While heated rivals UCLA and USC are battling for a Pac-12 title this season, another important clash is forming between the two powers on the recruiting trail involving 5-star linebacker and current Trojans pledge Mique Juarez.
The 6’2”, 222-pounder has been committed to USC since January, but as Ryan Bartow of 247Sports detailed, Juarez has made plans to announce a final decision at the U.S. Army All-American Game.
Other than the two in-state Pac-12 rivals, Bartow noted that Juarez has plans to take official visits to Ole Miss, Ohio State and Oklahoma.
While the out-of-state schools have a puncher’s chance, the team with the best shot to lure him away from his USC pledge appears to be the hated Bruins.
In fact, Juarez told Bartow that UCLA is “pushing the most” in his recruitment.
Should Trojans head coach Steve Sarkisian and his staff be worried about losing the nation’s No. 2 outside linebacker and No. 17 player overall in the 2016 class?
The fact that he is making a “final decision” when he is already committed is definitely concerning.
"Everything is going good right now," Juarez told Bartow. "I'm getting new offers. I'm keeping my options open. Anything can change. I'm still verbally committed to USC."
Given that his hometown is less than 20 miles away from both the UCLA and USC campuses, he’s very familiar with both schools and can take unofficial visits without much hesitation.
A couple of factors are likely to help Bruins head coach Jim Mora Jr. and his staff in their pursuit of the Golden State’s No. 2 prospect in the 2016 cycle.
As Ourlads noted, five of the Bruins' top eight linebackers are upperclassmen—including three of the four starters. That likely means Juarez would have a chance to find the field early should he flip to the Bruins.
Furthermore, the recent rise of playmakers such as former Bruins star Anthony Barr and current All-American Myles Jack gives the Bruins a blueprint in how Juarez could potentially be used.
With that said, the Trojans have enough ammo to remind him of why he selected them in the first place.
The good news for USC is that he did take an unofficial visit to USC last weekend for the Stanford game.
If he remains firm in his pledge and enrolls early at USC, considering his skill set, he could be a candidate to replace Trojans standout linebacker Su’a Cravens should the junior elect to declare for the NFL draft following the season.
For that plan to come to fruition, it likely means that Sarkisian and his staff will have to hold off the Bruins for Juarez over the next few months.
Sanjay Kirpalani is a National Recruiting Analyst for Bleacher Report. Unless otherwise noted, all quotes obtained firsthand and all recruiting information courtesy of 247Sports.