In his introductory press conference, new USC cornerbacks coach Donte Williams said the Trojans were going to go out and recruit the best players that fit their system. Those players could be well-known five-star athletes from across the country, or relatively unknown local prospects without an offer.
On Wednesday, Williams and the USC coaches felt strongly enough about a local prospect that they became the first school to offer, which is a statement when that happens with a major program.
Class of 2022 athlete Clint Stephens (Long Beach, Calif./Wilson) was the recipient, and the 6-foot-1, 188-pound prospect was excited.
“This is a big offer,” Stephens said. “I always dreamed of playing there. This is a real big offer.”
Stephens had family connections to former USC wide receiver Darreus Rogers, and would get tickets to USC games. Stephens said he would also attend USC spring games, and “grew up watching them play all the time.”
The offer came from Williams, who initially received Stephens’ film while he was at Oregon, but only recently was able to watch it.
“He said it was a no-brainer offer,” Stephens said of the USC cornerbacks coach, and followed with plenty of praise for Williams. “He’s a super-good coach. I like the way he’s dedicated and he won’t like to you. He keeps it 100.”
Stephens said that of his time spent talking to Williams, but also that Williams’ reputation precedes him, and he’s heard it from many other prospects who have had recruiting contact with the new USC defensive assistant.
“I think me and Coach D could have a real close relationship,” Stephens said.
Stephens plays wide receiver, cornerback and safety in high school, but both he and the USC coaches see him as a cornerback in college.
“That’s what I want to play at the next level,” he said, adding a breakdown of his game. “I’m an athlete. Put me anywhere on the field and I’ll do my best. I like playing defense–safety and corner right now. I like playing on the short side because you get more action with the run, too, and help from up top.”
Stephens said he likes to watch Los Angeles Rams cornerback Jalen Ramsey, and tries to mimic his ability in press and man coverage.
This was never going to be the only big offer for Stephens, and sure enough, Oregon followed later in the day with another scholarship offer for the standout athlete. Stephens was able to take unofficial visits to Oregon, Oregon State and Washington earlier this year with Premium Sports, his 7-on-7 program. That’s a program USC has and will need to continue to recruit hard, as many of the area’s top prospects call it home during the offseason, including top USC targets in defensive backs Jaylin Smith, Anthony Beavers and DJ Harvey.
Stephens is part of a loaded 2022 class, that also features quarterback Maalik Murphy, wide receiver C.J. Williams and cornerback Tayveion Beasley, all of whom added USC offers during a summer camp last year.
Last season as a sophomore, Stephens caught 10 passes for 245 yards and four touchdowns, made 58 tackles, intercepted two passes and forced and recovered a fumble.
As far as his recruiting process, this is likely just the beginning for Stephens, though the USC offer will mean plenty as he goes through everything.
“It’s one of my dream schools,” Stephens said, adding that he’ll likely wait until the end of his junior season to start formulating a top list and looking to proceed further with the process.