Throughout the recruitment of Arizona defensive tackle Ekom Udofia, we have heard the unending praises of the USC Trojans. While the Cardinal offered more than a year ahead of any other school back in the fall of 2002, and later other schools have hopped on board, the Chaparral High School junior standout has continually and consistently put those bitter rivals from Southern California near or at the top of his college favorites list. The Trojans had been talking with him for quite some time, but other top dogs from all the way across the country made offers while Pete Carroll continued to evaluate from a safe and revered distance.
If you thought USC was sitting in a position of strength in Udofia's recruitment then, then prepare to marvel at the death grip that Tommy Trojan has on the top defensive tackle in the nation after Thursday's lastest news. The Scottsdale standout received a FedEx package from Los Angeles that held the long-awaited scholarship offer from USC. It is his ninth Division I offer, but this one leaves an impact like none other.
"Getting this offer for me is huge," Udofia exclaims. "It is a school I've always had at the top of my lists, and for them to put enough value in me to offer is awesome."
"USC is definitely a school I want to visit officially," the exuberant recruit continues. "Hopefully I'll be able to take some unofficial visits out there, too, to see the campus and some practices."
The Trojans with that mailing have quickly trumped what had been trumpeted as a towering offer from Nebraska just a day earlier. Last Friday Mark Richt made his splash with Georgia entering their bid for the Udofia sweepstakes. But today both find themselves overshadowed by the junior's jubilation for the Trojans.
"They're in the top group," the Chaparral student-athlete respectfully comments on the Huskers and Bulldogs. "They're bigtime schools I have to consider."
These three schools are the latest to offer Udofia, joining Tennessee, Miami, Arizona, Arizona State, San Diego State and Stanford. Other schools high on this dynamic DT's mind include Oklahoma, LSU, Florida State, Texas, Ohio State and Michigan. As elite as several of his offers may be, and as storied as the programs that litter his thoughts may be, the numbers will only grow. Udofia has previously worked to manage a top list of nine schools, but new entrants have proven simply too enticing for him to keep his favorites to such a small number.
"It's so hard to say right now," the hot recruit answers when asked for his current top favorites. "There are too many schools to choose from. It's hard to put a list together."
"I know USC and Miami will get official visits, so you could say they are my top two right now," Udofia offers in lieu of a full favorites tally.
It is not difficult to see where this is headed, though. If Ekom Udofia is unable to manage his list of schools with just nine offers in hand on April 1, imagine the difficulty he will face when he receives his 20th offer in the coming months. Fortunately, he and his high school coach have addressed the issue and have a plan in hand to help the young recruit navigate the mounting pile of college options in front of him.
"My coach has suggested that I start to narrow my list to the schools I'm really interested in. Maybe 10 or 15 schools, sometime in late May," Udofia describes of the plan. "That way it won't get too hectic, and it will leave me time for school."
When a recruit of this stature has the approaching task of winnowing his college list, the immediate question that pops into Cardinalmaniacs' minds is how Stanford will fare. Can the Card survive the school-slashing to come?
"Stanford is definitely going to be a school I keep in consideration," the desert destroyer answers. "They're in the top group. I'm just really anxious to see what they do this season."
Udofia will get a good preview of the 2004 edition of the Cardinal when he travels with his parents to see Stanford's spring game on April 24, but this is not the first time this year that the premier prep has visited The Farm. He and his parents spent five days in Palo Alto a little more than three weeks ago to visit his two siblings, both students at Stanford.
"Our family just spent time together; then we had some meetings with Coach Teevens, Coach Williams, Coach Quinn and Coach Tipton. Then I watched the players test on Monday and Tuesday," the elite junior recruit reports.
As much as the meetings with the various Cardinal coaches may appear to have been the critical component of this unofficial visit, Udofia says that his observations up close and personal of the Stanford athletes was an important element for him.
"I saw some really good athletes there that I was impressed with - mostly the DBs, backs, some D-linemen and a couple O-linemen," the desert diamond details. "I want to go somewhere where I'm going to go against the best competition every day - to get me ready for the next level. Wherever gives me that best opportunity is where I'm going to go."
That next level preparation goes to the coaching staff as well, so there was some importance for Udofia in his meetings with the Stanford staff. He spent half an hour in Buddy Teevens' office with his sister and parents, and he walked away with an improved perception of the Cardinal program.
"We just talked about the program and how he expects them to be really successful this year, and he told me what to expect in the next few months. Also what's legal and not legal in recruiting, and how I'm training," Udofia retells of the meeting. "He said I should watch the players test and see their improvements. We talked about the recruits they're starting to bring in, and how they're working harder than ever to be better.
While Stanford and other programs are working as hard as they can to recruit this stellar student-athlete, he is not allowing the overwhelming recruiting attention to detract from his own training. How many high school junior defensive tackles do you know who can bench 405 pounds, squat 610, power clean 335 and record a 30-inch vertical leap at a weight of 290 pounds? Udofia is currently running a 4.8 40 and can squeeze off 37 repetitions of 185 pounds on the bench - both feats upon which he says he will improve by the time he tests at the May Nike Camp on Stanford's campus.
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