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Safety target Zion Branch announces visit schedule, and other USC recruiting notes

USC landed three high school safeties and brought in another as a transfer in the 2021 class, but after not signing any safeties in the 2020 recruiting class, the position remains an important one for the Trojans with the 2022 class.

Fortunately for the Trojans, there are a few elite prospects fairly close to home, and that list starts with four-star Zion Branch (Las Vegas/Bishop Gorman).

Branch is the nation’s No. 54 overall prospect and No. 3 safety. The Trojans were on him very early in the process and he is a priority recruit for USC in this class. The 6-foot-2, 190-pound safety is an imposing figure in the defensive backfield and would fit perfectly into USC’s scheme with his ability to play in the box, as a deep safety, and work in man coverage.

On Wednesday, Branch announced three of his official visits, as he’ll head to Ohio State on June 4, to USC on June 18 and to Oregon on June 25. Those three schools are among the frontrunners for Branch, with USC holding a strong position for him. But Branch will pretty well have his choice of schools, as Alabama, Clemson, Florida, Georgia, Michigan, Oklahoma, Penn State, Stanford, Texas, Utah, Washington and plenty of others have offered as well.

With unofficial and official visits shut down for more than a year, schools and prospects are loading up on visits in June, as the NCAA is expected to allow the dead period to lapse at the end of May.

Branch is important to USC’s 2022 for several reasons, though the most important one is simply his talent and fit. But Branch also plays for high school power Bishop Gorman, where USC is attempting to have a major presence this year and going forward. The Trojans already hold a commitment from four-star cornerback Fabian Ross, and are in pursuit of hybrid linebacker/defensive end Cyrus Moss. Branch is also the older brother of Zachariah Branch, a top-75 prospect in the 2023 class whom the Trojans have already offered. While it’s not a guarantee the brothers will head to the same school, the expectation certainly is that whichever program lands Zion could have the inside track for Zachariah.

The Trojans are chasing several big-time national safeties, but USC would also do just fine staying closer to home at the position. That starts with Branch and also includes fellow four-star safety Kamari Ramsey (Chatsworth, Calif./Sierra Canyon), who will also take his official visit to USC on June 18.

USC in top 6 for top safety

Speaking of safeties, USC is in the top six for five-star safety Jacoby Mathews (Ponchatoula, La./Ponchatoula), the 6-foot-1, 204-pound prospect announced Tuesday afternoon.

USC joins Arizona State, Clemson, Florida, LSU and Texas as finalists. Mathews said he wants to visit all six of his finalists, and obviously this is another prospect where getting him on campus is mandatory for USC to have a realistic shot. This is a recruit where USC was able to make a move after bringing in Jeff Martin, and both he and safeties coach Craig Naivar are guys who believe they have a real shot at anybody who shows serious interest. Mathews has an official visit set for Florida for early June, and the Gators have a ton of recruiting momentum right now. Mathews is the No. 32 overall prospect and No. 2 safety in the 2022 class.

Trojans in top 8 for local receiver

Three-star wide receiver Kevin Green Jr. (Mission Hills, Calif./Alemany) announced his top eight schools on Tuesday, with a heavy Pac-12 slant. Cal, Nebraska, Oregon, San Diego State, Stanford, USC, Utah and Washington State are the programs standing out for the 5-foot-11, 165-pound prospect at this time. Green is a dynamic receiver with the ball in his hands and brings a lot to the table as a receiver. USC is making a push for him and will host him on an official visit beginning June 18.

Oregon is also involved and the Ducks could ultimately be tough to beat if they pursue him all the way, as his older brother is Oregon cornerback Mykael Wright.

USC has had some interesting recent recruiting results at Alemany, as quarterback Miller Moss and safety Jaylin Smith signed with the Trojans in the 2021 class, but USC lost a commitment from 2022 linebacker Niuafe Tuihalamaka and went a different direction after getting an early commitment from offensive tackle Saia Mapakaitolo, who ultimately finished his high school career in Arizona.

USC chasing Moore receivers

Big-time 2023 wide receiver DeAndre Moore Jr. (Las Vegas/Desert Pines) released his top 12 schools on Tuesday and USC made the cut, along with Alabama, Arizona State, Florida, Florida State, Georgia, LSU, Miami, Oklahoma, Notre Dame, Texas and Texas A&M.

He’s a 5-foot-11, 180-pound receiver and the nation’s No. 42 overall prospect.

USC wide receiver Michael Jackson III came out of Desert Pines, and it’s also home to 2022 running back target Jovantae Barnes.

USC adds PWO kicker

USC grabbed a commitment from kicker Denis Lynch on Tuesday, as he will join the team this summer as a preferred walk-on. Lynch had other walk-on opportunities at Michigan State, Georgia Tech, Fresno State and UNLV and brings a big left leg with him.

USC returns starting kicker Parker Lewis, who handled all field goals, extra points and kickoffs as a true freshman in 2020. But Lewis and redshirt junior Alex Stadthaus are the only two kickers listed on USC’s spring roster.

Erik McKinney

Erik McKinney began writing for WeAreSC in 2004, during his junior year at USC, covering the Trojans football team and recruiting. He then moved on to ESPN.com in 2011, where he served as the West Region recruiting reporter and then the Pac-12 recruiting reporter. He took over as publisher of WeAreSC in January, 2019.

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