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February 1, 2008On the heels of Sedrick Ellis' dominating performance at the 2008 Senior Bowl, the Trojans garner the commitment of a possible replacement.
Long Beach (Calif.) Poly defensive tackle Jurrell Casey hopes that the First-Team All-American and first-round draft pick's absence goes unnoticed in 2008.
"I committed to USC," said Casey, days before his television announcement on Fox Sport West. "USC has a great team, and a great football program.
"There are a lot of wonderful people that are a part of the school, and I saw that when I went on visits. It's just a cool place to be even away from football."
And while Casey's commitment comes as no surprise to those who follow recruiting, his path to USC wasn't as clear cut as many assumed it was. In May, reports surfaced that Casey had committed to USC.
Although the two-time all-state selection was beginning to contemplate a future in Cardinal & Gold, his attention had to be turned from the Northwest.
"I got the offer from SC, but I was really waiting for the offer from Oregon to come," said Casey. "I was all about Oregon at that point, and I thought they were going to offer me right off the bat. They didn't, but that's when USC came in and offered.
"I was like, 'Alright, let me wait and see what happens with Oregon'. I waited, but they still didn't offer. That's when I started to get closer with the coaches from SC. Oregon wasn't really around until later. Once they did offer, I still had to see what they were about. I wasn't ready to do anything until I took some visits."
The 6-foot, 280-pound four-star defensive tackle took official visits to Oregon, Ole Miss and USC. According to Casey, his final trip to USC was the difference in his recruitment.
"With SC, every part of the trip was fun," said Casey. "Everything we did was fun, so I never got bored or started thinking about being somewhere else.
"During the Oregon trip, there were times when I looked around and wondered, 'What are we doing'. Just being off campus was different. I couldn't really see myself there."
Casey made his commitment official to the USC coaching staff Jan. 19, the day after arriving on campus for his official visit.
"The coaches were really excited, and wanted me to let everyone else know that I was a Trojan," said Casey. "They are proud to have me in their program, and they really need me to come in and play.
"With Sedrick Ellis gone, I going to have to fill some big shoes. People expect me to come and play close to the level he played at. We need to keep the defense playing at the same pace."
With Ellis' graduation, Casey figures to contribute big minutes for the Trojans in 2008. While he sets his sights high, Casey has no problem working toward his goals.
"SC fans are going to see a guy that works hard, makes a lot of big hits and gets a lot of sacks," said Casey. "I want to come in, work really hard and get the starting jump right away. I feel like I need to get faster, so I can keep up with the speed they expect me to play with."
But in order to reach those goals on the field, Casey has to continue to work hard off the field. Last weekend, California's top ranked defensive tackle took his first crack at the SAT.
"I feel like the SAT went really well," said Casey. "We'd been practicing for it, so I came in prepared and knew how to work out the problems without getting stressed.
"I relaxed, did like my teachers taught me and did good. I'm also honor roll right now with all A's and B's on my report card, so things are looking good."
Casey's football career at USC will begin without his friend and former teammate Vaughn Telemaque. While the two had discussed attending the same college, Telemaque announced that he would attend Miami Thursday night.
While his teammate's decision was unknown at the time, Casey was cognizant of Telemaque's mixed feelings about USC before the announcement.
"First it was Oregon, then it was North Carolina . . . he had a lot of choices," said Casey. "It would be nice to play with him again, but I don't know.
"I know we're both thinking about coming in and playing early. People think Poly is overrated, so I think we both want to prove them wrong. I would love to play with Vaughn at USC, but I'm not sure what he'll do."
Regardless of Telemaque's choice, Casey can appreciate how the game of cat and mouse between college and recruit is played.
"The process was cool," said Casey. "You meet good coaches and see a lot of schools. The tough thing is letting the coaches know that you're interested enough for them to offer.
You may not like the school that much, but you have to give yourself options. SC is the best option you can have."
USCFootball.com will have more on Jurrell Casey's commitment later in the week.