The race is heating up for 2015 Georgia recruit Taj Griffin, a versatile running back from McEachern High School in Powder Springs.
Programs from across the country have bombarded the talented prospect with scholarship offers but he told 247Sports reporter Kipp Adams (subscription required) that five teams sit atop his list of possible destinations.
“Oregon, USC, Clemson, Ohio State and Florida State are my top five,” Griffin told 247Sports. “USC, Oregon and Clemson are the three schools recruiting me the hardest and trying to get me the most right now.”
This development is tough to take for Mark Richt and the Georgia Bulldogs, who aim to capitalize on another strong in-state class. Florida, Auburn and Alabama were also left off his current upper echelon of collegiate options.
Griffin, rated a 4-star prospect in 247Sports composite rankings, is listed as America's top all-purpose back. He is considered the fifth-best player in Georgia and ranks No. 38 overall nationally.
The 5'10", 175-pound playmaker rushed for 675 yards and seven touchdowns as a sophomore, when his recruitment began to take off. Griffin emerged as one of the top offensive threats in Georgia during his junior season.
He propelled his squad into the state semifinals with an electric game-winning punt return during the last minute of quarterfinal action, according to The Marietta Daily Journal. Griffin also gained 144 yards and a touchdown in the contest.
Now that he's revealed his favorites on the recruiting trail, let's take a closer look at how Griffin would fit with each of his top five programs.
Griffin is intrigued by uptempo offensive attacks. The Ducks happen to have one of the most recognized brands of that style in the nation.
This looks good on paper for Oregon.
“The Oregon offense probably stands out the most to me because it is so fast-paced,” Griffin told 247Sports. “I feel like I would fit in well in that scheme. Everything they do is fast and that is kind of how I play so I feel that would be a great offense for my talents to be distributed in.”
His attributes would compliment those of prized 2014 Oregon signee Royce Freeman, a 4-star recruit from San Diego. Freeman is a beast between the tackles, while Griffin does most of his damage on the outside edge and as a receiver.
Despite the geographical separation, Griffin is already familiar with the Ducks coaching staff. Head coach Mark Helfrich made the cross-country trip in January, and it appears Eugene is likely to appear on the running back's official visit itinerary.
“I really like the Oregon coaching staff,” he told 247Sports. “I met the head coach briefly when he visited and the staff seems like a group of cool, genuine people. I spoke to them recently and they gave me visit dates so my parents and I are going to talk and try to visit pretty soon.”
Urban Meyer has procured plenty of talent from Georgia during his coaching career. He plucked prospects from the northern neighbor while at Florida and continues to command respect in SEC territory at Ohio State.
He signed top-ranked inside linebacker Raekwon McMillan (Hinesville, Ga.) earlier this month and aims to reach back into the Peach State for a new offensive weapon.
The Buckeyes bolstered an impressive offensive backfield with a strong 2014 recruiting class but there's always room for a do-it-all force like Griffin.
The speedster certainly suits Meyer's spread-offensive scheme and could fill a role similar to Percy Harvin at Florida. Griffin gives teams options in the slot, out wide and behind the quarterback.
The Buckeyes intend to bring him to Columbus for a visit as soon as possible.
“Ohio State has been trying to get me up there for a minute," he told 247Sports.
Steve Sarkisian closed out his 2014 class with a flurry of impressive late commitments that seemed to bring substantial momentum back on USC's side. While the Trojans landed promising prospects at several skill positions, there remains room for improvement at running back.
The team should implement a balanced offensive approach under Sarkisian and already secured a commitment from 5-star junior quarterback Ricky Town, who is rated the nation's No. 1 overall 2015 prospect by 247Sports.
USC is quickly building a new foundation after an era in which the program lost some of its luster. There's reason to believe the Trojans could rank among America's elite squads again in the near future.
Early touches would be readily available to Griffin if he heads to Hollywood. Sarkisian and company are a favorite to host him during this nationwide recruitment process.
“I definitely want to get to USC,” Griffin told 247Sports.
It's hard to argue with what head coach Dabo Swinney has accomplished during his short tenure with the Tigers. In his first five seasons, the 44-year-old won 51 games, earned an ACC title and reached the Orange Bowl twice.
Clemson's greatest asset during the span has been an explosive offensive attack built on field-stretching speed across the spectrum. Griffin fits the mold of a Tiger playmaker and Clemson is a more viable destination than most of his top choices because of its location.
Swinney secured five 2014 signees from Georgia. The haul was headlined by Gainesville quarterback Deshaun Watson, who is the state's all-time passing leader and already on campus to compete for a starting role.
Griffin could join Watson and an intriguing corps of young receivers as the new identity of Clemson football moving forward. The group would essentially be groomed to grab the torch from former talented Tigers offensive stars Sammy Watkins, C.J. Spiller, DeAndre Hopkins and Tajh Boyd.
The reigning national champions used 2013 Heisman Trophy winner Jameis Winston as a key selling point for top offensive targets during this past recruiting cycle. That message may not resonate as strongly in the upcoming year, as speculation will inevitably run rampant about the possibility of Florida State's star quarterback leaving early for the NFL.
Still, it's a great time to sell the Seminoles brand for Jimbo Fisher. The offense was a well-oiled machine throughout last season and attacked teams from all angles out of the backfield.
Griffin could remain close to home by heading to Tallahassee but may face more competition for immediate playing time than he would encounter elsewhere. Florida State landed 5-star Miami running back Dalvin Cook during the late stages of its 2014 recruiting efforts, and he figures to be an offensive mainstay for years to come.
Fisher offered Griffin in May. If the coveted prospect opts to attend college in the Sunshine State, early indications are he'll be a Seminole rather than a Gator.
Which of Taj Griffin's top five choices is the best fit?
The Tigers provide regional proximity and an offensive scheme that annually showcases their top playmakers with high-volume targets. Swinney recently inked a lengthy contract extension, and it appears he is in for the long haul, which is key during an era of routine high-profile coaching changes.
Griffin would arrive at Clemson with a clear path to early playing time and provide another building block for a offense that should remain explosive with its latest infusion of elite talent.
Look for Watson to do all he can in an effort to team up with a fellow Georgia standout.