A month ago, USC appeared to be on the outside looking in with Tampa (Fla.) Plant’s Juwan Burgess. The Trojans offered a scholarship at the end of March, but a little over a month later, Burgess was ready to release his top five and USC was nowhere to be found on the list.
But the USC coaching staff was undeterred. The Trojans began grinding harder, trying to make an impact with the Tampa two-way product. By the beginning of June, Burgess had decided to open up his top five a bit and added USC into the mix along with Ole Miss. He also planned an unofficial visit to come out to Los Angeles. After that cross-country excursion, Burgess has a new top five ready to go and this time, USC is one of the contenders for the 5-foot-11, 173-pound athlete.
Joined by 2018 Plant tight end Judge Culpepper, who also holds an offer from USC, Burgess made the trip last weekend and he couldn’t have been more pleased.
”It went great. I loved it. I loved it…everything about it,” Burgess said. “They sit up high with me.”
The first thing that caught his attention was the weather and the environment Los Angeles has to offer. He felt like he was still home in Tampa except for the sticky, humid 90-degree temperature of South Florida compared to the breezy, dry Southern California climate.
“Instead of it being like 90 degrees, it was like 67. That right there, I was loving that. In Tampa, really that’s winter.”
Burgess checked out the campus, the facilities and got an opportunity to understand how the coaching staff would utilize and develop him.
“I talked to the coaches. I realized they really want me to come be a part of the team and be a part of what they have going on. I was like yea, my chances do look very high.”
Player-coach relationship is a big key, according to Burgess. He said that bond has to be strong before he could ever commit to a school. He also will be looking for a college where he will have an opportunity to compete for early playing time.
But he isn’t just focusing on his time between the painted lines to determine his school of choice. He is looking at life beyond the gridiron as well. What other criteria is he checking?
“The academic rate and how successful is the athlete that graduates from that school later on in life,” Burgess said. “After football, what are they doing? What’s their backup plan after football? Does that college teach them? That type of stuff is what I’m looking for.”
Offensive coordinator Tee Martin was the coach Burgess spent the most time with and the Trojans are looking at him as a potential two-way player, but it was on the defensive side of the ball that he saw the best fit.
“I like the defensive scheme they have. What the defensive coach is teaching their defensive backs…just by watching the film and all that stuff, I realized that what he’s teaching them really carries over to the next level.”
When talking about each of the universities in his top five, Burgess also referenced the defensive staff at Florida. The Gators defensive backs coach Torrian Gray is talking to Burgess the most and has been working Burgess hard since he was coaching at Virginia Tech.
“That was one thing and then the defensive coordinator at Blake, who was really a big factor in my recruiting process, he also went there. So that’s where Florida stands in at.”
Kentucky remains in the mix due to loyalty after the Wildcats were one of the first big offers for Burgess. The coach that originally was recruiting Burgess at Kentucky, receivers coach Chad Scott, is now at North Carolina and has remained on Burgess throughout the process.
The in-state Hurricanes are in the mix after Burgess had a great visit there.
“I went to Miami and I loved everything about Miami. I looked at the lineup and stuff and I really see myself starting early there.”
Then there is USC. The outlier. Not in the Southeast, the Trojans offer the escape.
“USC is on the West Coast. It’s great weather. It’s a great environment and everything. Also, my mentor she went to USC and her son is like a big USC fan, so if I go to USC nine times out of 10, he could probably walk on there.”