Barkley selling USC to recruits
Matt Barkley is trying to bring other talented 2009 prospects to Troy, writes Greg Biggins.
Looking over the recent ESPNU 150, there are a handful of elite players out West still on the board who have yet to make their college commitment. There are also a few players who have committed verbally but have said they're open to other schools and will still take official visits in the fall.
At the top of the board is signal-caller Matt Barkley and his commitment to USC is rock solid. Barkley (Santa Ana, Calif./Mater Dei) grew up a Trojans fan with his father, Les, having captained the school's water polo program in the late '70s.
Barkley committed in late January and has been on the phone doing as much recruiting of other elite players as the Trojans' coaching staff. The quarterback is even considering graduating early at Mater Dei so he can enroll at USC in time for spring ball.
One player Barkley has grown close to is the nation's top pass-rusher, Devon Kennard. Kennard (Phoenix/Desert Vista) recently cut his list to USC, Arizona State, California, UCLA and Texas with the Trojans and Sun Devils clearly in the lead.
Kennard has camped with USC two years in a row. But don't rule out ASU; a big season from the Sun Devils could go a long way with Kennard.
Another player Barkley has been talking with quite a bit is linebacker Manti Te'o. Te'o (Honolulu/Punahou) is the top linebacker in the nation and arguably the most heavily recruited player out of Hawaii in the past decade. At this point, USC and BYU appear to be way out in front of everyone else.
Te'o has strong connections to both programs and it would have to be considered a monumental upset if the athlete ends up anywhere else. One dark horse could be UCLA; Te'o has formed a good relationship with Punahou alum and current Bruins offensive coordinator Norm Chow.
Vontaze Burfict is another big-time linebacker out West and yet another early commitment to USC. Although his commitment appears solid, Burfict said he would still take a handful of official visits and named Arizona State, UCLA and Miami as potential destinations.
Burfict is an instant-impact player but still has work to do academically before he hits the field on Saturdays. The talented athlete didn't play his sophomore season for academic reasons and has been hitting the books hard the past year to make up for lost ground.
If he does pull the trigger early, UCLA is the odds-on favorite in what would be a huge recruiting coup for Bruins head coach Rick Neuheisel. USC is heavily involved as well and Notre Dame will get an official visit in September. LSU, Michigan, Ohio State and Tennessee are others on the short list.
Utah is home to the top two offensive linemen in the region still on the board. Guard prospect John Martinez (Salt Lake City/Cottonwood) and tackle Xavier Su'a Filo (Provo, Utah/Timpview) are both rated among the top 55 players in the nation and the two have talked about being a package deal.
Package deals rarely happen in football recruiting simply because as signing day approaches, players will always do what they feel is best for them over the opportunity to attend the same school as a friend. Having said that, Martinez and Su'a Filo have a lot of schools in common with USC, UCLA and LSU among the top five for both players.
In addition, Martinez is very high on Ohio State and Georgia and Su'a Filo has Miami in his top five. The two good friends have both decided to leave the state; it's somewhat surprising that neither is looking at local power BYU.
Two more Arizona players in the top 100 are Corey Adams and Craig Roh. Adams (Scottsdale, Ariz./Saguaro) is the top defensive tackle in the West and has been one of the region's top linemen since his sophomore year. The tackle recently cut his list to USC, Arizona State and Ohio State. The Buckeyes are his childhood favorite, but the two Pac-10 programs seem to be leading. He may announce his choice Jan. 4 at the Under Armour All-American game.
Roh is a fast-rising defensive end who really blew up this spring. The talented athlete (Scottsdale, Ariz./Chaparral) recently cut his list to a final five: Michigan, USC, UCLA, Nebraska and Arizona State. Roh camped with USC, took an unofficial visit to UCLA in the summer, visited Michigan twice and has been on ASU's campus numerous times. Nebraska is the only school he has yet to visit but will likely set up an official visit in the fall.
We mentioned USC commit Vontaze Burfict as a player who will take his visits. Two other Trojans commits we hear will do the same are wide receiver Randall Carroll and athlete Patrick Hall. Carroll's commitment has been labeled soft as tissue paper since the moment he announced for the Trojans midway through his junior season.
Carroll recently visited Colorado while his team was in the area for a team camp and said he also likes Florida, Georgia and Texas A&M. He'll take all five official visits but said if signing day were tomorrow, he would be a Trojan.
Hall is one of the nation's top two-way players and could play running back or safety for the Trojans. His commitment looks solid, but he did attend a spring practice at UCLA last week and has some interest in Miami as well.