Gerard Martinez |

Five-stars Stephen Carr and Najee Harris run Passing Down

USC had several recruiting targets on hand Sunday, but the passing tournament spotlight was stolen by two running backs.

USC had a handful of recruiting targets at the Passing Down Best Of The West tournament in Placentia (Calif.) Sunday. 

While the Trojans coaching staff is on the road for May Evaluations, there was a noticeable UCLA representation on the sidelines as Bruin recruiting coordinator Angus McClure was on hand to watch his son play in the tournament. 

What McClure and everyone else saw was USC running back commit Stephen Carr continue to dazzle with his hand and moves in the open field this off season. Carr would go on to win tournament MVP leading his Ground Zero team to the Passing Down Championship. 

It’s rare to see running backs win accolades in a passing tournament, let alone a running back the size and skill set of Carr. While he displays above average hands coming out of the offensive backfield, Ground Zero has taken advantage of his running ability as well. Each series, teams can run the football once, and the 6-foot, 200-pound five-star routinely gets 10-15-yards per carry. 

Considering these tournaments are one hand touch on a 40-yard field, Carr’s performances have been that much more impressive. Carr is rated the No. 3 running back nationally by Scout behind No. 1 rated Najee Harris from Antioch (Calif.)

Unlike Carr, Harris did not run the ball out of the backfield for team TMP. However, Harris was as, if not more impressive as a receiver. TMP had several top rated players, but Harris was clearly the team’s go-to receiver in clutch situations. 

Harris displayed excellent hand in traffic and speed on vertical routes. Harris has always been viewed as a better athlete than Carr, but perhaps not as good of a running back. Passing league has its evaluation points, but running backs need vision, balance and toughness. These attributes are not tested in a passing tournament setting. 

Harris may still have the edge on Carr athletically in terms of pure size and speed, but the gap has certainly closed this off season. Harris was a ready-made college football player last year, while Carr was staring on Ground Zero’s underclassmen team for much of the spring. 

Adding about 10-12 pounds on his frame and an assortment of juke moves, Carr’s MVP award really capped off a tremendous passing circuit segue into spring football. 

The Trojans are still hot after Harris, who was not able to unofficially visit USC like his TMP teammates did Saturday. Even with Carr still committed and seemingly confident in his pledge, USC clearly wants more than one running back in the 2017 class. There are various options, but Carr and Harris have been No. 1 and No. 2 since last spring. 

Carr has unofficially visited several schools this spring, including Michigan. While he gave the Wolverines good reviews, Big Blue already has three commitments at running back and aren’t waiting around on Carr.

Harris, who remains committed to Alabama, still seems to be in an even more precarious position with his pledge. USC remains an option, but after speaking to Harris Sunday, the Trojans are playing second fiddle to several schools. The Bay Area is where USC has struggled the most to establish a foothold in recruiting since Steve Sarkisian’s staff was fired. 

Another Bay Area athlete holding a scholarship offer fro USC was Sacramento (Calif.) four-star tight end Josh Falo. Simply put, Falo caught four passes the whole tournament and was only targeted seven times total. 

Certainly an impressive looking athlete on the hoof at closer to 6-foot-4, 235-pounds than his listed weight of 220, Falo had a couple of nice jump ball catches in the end zone, but also had instances where he was a bit lackadaisical in his route running. Falo did unofficially visit USC Saturday, and camped with the Trojans last June. 

While he says recruiting is an afterthought for him until the post season, Falo was very complimentary of USC as a college option. He has no plans to commit early and will take all five of his official visits before contemplating a decision on a college. Falo has the size, speed, strength combo to fit a pro-style offense, although again, his contributions Sunday were few on far between.

Sacramento (Calif.) Inderkum is four-star safety Trajon Cotton is a player USC has had limited contact with Although he boasts scholarship offers from Oregon, Cal, UCLA, Nebraska, Utah and others, the Trojans have been absent in his recruitment. 

One tournament doesn’t summarize a players potential, but Cotton’s performance Sunday was not on par with the other top players at Passing Down. While Cotton has good size, he was caught flatfooted frequently in situations where he was needed to give deep help. USC isn’t in the conversation for Cotton currently and Sunday didn’t provide any reason for that to change. 

Pasadena (Calif.) Maranatha tight end Terrance Lang continues to be one of the most intriguing athletes of the passing circuit. At 6-foot-5 and more than 270-pounds, Lang had a few cameo appearances for TMP. In very limited action, Lang still manages to make a couple of great catches jumping over scurrying defenders. 

Lang attended USC's spring football game two weeks ago and continues to speak very highly of the Trojans. He also admitted Sunday that USC is recruiting him more as a defensive end than a tight end, which he agrees will be his future position in college. 

The same could be said for Hayward (Calif.) four-star linebacker Addison Gumbs. Usually playing for team Real Intense, Gumbs was added to the TMP roster late for his Army All-Ameican Bowl invite Sunday. Unfortunately, Gumbs was unfamiliar with the defensive calls and played sparingly for TMP. He did have a couple of one-on-one battles with Stephen Carr, fairing relatively well in coverage in the middle of the field. 

Gerard Martinez

Gumbs is a soft spoken player, but he uses his frame and size well as an enforcer over the middle in coverage. Gumbs attended UCLA's spring game last weekend and the pro-UCLA crowd in attendance Sunday still believes he is a Bruin lock. Still, Gumbs speaks highly of USC and likes his fit in the Trojans defense. Gumbs will make a college commitment sometime in June. 

Villa Park (Calif.) three-star Nick Sipe isn’t a quarterback high on USC’s radar either. To be fair, he’s not high on a lot of recruiting boards, but Sipe spun the ball as well as any quarterback at the event Sunday for OC Elite. 

At 6-foot-4, 190-pounds, Sipe didn’t have the athletes around him that other quarterbacks had, so his competition percentage wasn’t very high. However, in terms of pass attempts and placement, Sipe was very impressive. Right now, Sipe’s only scholarship offer is from Colorado State. 

Rancho Cucamonga (Calif.) four-star cornerback Thomas Graham is no longer committed to USC, although he maintains that he will continue to consider the Trojans as a college option going forward. 

Graham played wide receiver and caught a good deep pass Sunday, while moving over to play safety on defense for Ground Zero. Graham actually played safety all last season for Rancho Cucamonga with Jaylon Redd and Tayari Venable starting at cornerback. 

Sunday, Salesian cornerback Deommodore Lenoir joined Ground Zero Sunday, pushing Graham to play safety in the first couple of games of the tournament. Lenoir would end up moving to safety later in the day, looking surprisingly comfortable there despite never having played the position before in seven-on-seven. While playing safety displays the versatility of graham and Lenoir, it also raises questions as to whether cornerback are their best positions at the next level. 

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