This spring, USC has offered scholarships to more than 30 defensive backs. Of those 30-plus scholarship offers, 10 defensive backs from Florida are currently being pursued.
One of the top players USC is recruiting from the Sunshine State at any position is Jacksonville (Fla.) four-star cornerback and Ohio State commit, Shaun Wade.
Wade made an unofficial visit to USC this spring to watch the Trojans practice and came away impressed.
“It was my first time being in Cali, so it was different,” said Wade. “It was different in a good way because I really liked Cali.
“There were a lot of people I met, and the coaches were real cool up there. I met some of the players on the team too.
“I could see that they really need corners. Adoree' [Jackson] wasn’t at that practice, but he’s going to be leaving next year, so they’ll at least need someone to fill that spot right there. They also have a safety that’s leaving, so they need two spots filled right there.”
Visiting USC also meant meeting the Trojans' new defensive backs coach Ronnie Bradford.
“Coach Ronnie is a good person, and he stressed to me that they need corners,” said Wade. “He told me they wouldn’t be recruiting me the way they are if they didn’t want me.
“They’ve been on me really hard, calling, texting… I think a few of their coaches are coming to my spring game [today].”
Judging from the Trojans' scholarship offer targets this spring, Wade is USC’s new prototype at cornerback. At 6-foot-2, his size and length are emblematic of what USC is pursing in the defensive secondary for 2017.
“They told me they need more length at defensive back,” said Wade. “They’re playing against a lot of big receivers in the Pac-12, so they need bigger guys to guard those receivers.”
In addition to recruiting bigger defensive backs, USC has also zeroed in on Jacksonville as a region. The Trojans have offered scholarship to Trinity Christian prospects D.J. Matthews and Derrick Smith in the 2017 class, while also pursing Tyreke Johnson in the 2018 class.
Smith was actually committed to USC for about an hour before backing off of that pledge on Twitter in February.
“I’m close with Derrick and his family,” said Wade. “D.J. is my brother, so I’m close with him too. They’re going to need to receivers next year and defensive backs, so USC is actually a good spot for all of us.
“We haven’t really talked about playing together. I mean, D.J. and I have, but not D.J. me and Derrick.”
Wade wants to visit USC again this summer with his parents, who did not make the first trip to Los Angeles with him. However, the Trojans may have a better chance of getting him on campus for an official visit at the end of the season.
“My mom has family out there in Cali, so I know she wants to visit,” said Wade. “We have to talk about it still, so I’m not sure if I’ll be at their camp. I want to go back out there, but I don't know yet.
“I mean, I always wanted to visit Cali, and I always wanted to stay in Cali. USC has a great atmosphere and they always have NFL players coming through. They have a lot of famous players coming back to the school.
“The coaching staff is great and they need corners, so those are the reasons I’m still looking at them.”
However, Wade remains committed to Ohio State, and despite plans to take all five of his official visits, is still very high on the Buckeyes.
“Ohio State was really the first school to recruit me,” said Wade. “Since the 10th grade they’ve been on me really hard and I know they need corners.
“They had Eli Apple go high in the draft, so that’s something I’m looking at. The coaches and I have always had a great relationship since the end of my freshman year.”
“I told myself that this is a once-in-a-lifetime situation, so I’m going to do what’s best for me,” said Wade. “I told Ohio State that I was going to take visits, but they're No. 1 on my list right now.”