USC was the strong, early leader for DL Poona Ford of Hilton Head, and while the Gamecocks are still very much in the hunt, at least three others have caught the fancy of the talented run stuffer.
"I think there are still a lot of schools still in play," said his coach BJ Payne. "The top three he's listing are Tennessee, Ohio State and Louisville. A lot of people ask me does that mean South Carolina's out and I don't think so."
USC visited Ford last Monday and Ford set plans to camp at USC. He will also camp at Ohio State and Tennessee and some other places according to his coach. USC was Ford's first major offer and that put the Gamecocks in the early lead. But exposure to these other programs has given Ford more options to consider.
"I know when he went to Tennessee he really enjoyed their staff," Payne said. "I know he fell in love with their facilities. And he's always had Ohio State in his top five, even before Ohio State offered. He went to camp there last year. If you look at his top three or four schools, they've all produced multiple defensive linemen, very good defensive linemen. Ohio State, Tennessee, and South Carolina, those three schools are top of the line as far as defensive linemen."
Arizona is another school Ford wants to see this summer. He has 25 offers but Payne says Ford has shrunk the list to eight and will get down to three after camps. Those eight are USC, Ohio State, Tennessee, Louisville, Arizona, Kansas State, NC State and Toledo. Payne said Florida could become a factor with an offer.
Ford was going to wait until Signing Day for an announcement but his coach wants him to decide earlier than that so the schools that don't get him can recruit other defensive linemen. Payne would like him to decide before his senior season but he doesn't expect that. Ford has told him he wants to take some official visits and go from there.