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USC Football Recruiting

THE LATEST: Top Priority USC RB Target Jovantae Barnes

April 7, 2021

Early on in the 2022 recruiting cycle is became clear elite 4-Star Las Vegas Desert Pines RB Jovantae Barnes‍ was one of the clear, if not the clear, top priority running back targets for USC. 

His impressive combination of the size, speed and football smarts isn’t something you find in many backs on the West Coast. But Barnes’s talent also has the attention of Lincoln Riley from Oklahoma, Manny Diaz from Miami, Dan Mullen at Florida and several other coaches from elite football programs.

Barnes has also vastly improved his pass catching and blocking skills the past 16 months and became one of the most complete backs in 2022. Not only have the above mentioned programs targeted Barnes as a top target at running back, he’s arguably the top back on the board at 20+ programs.

Becoming the No. 1 target at any position isn’t simply the end result of being extremely talented, it happens when an athelete posesses unique talent and the other intangibles like work ethic, their academic standing and the type of overall person these student athletes are. Barnes is the total package and will be a coaches dream on and off the field when he arrives on campus next year.

USC SCOOP spent a good hour with Barnes last week to get THE LATEST with his interest in USC, his visit plans this Spring/Summer, other schools standing out and much more.


JOVANTAE BARNES Q&A With Scott Schrader

SS: Any plans for official visits?

JB: Nothing official yet, but I’ve been talking with Coach Jinks and Coach Helton about getting something set up. I’m going to take some June visits. June 19th, OU. I just talked to LSU about setting up a date. I know I’m going to Bama too, Florida. We’re going around the world.

SS: Are you gonna do some unofficials?

JB: Yeah, because I’m one of these players in ‘22 that couldn’t take visits cause of COVID.

SS: What have the conversations been with USC and you?

JB: Jinks and DeMarco Murray kind of say the same thing. They say I’m the number one back on their list. Jinks has been making me believe it for sure. You can tell he’s serious and he shows me the plays where he helps them out. Michael Jackson tells me that I can come in and do something my freshman year. I like what he’s saying, he’s making a point that most of the running backs they’re picking up are seniors.

SS: USC struggled running the ball last year, yet Brandon Campbell and Keontay Ingram signed. So Jinks and others must have done a good job telling you that’s not going to be the case this year. What are some of the reasons they say the running game will be better?

JB: They say it’s very rare to find a back like me. I’m a Junior RB that runs a 4.4 40. Him talking about me going in there and changing the program to make it more of a running offense. He says that me going in there is going to change the program. He’s saying they’re picking up running backs just because they need them but they’re doing the thing where they’re putting their all into me.

SS: What else is going on at USC? What do they offer as a school?

JB: It’s a great education. That’s #1 on my list. Having a good relationship with Coach Helton, we’re close. He’s the first person I talked to and Coach Jinks was saying I’m one of the first running backs he actually is going to bring in. Coach Helton is more about family than anything. He lets it be known that they need me and I’m on their mind. But at the same time, he’s a family guy for sure.

SS: How helpful has the feedback from Michael Jackson been?

JB: Me and Mike are like brothers. He’s gonna keep it 100 with me and not beat around the bush. He’s saying the same things Jinks is saying and that I can come in and change the program, get an education, and play my freshman year.  That’s like blood to me and I’m going to listen to him for sure. 

SS: I saw you last year, and you had a good visit. What did you see at USC?

JB: Family bond, great campus, great field. Coaches full of energy, players coming up to me. It’s really important to build a connection before you get on campus and that’s one thing that’s great about SC.

SS: Since the addition of the defensive staff, they’ve really picked up recruiting. Do you pay attention to who they’re bringing in?

JB: I talk to Domani Jackson, Zion Branch. Zion doesn’t know where he’s going yet but that’s like a brother to me and we basically grew up together. USC has a big pick-up with Vegas people. If you look at people’s top lists out here, there’s usually USC. It’s a lot like they say, it’s a family bond. A lot of times as a top recruit, when you get calls every day, a lot of times you don’t even feel like getting on the phone. But when it’s SC, I already know I’m going to enjoy this call because it’s going to be something different every day. 

SS: Is it overwhelming in that regard for you?

JB: I wouldn’t say so. This is what I want to do for the rest of my life and I have a business approach. It’s more so I want you to prove your point in person than say it on the phone. In-person is a must.

SS: Does USC want you to take your official in June?

JB: Yeah we were just talking about that. Jinks or Helton were saying they want me to come on June 5th.  I’m not sure yet, I kind of want to take colleges I haven’t been to yet and then go from there. It’ll probably be unofficials first then officials.

SS: What are some schools you want to visit?

JB: LSU, Alabama, Florida, Florida St. OU, Texas, SC, I could keep ongoing.

SS: Tell me about Oklahoma?

JB: It’s the same feeling with SC. Coach Riley and I have a strong bond, Coach DeMarco went through what I went through. He played at Bishop Gorman and went to OU. He tells me he can build me as a better player. 

SS: Does it matter Raleek Brown is committed there?

JB: I wouldn’t say it matters to me, the only person I’m worried about is me. I’m focused on where I want to be, I’m gonna choose wherever I want to go. In college, it’s always going to be a battle and I’m willing to go fight for it. 

SS: Ultimately what’s most important to you?

JB: No.1 goes where I feel like family. I don’t want to just go somewhere just because of great football but somewhere I have a great connection. For the next 3-4 years, I want to be somewhere my mom and I are comfortable. She feels comfortable with SC, DeMarco Murray, the Miami coach. 

SS: Why is FSU in the mix?

JB: I’m actually from Orlando. Just talking to those Florida coaches from schools like Florida and UCF is like a different feeling.

SS: Are there some schools that are standing out to you?

JB: I’ll be dropping my top schools on June 24th.

SS: Tell me about Miami?

JB: Coach Hickson is a family guy, every time I get on the phone is something different with him. He knows me from Orlando, we’ve been to Miami before, he talks about being from the hometown. My uncle actually went to Miami.

SS: How important is D Hill to this recruiting process?

JB: He’s a great help. He knows what he’s doing and he’s a brother to me. I can ask him questions and he told me to wait to take visits before dropping a top school list. 

SS: Are you gonna play with Phase One?

JB: Yes.

SS: Three reasons why USC would be the school?

JB: Family, education, and a great opportunity. I want to see what their backs do and they’re known for sending backs to the league. I feel like if I went to USC, I could go to the league.

SS: How much do schools talk to you about NIL?

JB: Not much yet, to be honest with you.

SS: How good is Desert Pines going to be this year?

JB: Fantastic, there’s a lot of new talent. We have Jett Solomon, just committed to Utah State. Our offensive line is looking amazing. We have DeAndre Moore of course. Some freshman corners are going to be amazing as well.

SS: We never hear anything about DeAndre, is he going on these trips with you? How many offers do you have?

JB: Yeah, I’m like a brother to him and we tried to do things together. Me and DeAndre, we started playing football together freshman year 7-on-7. I have around 33 offers.


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