Fontana (Calif.) five-star running back Stephen Carr is halfway through his final season at Summit High School, but the chaos of the recruiting process has yet to hit him full on.
That will change in the coming weeks as Carr plans to announce all five of his official visits. Michigan running backs coach Tyrone Wheatley flew out personally to see Carr play Friday in a 31-28 win over Grand Terrace.
“It’s great too have these colleges coming by to see my play, but it doesn’t change how I play,” said Carr. “You have to play your best because someone is always watching.
“If you don’t play that way every game, I don’t think you’ll succeed as a recruit.”
Michigan is one of a handful of schools that figure to be in Carr’s official visit itinerary.
“We’re still building that player, coach relationship,” said Carr. “Michigan doesn’t do too much school bashing, so they don’t present themselves as a better option than USC.
“Mainly they talk about about how I would be a perfect fit to their school. They talk about all of the opportunities I would have there and how they would improve me as a player and person.”
Carr unofficially visited Ann Arbor (Mich.) last spring and came away impressed with one facet of the trip more than any other.
“The coaches man, the coaches seem real genuine there,” said Carr. “The coaches talk to me like they had nothing to hide. They treated me really well — like royalty. It was great.”
Carr will announce his five official visit dates in the coming weeks. At present date, USC is the only school that is assured an official visit.
“It’s all about the coaching staff at each school,” said Carr. “Then it’s also important to talk to the players because they are going to tell you the real deal.
“It’s about getting the inside scoop on what is really going on at the schools. Talking to the players is key because they tell you what the coaches are really like outside recruiting.”
Carr’s relationship with the USC coaching staff is also a work in progress. While Carr has been committed to the Trojans for going on two years now, he has only known running backs coach Tommie Robinson for nine months.
Tapping into his player sources at USC, Carr is encouraged by what he hears about Robinson.
“They say Tommie Robinson will get the best out of you,” said Carr. “The competition up there is real and you have to fight for your spot.
“You have work for everything, and that’s good because that’s how I live my life. Other than that, the players love the facilities and the university.”
Watching USC’s recent win streak, Carr can’t help but envision his role within the Trojans offensive backfield with sophomores Ronald Jones and Aca’Cedric Ware.
“They’e getting back to playing how they should be playing,” said Carr. “I knew they had it in them. They had a slow start, but now certain players are falling into place and executing how they should be.
“I feel like when I get up there I should fit in perfectly,” Carr continued. “There’s nothing like a little competition to get you going. Competition is the best thing.”
The biggest difference in the Trojans' first two blow out losses and their current winning streak is the play of freshman quarterback Sam Darnold.
“He’s really turned that offense around,” said Carr. “It’s been a 180 with him in there.
“I think the big thing with him is that he finds all of his receivers. He doesn’t just lock in on one key receiver. He’s also really good and staying calm and not folding under pressure. He’s a playmaker — that’s how I would describe him. As a quarterback, you have to be a playmaker and you have to take the pressure.”
Recruiting playmakers and cultivating competition is what helped USC go on a national championship tear under Pete Carroll.
With Carr committed to USC but still entertaining interest from other schools, Clay Helton and his staff continue to pursue Antioch (Calif.) five-star running back Najee Harris, who is currently committed to Alabama. Seeing both sign with the same school seems unlikely, but Carr isn’t against the the idea of sharing the offensive backfield with another superstar in the 2017 class.
“If Najee wanted to commit, it’s competition, and competition brings the best out of you,” said Carr. “It will either make you or break you.
“Najee and I have gone to all of these camps together and competed before. But as far as my conversations with the USC staff, they tell me I’m priority No. 1 when it comes to running backs. They just want to make sure I stay committed.”