Miramar (Fla.) five-star cornerback Tracy Howard took his third official visit this past weekend traveling cross-country to check out Southern Cal.
"I wasn't surprised and nothing shocked me, but I didn't know the academic part was so powerful," Howard said of the Pac-12 school. "I knew it was a great school and a great football team, so that wasn't surprising, but the school, it is a great school. I didn't know the academic part of it was so strong. I didn't realize that until I went out there and talked to some people that it is such a good place for an education.
"It is a great place for football," Howard added. "It is a far distance to go to school, but it is also a great place to go to school and play football at as well as get an education at."
The 5-foot-11, 175-pound defensive back said he could sense a lot of anticipation and optimism with regards to next season for Southern Cal. Some early prognostications have the Trojans in the hunt for a National Championship with quarterback Matt Barkley returning for his senior season.
"I did," Howard said of sensing optimism surrounding the program. "They work hard. I can definitely say that. They are definitely excited for next year. At the same time, they know that they have to work hard to be contenders for the BCS Bowls and to play for a championship. They are just trying to work hard to do that."
During the visit, the Sunshine State superstar had an opportunity to speak at length with both head coach Lane Kiffin and defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin, as well as other members of the staff.
"We talked about the opportunity there," Howard said. "They talked to me about leaving Florida and going there. They talked about how they operate their program and how they do things there."
Howard spent a great deal of time talking with Monte Kiffin, and came away very impressed with the 45-year coaching veteran who has been on the staff of programs that have won two national championships as well as a Super Bowl.
"Coach Monte keeps it real," Howard said. "He said there is a spot open for me to compete for. He said that they have great defensive backs, but are always looking for more. We talked about some of the great defensive backs he had when the Tampa Bay Bucs won the Super Bowl. They were a great defense. He said he is trying to find guys like that. I think I can fit well with the kind of defense they run there."
His host for the visit was one of those current USC defensive backs, sophomore cornerback Nickell Robey. Robey also hails from the Sunshine State and shared with Howard what it is like to be at USC.
"He said they are really a family. I could tell that just from being around the guys," Howard said. "He said that being from Florida, it was a new start, a new beginning for him when he got there. He said he likes it there and is making the best of it."
USC marked Howard's third official visit, as he previously visited West Virginia and Florida State. This coming weekend he will take his fourth.
"I am going to Florida this weekend," Howard said. "I am not sure yet where I might visit next weekend (January 27th)."
Some schools in contention for his final visit include Alabama, LSU, and Miami. Florida and LSU have recently been referred to as Howard's leader but he didn't state a current top school for his services following his USC visit.