About a month ago, it seemed Oakland (Calif.) McClymonds linebacker Joshua Tatum had all but wrapped up his recruitment. Even though he still had trips to take, the feeling was the linebacker was close to a done deal for USC and would announce as soon as his trips were done. After visiting Miami two weeks ago, things don't look so clear cut now.
Tatum, 6-1, 220 pounds is one of the nation's top 'backer prospects despite missing most of his last two seasons. A year ago, Tatum tore the labrum in his shoulder in week three and missed the season and this year, it was a torn ACL in week that sidelined him all year. The athlete has been rehabbing heavily and is way ahead of schedule.
"Dr. Ting is doing my rehab and I've been working hard," Tatum said. "I would say I'm around 65% recovered right now. I've been doing a lot of work in the pool, doing the stair master, ladder drills, things like that. They have actually been trying to slow me down a little but I just want to get back as fast and as strong as possible so I've been really getting after it in there."
Tatum visited Tennessee back in October and then tripped to Miami the weekend of (Nov. 18). His final visit will be to USC this upcoming weekend (Dec. 2).
"I went in to the Miami trip with an open mind but realistically, I didn't think anyone was going to catch USC," Tatum said. "I was really blown away at Miami and liked it a lot more than I expected to. I just really bonded with the players there and that was probably the biggest factor for Miami moving way up.
"I really haven't had a chance to meet any of the USC players yet or talk to them much. At Miami, I felt like I knew these guys already. John Beason, Tavares Gooden, Willie Williams, they all really showed me a great time and I learned so much about the program and the school itself.
"The level of competition at Miami and how hard the players work is incredible. Those guys play so hard and really push each other. They study hard too in terms of learning the defense and the different schemes. While I was there, they took a bunch of different tests and the coaches are really good about making sure all the players know what they're doing. They do a great job of preparing the players there for the League (NFL) and they have produced some great linebackers over the years including guys like D.J Williams and Jon Vilma just recently.
"I love the city of Miami and academically, I was surprised how strong the schools reputation. It's a private school that is very tough to get in to. Not a single player missed spring practice because of academics and they have some great programs there where if you work really hard, you can get your bachelors degree in three years and your masters in four. Academics have always been important to me (3.67 GPA, 1350 SAT) and my family so that was good to hear. My ultimate goal is obviously to play in the NFL. I mean, we all play for the love of the game but that's everyone's goal who plays college ball but I want a degree to fall back on."
As for his upcoming visit with USC, Tatum said he already knows a lot about the school but is looking to see how well he interacts with the players on the team as well as the coaches.
"I've been doing my homework on each of the schools for a long time now," Tatum said. "I feel like I already know a lot about USC, that's why they have been my top school for so long. They have a great program, I love the coaches and I've enjoyed my time down there when I visited a couple of times over the summer. The thing I'm really looking forward to seeing is just how I bond with the players there and not just the star players that are getting a lot of playing time.
"I want to talk to guys like Ryan Powdrell and others who aren't the well known players but are still there battling, I want to know how they like it at SC. Like I said before, the one thing missing in the times I've been at USC is just that interaction with the team and that's big to me. That's how Miami moved up so high, it's a real family there. I think you can look at a coach and see how he talks to you and tell if he's being sincere of if you're just being recruited.
"These are two dream schools for anybody, USC and Miami. Anyone would love to go to either place, they're two of the greatest college programs in the country. I think I'll know a lot more after this visit in terms of where everyone stands. I know it's going to be a great game and a great atmosphere with USC playing a rivalry game against UCLA and it's going to be fun seeing all the five star recruits there. This will be my last visit and then I think I should be ready to make my decision a couple of weeks after my trip to SC, I want to get this over before Christmas."
As for home visits, Tatum will host Tennessee this Thursday and said USC and Miami will likely be coming in the week following his visit this weekend.