UPDATE: DeChaun Holiday tells Rivals.com's Edward Lewis that he wants to play cornerback in college. USC is recruiting him as a safety, while UCLA could use him at corner:
A recruiting showdown is set between rivals USC and UCLA for the commitment of 4-star safety DeChaun Holiday, and it will be a very important one for both schools.
Earlier this month, Holiday told Rivals.com's Chris Swanson that he is down to two schools, and those two happen to be the Trojans and the Bruins:
The Mission Hills (San Marcos, California) safety has prototypical defensive back height and length, with a blend of size and athleticism out on the perimeter. He runs well and shows good functional strength working positioning and retaining leverage.
Beyond his physicality, Holiday is adept at anticipating the pass. He shows great instincts and spatial awareness on the field. He reads quarterbacks very well and is quick to jump and undercut routes.
He knows how to use his skills and his size, which is what makes him such a highly touted prospect.
While some schools have been recruiting him at cornerback, USC and UCLA are both targeting him as a safety.
So, which school has the edge in what will surely be a tightly contested duel for his commitment?
At UCLA, defensive backs Randall Goforth and Anthony Jefferson rule the roost this upcoming season. Between the two, Goforth and Jefferson have accumulated 211 tackles, five interceptions and five tackles for loss. Jefferson is a redshirt senior, while Goforth is a junior, but a strong season from him could ensure that both are gone for the 2015 season.
UCLA has been toying with Priest Willis at safety, and the rising sophomore is just getting his feet wet in the Bruins defense. Then there's Tahaan Goodman, the former 4-star safety (class of 2013) who is still waiting in the wings. He's unproven, but he was heavily recruited, and there's no reason to believe he won't live up to the hype just yet.
Lastly there's Tyler Foreman, also a former 4-star talent who signed in 2013, who will be jockeying to get in the rotation.
Barring injury to these guys, UCLA's secondary appears to be pretty full of up-and-coming talent at safety, which could be a deterrent for Holiday if he is seeking early playing time.
But USC doesn't have that problem, thanks to the scholarship limitations, and the annoying depth issues the Trojans are dealing with could help them land Holiday's commitment.
The Trojans feature a pair of outstanding safeties in Su'a Cravens and Leon McQuay III, but it's slim pickings for reliable talent behind them. Gerald Bowman is really the only option, provided Josh Shaw stays at cornerback.
It's possible that some of the defensive backs USC signed in 2014 could slide over to safety. Until that happens, however, the Trojans are dangerously thin at the position.
That could work in USC's favor while courting Holiday this summer.
If early playing time is what he's after, USC is the school for Holiday. He will have to wait his turn at UCLA, but if he were to commit to Troy, it would be realistic for him to see the field during his very first season.
Should Cravens perform in 2014 under new defensive backs coach Keith Heyward's tutelage the way he did last season under Clancy Pendergast's, that could also be an indication to Holiday of what kind of growth he could expect at USC.
Beyond that, the Trojans are rebuilding under head coach Steve Sarkisian, and the possibility of being a part of a new era of USC football could endear USC to Holiday.
It's true that UCLA has a slight competitive edge in Los Angeles at the moment, as the Bruins have bested the Trojans for the past two seasons in a row. But USC has the roster space that could tilt the scales in the Trojans' favor.
Last recruiting cycle, we saw tight end Bryce Dixon choose USC over UCLA, and, among other reasons, a shallow tight ends corps helped the Trojans earn his signature.
While depth continues to be an issue for the Trojans, they have a unique ability to sell recruits on early playing time, an increasingly important aspect of the college experience for incoming freshmen.
Holiday hasn't made it clear when he plans to announce his commitment, so we can expect that USC and UCLA will throw everything at him while he mulls over his options. In head-to-head battles for top Southern California talent, the Trojans have maintained an advantage over the past decade, and a commitment from Holiday would help USC maintain its well-established foothold in the area.
All recruiting rankings and information courtesy of 247Sports.