By Johnny Curren
Having established himself as one of the top prospects in the entire nation long ago, Fontana (Calif.) Summit running back Stephen Carr, once again, showed off his skills this past Sunday as he put on an absolute show at the Passing Down Best of the West 7-on-7 championship, helping Ground Zero come away with the tournament title, and earning MVP honors in the process.
It was just the latest in a long line of standout performances for the Class of 2017 star in what has been a busy offseason full of workouts and 7-on-7 tournaments, not to mention recent unofficial visits to both Michigan and Miami (Fla.).
“All gas, no brakes,” a laughing Carr said of his non-stop schedule. “It’s been pretty hectic. The offseason really isn’t an offseason anymore, but I’m getting through it.”
Having given a verbal pledge to USC in March of 2015, Carr decided to re-open his recruitment this past January, changing his status to that of a ‘soft commit.’
“I decided to open my recruitment back up, just to see what other coaches had to say, and to see what other programs had to offer,” Carr said. “I’m just keeping my options open.”
With that in mind, plenty of questions have arisen in recent weeks in regard to Carr’s future and USC’s potential place in it – particularly in the wake of the de-commitment of close friend and Ground Zero teammate Thomas Graham Jr. (Rancho Cucamonga, Calif./Rancho Cucamonga) earlier this month.
But according to Carr, Graham’s choice won’t have any bearing on his own decision-making process.
“I’m still a soft commit,” said Carr, who stands six feet tall and 200 pounds. “Thomas de-committing has nothing to do with me. When it comes to college football, you have to find your own fit. You can’t just go to college with your best friend, because there might not be the same fit for both of you at that college. You have to find the best school for you. And I respect him for de-committing because he’s doing what’s best for him.”
And for now at least, the best fit for Carr still appears to be USC.
“There’s so much to like about USC – the coaching staff, the facilities, the players, the fans…everything,” said Carr, who wore USC gloves and arm sleeves on Sunday. “It’s a great place.”
But the Trojans coaches aren’t taking any chances. Head Coach Clay Helton and staff have made it clear to Carr that he’s still a major priority for them.
“I’m in contact with them, really, on a day-to-day basis,” Carr said. “I talk to Coach Helton, the running backs coach, the lineman coach, the DB coach, the linebacker coach – all of them.”
Of those coaches, it’s running backs coach Tommie Robinson – who was added to the USC staff in January – who figures to play an especially key role in Carr’s recruitment.
“Me and him, we’re still getting to know each other, so when I go up to the school me and him hang out together and talk,” Carr said. “He’s a great running back coach. If USC ends up being my final choice, I can’t wait to go play for him.”
Carr hasn’t been up to USC since this past February when he took in the Trojans’ Junior Day event, but a return trip to reconnect with Robinson and the rest of the coaches could happen at any time.
“I’m trying to get up there as soon as possible – any free day that I have coming up,” Carr said. “It’s only 30 minutes away from my house.”
Still, you can be sure that plenty of other college coaches will continue to make their pitch to Carr, just as Jim Harbaugh and the Wolverines staff did when Carr was at Michigan, as well as Mark Richt and the Hurricanes staff when the talented running back visited Miami. Predictably, Carr came away impressed in each instance.
“It’s going to make a big impression whenever you visit a school,” Carr said. “They’re going to show you a good time. The coaching staffs from both schools were player-friendly, and they made sure I had a good time and that I was safe out there. They made me feel at home.”
With plenty of options, Carr is unsure if he’ll take any more out-of-area unofficial visits in the coming months. In fact, the only definite plan he has as of right now is to attend the Rising Stars Camp at USC in June.
Looking even further ahead, Carr will also take an official visit to USC in the fall or winter, and there’s a good chance that he’ll use the other four trips allotted by the NCAA as well.
“I’ll probably take all five of my official visits, but I have to talk to my parents to see what they think about it,” Carr said. “I don’t know to what schools, except for USC. I’ll visit USC for sure. They’re always at the top of the list.”
In no hurry to bring the process to a close after having just recently opened things back up, Carr now plans to wait until Signing Day before making a final college decision.