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USC commit Mique Juarez shines at Redondo Beach regional

LOS ANGELES -- It figured that when upwards of 400 talented high school football players gathered Sunday for the Nike Football Opening Regional Los Angeles at Redondo Beach (Calif.) Union High, there would be some blue chippers for the class of 2016 that would be as powerful and majestic as the nearby Pacific Ocean.

One such athlete in attendance was nationally acclaimed ESPN Junior 300 prospect and USC Trojans commit Mique Juarez (Torrance, Calif./North). While he's listed by most scouting services as a dual-threat quarterback/linebacker, Juarez performed with the linebackers during this weekend's competition.

Excelling at outside linebacker, Mique (pronounced Me-Kay) earned just one of a handful of initial Los Angeles regional invitations to this summer's exclusive national prep showcase, The Opening in Beaverton, Oregon.

"When I heard my name, I was really excited," said Juarez of the prestigious invitation. "I didn't really think it was going to be me because I didn't come to the first half of the testing (morning church) and everything, but I know I worked out hard out on the one-on-ones and the 7-ons, so I did my best."

Juarez is a rare combination of athlete that can drive high school defenses crazy as a run-pass quarterback yet turn it around as a hard hitting linebacker -- a position that figures to be his destination when he finally arrives at USC.

"I enjoy playing defense to be honest," Juarez revealed. "I love defense because I am very aggressive and that's what the scouts see in me, and I just like to come up with the 'boom.'"

Juarez has remained steadfast in his commitment to the hometown Trojans, and there are a number of factors that played into his decision.

"To be honest, I love USC because of the family there," Juarez said. "That's a very nice support system there. Everyone is around you, getting to know you, too, and getting there is just a very comfortable place to be at.

"I grew up in an area where everybody loved USC, but my family is a UCLA 'fam' but the other half of the family is USC. I have learned from Su'a Cravens (USC's All-Pac-12 junior linebacker), that's obviously who they compare me with, and that's really an honor because that dude is really good."

Although Juarez gives every indication that he will sign in February with the Trojans, he is still going to explore other options to make sure of his original commitment. In fact, he easily mentions three schools that could give Trojans fans pause.

Do the names Notre Dame, Michigan and Washington ring a bell?

The Irish are still pursing Juarez and hope to have him for a visit this summer. Michigan is in the mix with Jim Harbaugh now at the helm, and Juarez is awaiting further contact from Ann Arbor to set up a visit. Juarez is already scheduled to make a trip to Seattle and the Huskies on April 9.

"Obviously, their (Notre Dame) education is what I am really looking into, and USC is No. 1 in physical therapy and that's what I want to major in," Juarez said. "But Notre Dame, their education, and Michigan's education are really good.

"Notre Dame obviously has a huge tradition. USC, they have a huge tradition, too. But Notre Dame I think that school is perfect, too, because everywhere you go their alumni will support you in anything you do."

However, when asked to give a top 3 in order, Juarez doesn't mention the Irish or the Wolverines. Guess who's also lurking in the tall grass?

"My top 3 would be USC, Washington, and UCLA," Juarez revealed on Sunday after the competition.

You can understand the crosstown rival Bruins, but what does Juarez like about the Huskies?

"My freshman year, I don't want to wait, I want to start," Juarez said. "That's what I look to be doing. I want to play obviously my freshman year, and Washington obviously doesn't have a lot of depth at backers and I would take my chances."

Trojans fans, don't panic quite yet. Mique still seems a solid commitment. He is no different than a vast majority of seniors-to-be that want to see what's out there, get the full recruiting experience, and make sure they are comfortable with their final decision.

And what about that first name Mique?

"From my dad," Juarez said proudly. "In Tongan it's 'Micolo' and that's my dad's name and they call me Mique."

And in 2015 Friday Night Lights lexicon, Mique Juarez also means welcome to The Opening.