Southern California’s decision to name Clay Helton its permanent head coach has recruiting repercussions well into the Southeast.
Those repercussions will certainly be felt by Tennessee. The Vols had positioned themselves as at least the fallback choice for junior Amari Rodgers, a 4-star receiver from Catholic High School (Knoxville, Tenn.). With newfound stability at Southern Cal, that positioning could be for naught.
“It definitely affects it a lot,” Rodgers stated via text message to SEC Country on Monday when asked about Helton receiving a long-term contract. “It’s a great hire. He deserves it. He’s a great guy that everyone loves and also is a great coach too.”
Rodgers has always maintained he was committed to the Trojans after announcing his decision in June. However, things got shaky when head coach Steve Sarkisian was fired in October. That opened up the possibility that Trojan receivers coach Tee Martin, who is Rodgers’ father, could be coaching elsewhere. Now, with Helton’s contract announced, Martin seems set to stay with Southern Cal.
With countless ties in the Southeast, Martin figures to be an effective recruiter for the Trojans in the foreseeable future. Martin was a standout high school quarterback in Mobile, Ala., before playing at Tennessee, where he helped lead the Vols to a national championship in 1998.
Helton’s contract could also affect two other Trojan commitments: 4-star receiver Josh Imatorbhebhe from North Gwinnett (Suwanee, Ga.) and 3-star receiver Velus Jones from Saraland High (Saraland, Ala.). Both are seniors.
Rodgers said Imatorbhebhe is firmly committed to Southern California. Helton’s contract should only reinforce that. Jones is set to take an official visit to Tennessee this weekend. He has also taken official visits to Michigan and Oklahoma in the past two weeks.
Monday was a busy day for Rodgers, who is rated the No. 37 receiver in the nation and No. 7 prospect in Tennessee in 2017. He was named a Mr. Football award winner for Class 4A during a ceremony in Nissan Stadium, the home of the Tennessee Titans.
“It’s a blessing,” the 5-foot-10, 195-pound Rodgers said. “To be named one of the top players in the state of Tennessee and winning this award. I’ve worked so hard for moments like this. And I’m incredibly grateful for this moment.”