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July 15, 2012
Ramsey's pledge lifts USC to top of rankings
SMYRNA, Tenn. - Adding to an embarrassment of riches, the USC football program landed its fourth four-star prospect in the last five days as Brentwood (Tenn.) Academy defensive back Jalen Ramsey gave his verbal commitment to the Trojans during a ceremony streamed live on Rivals.com.
"I am really confident with the choice," Ramsey said. "I am 100-percent."
"By far the hardest part was deciding between Vanderbilt and USC," he said. "I loved the coaches at Vanderbilt and it is a program that I think is going in the right direction. When I took my visit to Washington I loved it. I wished I had more time to spend out there and meet more of the people because that was a special place, but I just felt like USC was the place for me.
"When I looked at the networking opportunity and the alumni base for my post-football career it was impossible to pass up. Plus, USC football says it all."
Ramsey joined Eddie Vanderdoes, Nico Falah, and Khaliel Rodgers as commitments in the Class of 2013 to join the Trojans this week alone. As a result, USC takes over the top spot in the Rivals.com team recruiting rankings, knocking Michigan out of the spot for the first time all season.
"It is an amazing class we are putting together," Ramsey said. "I haven't reached out to those new guys yet but I am very close to some of the other guys heading there. This class is going to be legendary."
According to Rivals.com National Analyst Mike Farrell, the class is on pace to be one of the highest ranked classes in the history of Rivals.com.
"USC is recruiting this year on a level that rivals the Pete Carroll dominance of the mid 2000's," he said. "The quality of each prospect is amazing and they will make a run at the average star ranking record held by USC in 2007 (4.22). What Lane Kiffin and his staff have done, especially with NCAA sanctions in place, is nothing short of remarkable."
The sanctions will limit the number of scholarship players that USC can offer this season but that is not holding the program back.
Gerard Martinez, the recruiting analyst for USCFootball.com, said that this could be the best class the school has ever assembled.
[ Y! Sports Radio: Jalen Ramsey joins Craig Shemon ]
"Considering the class size and the circumstances of sanctions, it may be one player away from being the most impressive class USC has ever put together on paper," he said. "We project a class of 18 signees that already has 12 U.S. Army All-Americans with two more being Under Armour All-Americans."
Ramsey added to that count as he also committed to playing at the U.S. Army All-American Bowl over the Under Armour All-American Bowl on Monday. The season-ending game will be another chance for Ramsey to shine as he has seen his stock rise at each of the two major summer circuit camps, the Rivals100 Five-Star Challenge and The Opening.
It was at the Rivals100 Five-Star Challenge that Ramsey said was a tipping point in his recruitment when seeing the group of USC commits helped push him to the program.
"When I was at the Rivals event and saw all the USC guys working as hard as they did and recruiting me to come with them was when I started to feel like USC was going to be the place," he said. "You don't just get invited to those type of events so I knew those guys were good and when I saw how much they wanted to compete I felt like that was a group I wanted to be a part of. By the time I got to The Opening it was a done deal for me and seeing those guys again working hard and joking around, it was solid."
Among the players that Ramsey has built a bond with is Rancho Cucamonga (Calif.) High cornerback Chris Hawkins.
"Chris really was after me and now we are really close," Ramsey said. "But really, all of those guys have been amazing: Max (Browne), Sebastian (LaRue), Steven (Mitchell), and (Kenny) Bigelow are all guys that I want to be around the next four years."
Farrell feels that Ramsey will be a player making a major move when the Rivals.com rankings are updated in August. He is currently the No. 90 overall player in the Rivals100 but has the ability to climb much higher.
"Ramsey has a very high ceiling because he's not dealing with any size or major speed limitations," Farrell said. "Some cornerbacks are great but they will just never get bigger and some will just never get much faster, but with his size and speed combination as well as his natural feel for the position, he has one of the higher ceilings in this class.
"USC is getting a big cornerback who can play press or off coverage, can turn and run well for a bigger guy and is very strong. He has good instincts, takes good angles and plays the ball in the air. His ball skills are impressive as well and he becomes an offensive threat when he makes a pick."
The excitement surrounding the program and the job that head coach Lane Kiffin and his staff have done in the face of NCAA sanctions has created a buzz.
"USC fans are ecstatic about what Lane Kiffin has been able to do under the scrutiny of probation and the limitations of sanctions," Martinez said. "Most fans realize the unprecedented level of success USC has achieved to this point. Of course, you're only as successful as your last game, and this class raises already high expectations at USC."
Part of the selling points for Ramsey were those expectations and he said that while he knows there are fewer spots left open he would be immediately turning his attention to recruiting for USC.
"You know me, I will be recruiting guys now," he said. "We only have a couple spots, but we want the best players to fill them. That was the message to me and that will be the message to the next guys."
Mission Viejo (Calif.) High four-star safety Max Redfield, Tampa (Fla.) Wharton five-star cornerback Vernon Hargreaves, Tempe (Ariz.) Marcos de Niza four-star cornerback Priest Willis, Rancho Cucamonga (Calif.) High four-star safety Tahaan Goodman and Louisville (Ky.) Trinity four-star defensive end Jason Hatcher are likely targets for those last couple of slots.
Martinez said that the coaches would likely be continuing their efforts for some other high-profile players that have given a verbal commitment elsewhere. Autauga (Ala.) Academy four-star tight end O.J. Howard and Alpharetta (Ga.) Milton five-star defensive end Carl Lawson have both stated they want to officially visit USC.
Ramsey would be happy with any of those players surrounding him.
"If we only get 18 kids they are going to be the best," Ramsey said. "That is the mindset."
Did Ramsey make the right call? Join the discussion.