Georgia running back Taj Griffin fielded scholarship offers from dozens of college programs across the country. He cast proximity aside Thursday evening announcing his commitment to the Oregon Ducks:
The 5'10", 175-pound playmaker is the second junior from McEachern High School (Powder Springs, Georgia) to pledge to a Pac-12 program this week. Teammate Chuma Edoga, a 4-star offensive tackle, committed to USC on Monday.
Griffin, a 2015 U.S. Army All-American Bowl and Under Armour All-America Game selection, is rated No. 1 nationally among all-purpose backs in 247Sports' composite rankings. The 4-star prospect is listed at No. 50 overall in the 2015 recruiting class.
He rushed for 1,253 yards and 13 touchdowns as a junior, per The Eugene Register-Guard. His efforts helped McEachern reach the state semifinals and earned Griffin offers from Alabama, Ole Miss and North Carolina State.
Oregon extended a scholarship in September and spent the past seven months among the favorites in this recruiting race. The Ducks had plenty of company, including Clemson, Ohio State, Florida State, USC and in-state Georgia.
Griffin, who runs the 40-yard dash in a reported 4.35 seconds, will join a touted up-tempo Oregon offensive attack next year, where a crowded crop of young running backs is already in place. The Ducks signed 4-star Florida talent Tony James and all-time San Diego area rushing leader Royce Freeman in February.
In the aftermath of Griffin's announcement, it's compelling to explore two teams which will react to the news in uniquely different manners—the nearby Bulldogs and the cross-country, back-needy Trojans.
Georgia is in a similar situation to Oregon when it comes to depth at running back. Head coach Mark Richt welcomes 5-star tandem Sony Michel (Fort Lauderdale, Florida) and Nick Chubb (Cedartown, Georgia) to campus this summer.
Both members of the incoming duo were rated among the nation's top six running back prospects and top 33 overall players in 247Sports' 2014 composite rankings. Their respective signings soften the blow of Griffin's decision to depart his home state.
|Projected 2015 Georgia RB Depth Chart|
|Todd Gurley||Senior (eligible for 2015 NFL draft)|
|Sony Michel||Sophomore (eligible for redshirt status in 2014)|
|Nick Chubb||Sophomore (eligible for redshirt status in 2014)|
|Keith Marshall||Senior (eligible for 2015 NFL draft)|
|A.J. Turman||Redshirt Sophomore|
|UGA Team Roster|
The Bulldogs offered him a scholarship during his sophomore year and expressed sustained interest since the earliest stages of his recruiting process. A stiff-arm from Griffin on Thursday night doesn't necessarily spell disaster for Georgia's rushing attack in the near future, but it does make a growing trend slightly more glaring.
Richt and his staff have fallen short in the pursuit of several Peach State prospects in recent weeks. Georgia is loaded with elite players in the 2015 class deserving serious consideration as the country's most talent-laden state in this cycle.
When you review the events of this week, it's easy to see home-turf recruiting efforts have taken a hit.
The team whiffed on Egoda and Griffin, teammates at an in-state powerhouse less than 100 miles away from Athens. Georgia coaches can rest a little easier knowing both players are headed to the West Coast and won't come back to hunt them as SEC foes.
The same can't be said for a trio of offensive linemen who committed to Auburn in a six-day span. Georgia was a finalist for 4-star tackle Kaleb Kim (Hoschton, Georgia), but he pledged to the Tigers during a ceremony at Mill Creek High School on Thursday.
His announcement arrived just days after tackle Bailey Sharp (Marietta, Gorgia) and guard Marquel Harrell (Fairburn, Georgia) joined Auburn's 2015 class. The Bulldogs have yet to secure a commitment from a high school offensive lineman during this cycle but did land junior college prospect DeVondre Seymour.
Less than 10 months away from national signing day, Georgia holds pledges from just two of the top 20 Peach State prospects in 247Sports' composite rankings (athlete Terry Godwin and defensive end Chauncey Rivers).
Alabama has already reeled in three of the state's top 20 recruits, while Clemson claimed a commitment from North Gwinnett High School star Mitch Hyatt, a 5-star offensive tackle.
Georgia aims to get back on track when it comes to recruiting its backyard as April comes to a close. Defensive tackle Trent Thompson, linebacker Roquan Smith and defensive end Natrez Patrick are key in-state targets to keep an eye on moving forward.
When it comes to the running back position, the Bulldogs are far from desperate but will still look to land at least one rusher in this class for depth purposes. Eric Swinney (Tyrone, Georgia), Ty'Son Williams (Sumter, South Carolina) and Johnny Fraiser (Princeton, North Carolina) each hold Georgia offers.
USC is in much more dire straits than Georgia at this stage of its search for additions to the offensive backfield. The Trojans, strapped by scholarship limitations throughout the Lane Kiffin era, haven't been able to sustain the talent level fans fell in love when Pete Carroll led the charge.
Running back has been plagued as much as any position on the roster.
Silas Redd, a Penn State transfer, started four of the final six games last fall. He'll be looking to make it onto an NFL squad this season.
Former Mission Viejo High School star Tre Madden switched from linebacker to running back in 2012. Injuries have limited him to 703 yards on 138 career carries.
Florida product Javorius Allen emerged as a surprise of the 2013 season rushing for a team-high 785 yards and 14 touchdowns. However, he has just two years of eligibility remaining and could be tempted to enter the NFL draft next spring if he follows up with a strong 2014 campaign.
Sophomores Ty Isaac and Justin Davis combined to rush for 597 yards and eight touchdowns as true freshmen. The pair certainly infused the Trojans' offensive backfield with young talent last season, but depth is paramount at USC.
|Projected 2015 USC RB Depth Chart|
|Javorius Allen||Redshirt Senior (eligible for 2015 NFL draft)|
|Tre Madden||Redshirt Senior (eligible for 2015 NFL draft)|
|USC Team Roster|
First-year head coach Steve Sarkisian didn't sign a running back in the 2014 class setting the stage for a pivotal pursuit of rushers in this cycle. Expect the Trojans to target at least two signees at the position.
After missing on Griffin, a player who likely would have been called upon to contribute as a true freshman, the search continues elsewhere. Sarkisian has been relatively conservative in the number of scholarship offers he's sent out to running backs.
In-state prospect Malik Lovette (Redlands, California) earned a USC offer last month. The 4-star recruit also has Arizona State, Cal, Texas A&M and Notre Dame as early options.
USC is among dozens of teams to offer 5-star Kentucky standout Damien Harris a scholarship, but his attention has been focused elsewhere for a while. The Trojans will have to explore new opportunities in the running-back market.
Sarkisian could capitalize on his established recruiting rapport in the Northwest by reaching out to Chico McClatcher (Federal Way, Wash.). The versatile 4-star prospect already holds several Pac-12 offers.
The Taj Griffin sweepstakes is over, leaving a slew of squads feeling left out. USC and Georgia each move forward empty-handed with different recruiting objectives ahead.
Recruit information courtesy of 247Sports unless otherwise noted.