LOS ANGELES -- If there was a potential game-changer in the recently announced USC Trojans recruiting class of 2016, it would probably be the unexpected signing of Georgia offensive tackle E.J. Price from Lawrenceville Archer High in the fertile recruiting grounds of the great state of Georgia.
Price’s final college destination was pretty much an airtight secret right up to signing day. When the 6-foot-6, 325-pounder made the announcement he was heading west after having committed to the Dawgs last April, it was a shock to the Georgia faithful.
And nobody was more pleased with Price’s decision than first-year USC head coach Clay Helton.
“He is one of the premier tackles in the country,” said Helton.
Price was very impressed with USC on his official visit, but perhaps the biggest impression had nothing to do with the Trojans being an NFL factory for offensive linemen.
No, what caught Price’s attention was the emphasis on education and a degree from USC.
“This was strictly an academic decision,” Price said after his signing ceremony. “If football is out of the equation, I could see myself going to class there. It’s a very prestigious degree, just the network and connections I can make out there with football, as well.”
In recent times, Florida has been a mother lode of recruiting talent for USC, but Georgia, too, has been a pipeline for some outstanding athletes.
Georgia has been intermittingly supplying USC football as far back as the early 1970s, and no doubt a great influence was provided when legendary Trojans head coach John McKay took his team into segregated Alabama in 1970 and hammered Bear Bryant’s beloved Crimson Tide, 42-21. The landmark game changed how football would forever be recruited in the South.
Thanks to the decisive victory over the Tide, the Trojans began reaping some significant Georgia recruits. John McKay was able to extract from Georgia three major defensive performers in tackle Walter Underwood (Atlanta Southwest) and later in the mid to late 70s, McKay’s successor, John Robinson, was able to entice linebackers August Curley (Atlanta Southwest) and then Chip Banks (Augusta Laney) to head west.
Underwood would eventually be named a 1977 All-Pac-8 selection while Banks would rise to All-America status in 1981.
One of the more unusual Georgia-to-USC stories involved a 2009 Pete Carroll linebacker recruit named Jarvis Jones (Columbus Carver), a consensus Prep All-American.
After an outstanding freshman season, Jones suffered a neck injury and, in the spring of 2010, the USC medical staff vetoed any further competition as a Trojans football player.
Jones decided that he wanted a second opinion and an opportunity away from USC, so he eventually transferred to the University of Georgia, was given the green light to play by the Bulldogs medical staff, and eventually became a two-time All-American and now plays for the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Although the Jones participation at USC didn’t work out, the Trojans continued recruiting in Georgia.
In 2014, Prep All-America offensive tackle Chuma Edoga (Atlanta McEachern) was sold during his USC recruiting trip and loved the Southern California way of life so much that he enrolled early at Troy for the 2015 spring semester. He completed his first season of college ball by starting in this past season’s National Funding Holiday Bowl.
So now comes tackle Price to L.A., and it figures that he, too, stands an outstanding opportunity of seeing early playing time like Edoga. Late in Price’s recruiting, he was recruited by Trojans first-year offensive line coach Neil Callaway, who ironically is a former Georgia offensive line coach.
Callaway was credited by Price for being one of the strong factors that led him to USC.
“Coach Neil Callaway is one of the best in the business,” Price said. “He can get me to the next level.”
As for the present “next level,” it certainly wouldn’t be a reach to say that Georgians Price and Edoga could eventually be lined up next to each other or be the Trojans future bookend tackles.
And now that Price is in the fold, the Trojans will continue their Georgia recruiting push.
So Trojans fans, familiarize yourselves with Class of 2017 names like safety Richard LeCounte III (Hinesville/Liberty County), athlete DeAngelo Gibbs (Suwanee/Peachtree Ridge) and outside linebacker Breon Dixon (Suwanee/Peachtree Ridge), corners Jamyest Williams (Lawrenceville/Archer), William Poole lll (Atlanta/Hapeville Charter), and outside linebacker Jaden Hunter (Atlanta/Westlake). They have all been offered by Clay Helton.
One or more of these current Georgia prep stars could be future Trojans.