There's been a full pot of buzz building around Joe Keels for some time now. He's picked up new offers, garnered wide-ranging interest and has coaches ringing the office phones at Highland (Kan.) Community College. And after game No. 1 of the Scotties' 2013 season, that pot is on its way to boiling over.
According to both Keels and Highland assistant coach Aaron Arnold, the athletic defensive end picked up an offer from the Trojans over the season's opening weekend. The first call from USC's Ed Orgeron went to the Highland coaching staff. And when Keels made contact shortly thereafter, things moved quickly.
"They had seen my first game because they were watching the No. 1 defensive tackle in the nation or something on the other team or something, but they ended up watching me," Keels said. "They called my coach, but I didn't think they would actually offer. Schools always say they're close to offering and then never offer. Then I talked to them. Coach Orgeron called and said that they liked me and they wanted me. Then, another guy got on the phone. I think it was Coach Kiffin but I'm not really sure. He said, 'I'm just going to cut to the chase. We want you and you have an offer from us. As of right then, I almost dropped the phone out of shock."
The situation is one that will dramatically alter Keels' recruitment. The 6-foot-4, 280-pound defensive end calls USC a "dream school" and raves about the programs' history. If circumstances were different with his family, he'd already be a Trojan commitment.
"Growing up, I watched them all the time," Keels said. "I've always liked them, especially when Pete Carroll was there. I love the school and love the tradition. I was excited about it. It's really a dream school. It's beautiful."
Keels, whose mother is recovering from a stroke in Wisconsin, says Wisconsin and Illinois are among the local schools that would be of interest should offers materialize. Still, Keels is optimistic about his mother's recovery. And if all goes as planned, USC will be the team to beat.
"I just don't want to go too far if my mom stays sick," Keels said. "If she starts doing good, USC is a school I want to look into. I don't want to rush anything because it's the first game of the season. I don't know how far I can go. It really depends on my mom."
The draw of USC remains strong, though. So while Keels' circumstances prohibited an on-the-spot commitment, the Trojans, at least for now, are major players in Keels' recruitment.
"They are graduating some players at my position and it's really a perfect situation for me," Keels said. "They like my game film. There are some things they want to work with me on, but they said they really love my film."
Keels says he intends to visit USC after the season because he has already made plans to tour Western Kentucky during his bye week. The time between now and then will be spent seeing how things shake out with his mother.
"I just have to see when our schedules line up for when I can get out to USC for the visit," he said.
Keels currently claims a total of six scholarship offers and is likely to receive more as his season progresses.