5 Star DL Ferguson keeping his options open

J.R. Ferguson (6-3.5, 285, 4.92) from St. John's Catholic (MD) made a West Coast swing to visit UCLA, USC and California last month. Ferguson his father and St. John's head football coach, Jimmy Ward, visited the three schools.

Coach Ward provided a few reasons why they flew clear across the country to visit USC, UCLA and California.

"In being one of the top kids in the country, he wants to find the best program to fit him," said Ward. Wherever that program will be, is where he'll end up."

Although Ferguson, who is being recruited as a strong-side defensive end, had caught the attention of every major college coach in the country and has over 40 offers, USC and UCLA didn't offer until Ferguson was on campus during his visits.

"They (USC) offered him when he sat in the office and I think that came as a big surprise to him," Ward said. "They practice NFL style, going full speed ahead, really getting after it, and I think that's something that really lit his eyes up."

Ward was asked if Ferguson had a short list of schools he has more interest in than others.

"He's kind of just going through the process right and coaches will be hitting the road the next five weeks and coming to our school, and visiting, so he wanted have a heads up on what the schools are really talking about," Ward said. "We just want to have a full evaluation when this process really begins."

The recruiting process will undoubtedly pick up in the next two weeks with college coaches make their final visits to high schools and call their priority prospects, but the recruiting process really began last July for Ferguson.

"Last summer he got his first offer from the University of Illinois," Ward said. "When last August rolled around, he had about six offers and by the end of the season he had about 30 offers. Now he has over 40."

And what specifically is Ferguson looking for in a school and football program?

"He's looking for the best opportunity after football whenever that time comes, whether right after graduation or after a nice career at the next level," said Ward. "But it's about academics, he's looking for a players coach, not that the coach gives into his players, but he leads them in more matters than just football. He has a single father, so family is very important to him and he's looking for a family wherever he decides to go. Third and foremost, he's looking for a place he's most comfortable as player and a person."

For nearly a decade, not many elite nationally recruited prospects visited UCLA, but since the arrival of Rick Neuheisel and Norm Chow, quite a few visit USC and UCLA. Ferguson, his father Ego Ferguson Sr. and Coach Ward were impressed with what they saw at USC and UCLA. But one aspect of what they witnessed at USC stood out to them.

"We had a chance to see a practice at USC, so obviously they practice with an extremely high intensity, higher than any other school we‘ve visited," said Ward. "At UCLA, they are in need of players right away, where USC is a more prominent program. I think UCLA is where USC was at when Pete Carroll got here. They're in a similar position and they are trying to recruit the same caliber of kids. They are both beautiful campuses, but they have two different philosophies as far as football goes."

Being that Ward is a coach of one of the most highly sought after prospects in the country, he's had an opportunity to meet and interact with numerous coaches of elite college football programs. He was asked what his impression of Pete Carroll was?

"I think he's unbelievable," said Ward about Caroll. "He's a great person, he shakes your hand, he jumps around with you and you can talk about life things, as well as football. He has the football criteria to go with it. In this day and age, as time changes, I think coaches need to relate to players as people, more than just as a stellar athlete. His (Carroll‘s) first impression was very impressive in that regard."

It just wouldn't be a fulfilling trip to southern California without making a stop at one of Los Angeles's landmark eateries. That's where the Ferguson's and Coach Ward headed after USC's parctice.

"We were at USC since 9 a.m. the day we visted and they gave us a name of a place to go eat at, Roscoe's Chicken," said Ward. "So, we checked that place out. And we stayed at the Marriott in Manhattan Beach, so we also went to check the pier out."

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