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July 10, 2012

Rodgers: 'I'm down to Auburn and USC'

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The nation's No. 1 offensive guard prospect has narrowed his schools of interest to two, USC and Auburn. Eastern Christian Academy (Md.)'s Khaliel Rodgers, a Rivals100 player, breaks down the latest.

"I'm down to Auburn and USC," Rodgers said. "Nobody is leading, they are 50/50. I've been to each school two times, I have a great relationship with all the coaches. I may be committing this week, I may commit next month."

Rodgers is being recruited to Auburn by linebackers coach Tommy Thigpen and offensive line coach Jeff Grimes, as well as USC defensive coordinator Ed Orgeron and offensive line coach James Cregg.

Rodgers and his family met with his high school coach on Monday, discussing the pros and cons of each situation. He feels confident he possesses all the information needed to make the right decision.

"I'm definitely in a great position, two of the top programs in the nation. They are both top notch in academics and football, great head coaches. The only real differences is distance, and Auburn has that over USC. But that's for my family, I don't care about distance. With that said, USC is still a great school. I pray about it all the time," Rodgers said.

"They both have great traditions. Their rivalries are great. I've yet to be at the Auburn-Alabama game, but watching '30 for 30', it's crazy. I've been to the USC-UCLA game, that's a great rivalry. It's the people down at Auburn, everybody knows each other. USC, you can't go to Los Angeles and find a USC hater, they are all about that school."

Rodgers talks about the similarities and differences in the two programs, similarities first.

"Auburn is definitely back to competing for national titles. They will probably have one more year to go, and USC is just getting back to the point where they are back as national title contenders. They are both far from home," Rodgers said.

And differences?

"Well, Auburn is in the SEC. They've owned college football for six years now, and Auburn just won a national title. I believe USC did too, little further back," said Rodgers. "But they can be very different. They have different styles, the competition may be different in SEC vs. Pac-12.

"USC is in a big city, where Auburn is in a small town. Coming from Delaware, I'm a city-boy, but I loved going to the country in Virginia with my grandpa, so I am good with either one. It kind of is an advantage for Auburn because I did grow up in the country, and where Auburn is, you really don't have any distractions. I'm mature enough to not have distractions even at USC though, I'm focused on football."

A key dynamic in Rodgers recruitment has been the fact that two of his Eastern Christian Academy teammates are committed to USC and Auburn. Kenny Bigelow is pledged to the Trojans, while Jahmere Irvin-Sills is pledged to the Tigers. Rodgers is adamant that their commitments are not the sole reason for his interest in the two schools.

"No way," Rodgers said. "Both schools have great tradition, I might want to play in the SEC against harder competition, so I'd like to go to Auburn. But then again, I'd like to go out west and play, USC is one of the top programs out there. But no way am I choosing those two schools because of Kenny and Jahmere."

Rodgers last visited Auburn on June 8-10. Unfortunately, that was the same weekend the tragic shootings took place in Auburn, claiming the lives of two former football players. Rodgers had a unique experience, as he witnessed the heartbreak of the Auburn team first hand. That experience grew him closer to the Tigers' players.

"I think I have a closer bond with Auburn, because I've been in a situation with them already," said Rodgers. "I've been with them at the scene of the shooting. I've seen players crying, but they stuck together. I've been to USC, but I feel like I have a closer bond with Auburn."

Two future Auburn players Rodgers has come to know are five-star commits Carl Lawson and Dee Liner. Rodgers had some epic battles against both at the Rivals100 Five-Star Challenge in Atlanta.

"Those are some funny, funny guys. They are cool people, I love Dee and Carl," Rodgers said. "They didn't really push me the first day at the Challenge, but they talked about Auburn a lot. They want me to commit. I talk to Dee all the time."

For now, it appears to be a waiting game for Rodgers. He maintains he could commit tomorrow, he could commit in a month.

"If it's tomorrow, then it's tomorrow. If it's next month, then it's next month. If I wake up and it's on my mind to commit, then I'll do it," Rodgers said. "I've done my research on both schools, I have the information I need. When I commit, I will be 100 percent committed."



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