The frenzied pursuit of defensive tackle Trent Thompson now truly warrants the phrase "coast-to-coast". A process that long centered on ACC and SEC suitors was effectively shaken up Tuesday when the nation's top-ranked recruit hopped on a plane headed to Los Angeles.
Thompson, a 5-star playmaker from Georgia, is journeying to spend time at USC, reports Kipp Adams of 247Sports. The Trojans are reportedly set to host him until his Thursday departure.
On the surface, it's a seemingly shocking development for a prospect whose top options appeared restricted to the southeast. Thompson's list of favorites hasn't undergone many alterations, topped by his home state's flagship squad.
Earlier this month, Thompson confirmed Georgia remained the favorite during a conversation with Jake Rowe of 247Sports. He listed Auburn, Alabama, Florida State and Clemson, in order, as other teams under serious consideration.
USC is clearly the outlier when placed among that collection. The Trojans play more than 2,000 miles away from his hometown and were never previously viewed as a program on Thompson's radar.
This trip deviates from a path that's featured recent visits to Georgia, Alabama and Auburn. With USC thrown in the mix, it's never been more difficult to get a read on where Thompson will do damage at the next level.
However, there's more to his rapport with the Trojans than the allure of a trip to Hollywood. First-year defensive line coach Chris Wilson and Thompson have plenty of history.
The veteran assistant served in the same capacity at Georgia until January, when he accepted a position on Steve Sarkisian's staff. He was part of a tremendous recruiting charge at Thompson during his time with the Bulldogs.
Wilson has already proven his ability to reach back into the Peach State for top-tier talent. He helped USC land 5-star offensive tackle Chuma Edoga (Powder Springs, Georgia) in April.
247Sports currently ranks Wilson as the No. 1 recruiter among Pac-12 assistant coaches. He probably deserves bonus points for playing a pivotal role in bringing Thompson to town.
Rated the No. 1 prospect in 247Sports' 2015 composite rankings, Thompson tallied 148 tackles and 17 sacks during the past two seasons. He projects as an immediate impact player in college and could challenge for a starting role in 2015 wherever he winds up.
Wilson, now given an opportunity to provide Thompson with yet another sales pitch, is busy reshaping the Trojans defensive front.
He secured a commitment from 4-star tackle Jacob Daniel (Clovis, California) in May. Daniel is rated ninth nationally at the position in 247Sports' composite rankings.
With Thompson on campus, USC has a golden opportunity to continue its journey back to national prominence. The team's 2015 class already includes several standouts aside from Edoga and Daniel, including 5-star quarterback and former Alabama pledge Ricky Town.
USC's ability to coordinate an unexpected visit with the country's top player is a strong sign of where the program is headed under Sarkisian. Meanwhile, expectations in Athens are unlikely to change.
Georgia offered Thompson as a sophomore and hasn't yielded in its pursuit since. Despite being tantalizingly close to a commitment at times, the Bulldogs can only watch as he explores another option.
“Last summer I asked Coach Richt 'how can I commit?',” Thompson told Kipp Adams in March (subscription required). “He said all I have to do is tell him I want to be a Dawg.”
Is USC a legitimate contender for 5-star DT Trent Thompson?
That call hasn't arrived yet for Richt. Despite being the current front-runner, Georgia can't feel great about one of its former coaches recruiting its top target on the other side of the country.
Thompson signing with USC still seems slightly far-fetched, but suddenly, it's a possibility. The top player in America is establishing new relationships in Los Angeles, still more than seven months shy of signing day.
Recruit information and ratings courtesy of 247Sports unless otherwise noted.