USC recruiting several elite safeties

It didn’t take the USC Trojans long to react to the news that safety Max Redfield (Mission Viejo, Calif./Mission Viejo) had decided to decommit on Sunday.

The Trojans reached out on Monday and confirmed an official visit with safety Leon McQuay III (Seffner, Fla./Armwood) for the weekend of Dec. 7. It’s no coincidence that all of the USC commits who plan to enroll early for the spring semester will be visiting that weekend, considering McQuay is also looking to enroll early at his school of choice. McQuay has already visited Vanderbilt and Oregon with plans to visit Michigan this weekend.

McQuay and USC have long shown interest in each other, so it’s not like the confirmation of a visit came out of nowhere. Even after the Trojans had received a verbal commitment from Redfield over the summer -- which seemingly filled their need at safety when combined with an earlier verbal from Su’a Cravens (Murietta, Calif./Vista Murietta) -- they had continued to stay in touch not only with McQuay but with other safeties such as Tahaan Goodman (Rancho Cucamonga, Calif./Rancho Cucamonga) and Priest Willis (Tempe, Ariz./Marcos De Niza).

One of the realities of college football recruiting these days is that verbal commitments can often change before signing day, based on the school or the player. In recent years, the Trojans received early commits from De’Anthony Thomas and Arik Armstead, which resulted in USC not pursuing other players at those positions. Once those players decommitted, the Trojans were forced to scramble to find replacements.

This year, the USC coaches have been more proactive in terms of staying in touch with players such as McQuay for this kind of scenario. The coaches will still pursue Redfield as a priority, but the Trojans won’t just sit by and wait for a decision, risking a scenario where he heads elsewhere leaving the Trojans without a quality alternative. By quickly firming up the visit date with McQuay, they have sent a clear signal they are ready to move forward if need be.

As far as Redfield, he seems very comfortable in his decision to open things up, so it makes sense for him to do so. He had long expressed the desire to go through the recruiting process with the goal of announcing at the Under Armour All-American Game, so it caught many by surprise when he gave an early verbal to USC in the first place.

Redfield explained at the time that part of the reason he decided to pull the trigger was because the open spots in the USC class were dwindling, and if he had continued to wait, there was a chance a spot would no longer be there for him. In hindsight, it’s clear he wasn’t ready to fully commit at the time, but he felt pressure to step up and claim one of the final spots. By the time he took an official visit to Notre Dame in October and changed his status to a “soft” verbal to USC, most observers assumed it was a real possibility he would eventually decommit.

It’s a variation of musical chairs, only this time it’s being played with talented football players and big-time programs. Redfield is an extremely versatile player -- he is ranked as the No. 2 athlete in the nation by ESPN -- which is the reason the Trojans put an emphasis on him being in the first group of commits. Redfield will consider Washington, Oregon and LSU in addition to the Irish, but now that the musical chairs have started again, the other options for the Trojans are pretty attractive, too. ESPN rates McQuay as the nation’s No. 3 safety, while Willis and Goodman are Nos. 4 and 8, respectively.

No matter how things play out, it appears as if the Trojans are well prepared for any scenario at the safety spot in the class of 2013.