Mattrell McGraw is a premier playmaker for defending national champion John Curtis Christian High School (New Orleans, La.), so it's no surprise the senior standout is drawing interest from college programs across the country. The 6'0", 185-pound defensive back seems to be focused on a pair of Pac-12 contenders as his recruiting process approaches its final stages.
McGraw told Scout.com reporter Mike Coppage that Oregon and UCLA currently sit atop his list of suitors. He also expressed plans to visit both schools.
McGraw, a thumper who holds his own in deep pass coverage, projects as a safety prospect at the next level. He is listed as a 4-star recruit and the nation's No. 23 safety in 247Sports rankings.
Aside from his favorite West Coast options, Florida State, Arizona and Alabama are among squads that have shown significant interest, according to 247Sports. He also visited LSU in April.
Now that McGraw's recruitment picture is growing clearer, it's an appropriate time to take a look at his top two choices and how he may fit with each team. As coaching staffs in Eugene and Los Angeles clamor to acquire a commitment, there are plenty of variables involved.
The Oregon Ducks haven't suffered any loss of momentum since former head coach Chip Kelly bolted for Philadelphia. Through three games under the direction of Mark Helfrich, Oregon has outscored opponents 184-27.
McGraw will visit campus from Dec. 13 to 16, per Scout.com. He briefly spent time in Eugene this April and plans to really get a definitive feel for the program during his second trip.
"I'm going to break down their system and how I'll fit in," McGraw told Scout.com. "It's no surprise that things are going smoothly with their new coach. The staff has a lot of experience and the defensive coordinator has been there 20 years."
Defensive coordinator Nick Aliotti leads an aggressive unit that is often overshadowed by the Ducks' dynamic offense, but continues to clobber overwhelmed opponents. The unit is surrendering just 3.4 yards per rush and 4.5 yards per pass completion this season.
Veteran safeties Brian Jackson and Avery Patterson are both nearing the end of their collegiate careers. The seniors have each played significant roles in the Oregon secondary since 2011, and the departures open opportunities for young defensive backs.
If McGraw commits to Oregon, he would hardly be alone as an incoming secondary standout in Oregon's 2014 recruiting class. The team already landed commitments from 4-star prospect Arrion Springs (San Antonio, Texas) and 3-star JUCO product Dominique Harrison (Contra Costa College).
Springs and Harrison are best suited for cornerback, so McGraw would likely walk onto campus as Oregon's top newcomer at safety. Still, an outstanding freshman training camp is mandatory if he hopes to crack the two-deep at either safety position with the Ducks next season.
Jim Mora has done an exceptional job of quickly returning the UCLA Bruins football program to national prominence in the eyes of elite recruits. The second-year head coach secured the seventh-best 2013 recruiting class in the country, according to 247Sports.
After a nine-win season and PAC-12 South Division title in 2012, the Bruins are off to a 2-0 start this year and just routed Nebraska on the road. McGraw acknowledged the culture change at UCLA in his conversation with Scout.com.
"UCLA is a great program. I'm not shocked the way they beat Nebraska," he told Scout.com. "Jim Mora is a great coach. They grind everything out under him and are real serious. I know the players say they're blessed to have him, and the seniors wish they had more time to spend with him as coach."
It's easy to sense the passion McGraw feels toward the Bruins' leadership. He visited UCLA on April 26, per 247Sports, just a week after his trip to Eugene.
McGraw, who also holds offers from PAC-12 rivals Arizona State, USC and California, identified a shift in football power on the west coast.
"(Los Angeles) is UCLA's town now that USC has gone down," he told Scout.com.
The Bruins are already set to bring in a bevy of secondary help in the 2014 recruiting class, including 3-star California safety prospects Ron Robinson (Corona) and Joseph McIntosh (West Hills). UCLA is significantly younger at safety than Oregon, as freshman Randall Goforth and sophomore Anthony Jefferson opened the season anchoring the back end of the Bruins' defense.
It's a crowded pack of young, talented playmakers who appear entrenched as members of the roster for years to come.
McGraw is in good shape to compete for PAC-12 titles at either school, and the fact that he has already visited each campus is an indication that he's a fan of both football facilities. Each coaching staff is appealing to the Louisiana defensive star, who also told Scout.com he expects to spend an official visit at Florida State and perhaps Arizona.
While each program presents McGraw with an opportunity to compete for reps early, he appears to have a better shot at an immediate expansive role with the Ducks. Oregon is losing experienced defensive backs after this season and doesn't yet have the abundance of incoming freshman secondary players that UCLA anticipates.
McGraw has spent the majority of his high school career as a marquee member on one of America's top high school teams. If he hopes to contribute during his first fall on campus, Oregon is a narrow leader among the two options.
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