defensive lineman Austin Maloata (Corona, Calif./Centennial) confirmed he was no longer a part of the Trojans’ recruiting class.
“I decommitted on Friday,” Maloata said. “I’m no longer with USC, so all my options are open. I will wait until signing day to announce the college I’ll be going to. I have a visit to Arizona State on Jan. 31. I had planned my visit to USC for Jan. 17, but unfortunately that didn’t work out. Any school that wants to take me, I’m considering.”
WeAreSC recruiting roundup
• Class of 2015 quarterback Ricky Town (Ventura, Calif./St. Bonaventure), who is committed to Alabama, made it to USC on Saturday for an unofficial visit that was “an extremely productive meeting and both sides came away thoroughly impressed," according to a source.
• Three-star receiver Shay Fields Jr. (Bellflower, Calif./St. John Bosco) officially visited Colorado over the weekend, but said Sunday he had not decommitted from the Trojans. ESPN 300 defensive end Malik Dorton (Bellflower, Calif./St. John Bosco) reaffirmed his commitment to USC and said he plans to officially visit Jan. 24.
• ESPN Junior 300 offensive lineman George Brown Jr. (Cincinnati/Winton Woods) traveled to Los Angeles over the weekend and checked out both USC and UCLA. The 6-foot-6, 260-pound prospect has nearly 40 scholarship offers.