Five-Star Phoenix (AZ) Wide Receiver Duce Robinson was one of Lincoln Riley’s priority targets well before he got to USC. In fact, a few years ago Oklahoma was where Robinson thought he’d end up playing college football.
“At one time I was committed to Oklahoma,” Robinson said on Sunday in Mission Viejo (CA). “I hadn’t actually told anyone I was committed, but in my head I was going to Oklahoma to play for Coach Riley.”
A year ago, most of us covering high school recruiting believed USC would be Robinson’s choice. It was a matter of when, not if. None of us knew about his preference for the Sooners a few years back, so that wasn’t the reason. At least it wasn’t for me. My belief was was based solely off how he spoke about USC after each visit. A few USC sources also felt good about the Trojans’s chances.
His relationship with Malachi Nelson, Makai Lemon, Zach Branch and Lincoln Riley were also all a vital component to Robinson’s interest. His relationship with USC OT and Pinnacle teammate Elijah Paige was also very significant for me.
Last May I thought Paige was a lock for USC, but a June Notre Dame official visit briefly changed that. Paige committed to the Irish after that visit, but ultimately flipped his commitment and signed with the Trojans last December.
If there was a predication for Robinson submitted last Spring or Summer by On3, 247 or Rivals, it was for the Trojans. Although an early commitment was expected from Robinson at one time, he’d never said that was his plan. Robinson told me on Sunday he never wavered from his plan was to take several visits and do his due diligence.
Robinson’s father, Dominic Robinson, went thru the recruiting process himself in 2000 as a 5-Star WR prospect from Diamond Bar HS. He signed with Florida St. and played for Bobby Bowden from 2001-2004. So, Duce was getting informed advice on the recruiting process from the beginning.
Robinson’s Official Visits
The first official visit Robinson took was USC last June 16-19. He was a part of a massive recruiting visit weekend orchestrated by Annie Hanson and her impressive staff. There were 25 visitors that weekend and the Trojans ended up signing 14.
“It was a great weekend. We really couldn’t have taken about 20 of those guys, so I feel like we really batted a higher percentage than we did. You get these guys together and they begin to see the possibilities out here. Not only for themselves, but together. It was a very special weekend.”
Three months passed before Robinson took his second official visit to Georgia on Sept. 23. He then visited Alabama on Oct. 7 and Texas on Nov. 11. Oregon was under consideration for an official visit at one time, but Robinson never took visited Eugene.
No USC Visit After June 19
Despite Robinson planning to visit USC at some point during the season, he never made it back on campus until a January workout with L.A. Dodgers in January. It was a recruiting “Dead Period”, so he couldn’t meet with USC staff at that time. At that point, the buzz about Georgia being the school to beat had gotten fairly loud.
2023 Poly Bowl
Robinson arrived on Oahu for the 2023 Poly Bowl a day or so after most of the players. His L.A. Dodgers workout didn’t permit him to register when most of the players did. But he made it to practice No. 2 at Kahuku HS. We were there to greet him with Zachariah Branch.
A lot of buzz was created the week of the Poly Bowl and there was a sense maybe the Trojans had some momentum heading into February. Prior to February 1, Lincoln Riley had his in-home visit with Robinson and his family. The Robinson’s were so exhausted from the whirlwind schedule they’d had in January, they were dreading the in-home visits from Kirby Smart and Riley.
“We had so much respect for all of the coaches, but we really didn’t want to host anybody in our home,” Coach Dominic Robinson. said. “We just wanted to decompress and catch our breath.”
Smart had the visit before Riley and Riley had the final in-home visit with the Robinson’s. Despite the vibe the Trojans had perhaps gained some momentum leading up to Riley’s visit, that wasn’t the case.
“It definitely was not going to be USC for Duce before Riley came into our home,” Coach Robinson said. “It was the bottom of the ninth and USC was down 3-0. Lincoln Riley came into our home and with the bases loaded, hit a walk of grand slam.
The Lincoln Riley In-Home Visit
“The thing that really swung it wasn’t necessarily anything he specifically said or his presentation, which was all incredible, but he connected with Duce on a level no other coach had. They always had that connection, but what Duce realized in that moment, was Coach Riley saw Duce as Duce sees himself.
“We weren’t sure what Duce was thinking during the visit, but I was thinking and my wife was thinking……wow, this guy (Riley) is killing it. I actually had to leave to go to a football coaches meeting and my wife texted me, ‘Wow.’ She had been talking to Duce. That meeting made Duce realize that it had always been about Coach Riley with his interest with OU and USC.
“We’re obviously so thankful we had the visit, because Duce may have missed out on one of the most impactful moments in his life. He will remember that moment for a very long time.”
*** I should add that Walker Lyons’s mother, Kamee Lyons, told me a month ago that their in-home visit with Lincoln Riley was also the difference maker. Walker was headed to Georgia prior to Riley’s visit.
Visit Impact on Duce
“Coach Riley is a great person and I always knew that, but there’s always stuff he has to do as a head coach and his schedule is hectic,” said Robinson. “The in-home visit was a great opportunity to just sit down with him with no real time limit. He came prepared for the visit, his presentation was fantastic, he had all the right facts and they know what they’re doing. He’s just a person you want to play for.
” Coach Riley stepped up to the plate and came up clutch.”
Tight End or Wide Receiver?
With every network evaluating and ranking Robinson as a tight end, to was difficult to convey the message to USC fans that Riley wasn’t recruiting him as a tight end. Riley’s plans for Robinson at USC were as a wide receiver in his offense. Riley’s plans for Robinson ended up mattering far more than anyone realized, except Robinson and his family.
“Duce has a wide receiver mentality,” Coach Robinson said. “If you watch his film, it’s six minutes of Duce playing wide receiver and making plays other receivers don’t make. So, that’s what Coach Riley sees and that resonated with Duce for sure.”
Riley’s QB History is Unmatched
The quarterbacks to play under Riley are as follows: Baker Mayfield (2017), Kyler Murray (2018), Jalen Hurts (2019), Spencer Rattler (2020-21) and Caleb Williams(2021-22). He’s had an all-conference or better starting QB every year as a head football coach. Let’s not forget to mention he’s also had four Heisman Trophy winners.
“It’s huge to know you’ll have an elite QB at USC no matter what the circumstances are,” Robinson said. “You ned a quarterback you can trust and have a great relationship with. I’ll be playing with Caleb (Williams) the first year. He’s the Heisman winner and that speaks for itself. I’ve got a great relationship with Malachi (Nelson) and he’s a great quarterback. Then there’s another fantastic quarterback in Miller Moss.
“You want a quarterback who can get you the ball and can be leaders. Coach Riley will always have that no mater where he goes.”
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