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Art of deception precedes Jaiden Woodbey's final four

Jaiden Woodbey released his final four schools, including USC, on Sunday, but only after engaging in a giant smokescreen throughout the year to keep anyone from knowing his recruiting intentions.

Before Bellflower (Calif.) St. John Bosco safety Jaiden Woodbey revealed his final four schools on Sunday, he had been playing coy in the recruiting game.

Woodbey admitted this weekend that he had purposely thrown decoys and landmines on the recruiting trail for anyone trying to determine how everything was playing out for the nation’s top safety in the 2018 class.

“My goal was to confuse everybody and I think I’ve done a great job of that,” Woodbey said. “Posting things about every other school on Twitter because I don’t want anybody to think that they really know where I’m going.”

The 6-foot-2, 206-pound Woodbey has been able to learn a lot in the last calendar year since he popped onto the recruiting radar last winter. He initially picked up scholarship offers from Louisville, California and UCLA. An offer from USC head coach Clay Helton soon followed.

When the Trojans offered, Woodbey said they would end up in his top three and it was up to other schools to fill in the other two spots.

It wasn’t long before a slew of Pac-12 and national programs were attempting to be in the mix. Throughout the 2016 calendar year, Alabama, Notre Dame, LSU and a number of other schools from the SEC, Big 10 and Big 12 had reached out and told him he had a free ride, if he wanted.

“I got to see the real ins and outs of recruiting. I got to figure out who really wants me at their school and didn’t just offer me because they felt like they had to, so I’m starting to narrow which schools really want me and which schools really don’t.”

Woodbey said he was down to six schools over the weekend before trimming that by two Sunday morning. Despite all the other smokescreens, Woodbey has stuck true to his word about USC, announcing a final four of Oklahoma, Ohio State, Nebraska and the Trojans.

“They’re in the mix of my top schools,” Woodbey said of the cardinal and gold. “They’re just my home school.”

Along with being the local school, Woodbey said USC makes the cut because he could see himself following in the footsteps of his favorite high school player, Iman Marshall. It also has another connection with Woodbey as his father attended USC, but Jaiden wasn’t quick to mention that fact. Whether that is more mind games or not an important factor is still yet to be determined. 

Woodbey plans to make his commitment before the fall. He wants to take care of that before trying to help St. John Bosco back to a repeat CIF Open Division title. Woodbey finished his junior season with 70 tackles and four interceptions, including one in the state championship game.

Recruiting analyst Gerard Martinez contributed to this story.

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