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Michael CarvellMichael Carvell

Top QB reflects on flipping from Alabama to USC

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5-star QB Ricky Town of Ventura, Calif. (AJC/Michael Carvell)

5-star QB Ricky Town of Ventura, Calif. (AJC/Michael Carvell)

More than two months have passed since Ricky Town, the golden boy from California, caused a rippling effect in recruiting circles from coast to coast after he switched his commitment from Alabama to USC.

The 5-star quarterback with NFL arm strength and body size seemed at peace with his highly-publicized switch while visiting Atlanta recently for a camp.

“It was definitely a tough decision,” said Town, who is rated as the nation’s No. 6 overall prospect for 2015 in the 247sports composite rankings.

“I loved Alabama. I mean, that was my family. Ultimately, I just had to think about it for a while and talk to my family. It came down what my heart said and where I was going to be happy. And that was USC.”

Who will be Alabama's 2015 QB signee? (AP)

Who will be Alabama’s 2015 QB signee? (AP)

The 6-foot-4, 205-pound Town originally committed to Alabama last summer after a lengthy tour of colleges, including a stop at UGA. Things began to unravel with Alabama in early January after offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier left for Michigan.

“He loved Alabama, and he really respected Coach Saban and Coach Nussmeier,” said Town’s father, Rick Town Sr. “And when things changed at Alabama, and USC came after Ricky full force, we got to see a whole new side of USC.

“After Ricky visited USC (in mid-January), he said ‘I’m committing.’ I told him to sit on it, and wait a little bit. He waited on it for a week, and then he woke up that Saturday morning and said ‘I’m committing today.’ He knew it in his heart.”

The next step in the process was delivering the bad news to Nick Saban. Before going public with this decision, the Town family made it a priority to inform Alabama’s coaches.

“I sent Coach Saban an email and said ‘Thank you for everything, but I have to do what’s best for me,’” Ricky said. “I never heard back from Coach Saban. But one of the girls that works in his office, she wrote back and said ‘Best of luck.’”

Said his father, “It wasn’t easy, for sure. Coach Saban is not a guy you can get directly in contact with. But I made sure, and Ricky knew he had to let them know early in the morning if he was going to do something later that day. Obviously, I have a ton of respect for Coach Saban. And with meeting him, he was nothing but respectful toward us. He really showed us that he had a lot of interest. So to break away from that, it wasn’t easy by any stretch of the imagination. But USC has obviously made that transition a lot easier since then.”

Because Town is such a high-profile recruit, his de-commitment ignited negative comments on Twitter from some Alabama fans. But Town doesn’t feel like any hard feelings are lingering. After all, it’s not like he hung out Alabama to dry just before signing day. He de-committed more than a year in advance of next February, giving Alabama ample time to find another QB.

“I think Coach Saban knows what he’s doing, and he’s going to get good players, no matter what,” Ricky said. “They’re getting a great quarterback with (Jacob) Coker. I’m just a high school kid, so I’m sure that he’s moving on.”

Alabama's new offensive coordinator (AP)

Alabama’s new offensive coordinator (AP)

If there’s anything still confusing about Town’s switch, it’s his relationship with Lane Kiffin. There’s all kind of conspiracy theories on message boards. Kiffin was USC’s coach when Town committed to Alabama, and Kiffin was Alabama’s offensive coordinator when Town flipped to USC. It seems like they are running in opposite directions.

“A lot of people ask me if (Kiffin was) the reason I switched to USC,” the younger Town said. “My decision had nothing to do with Lane Kiffin. I’ve talked to Lane Kiffin a lot of times when he was at USC. When he went over to Alabama, he talked to me. I like Lane Kiffin, and I think he’s a cool person.”

Said his father, “You know, Ricky never really spent time with Coach Kiffin when he was at USC. For us, when we went to the school, we didn’t get a lot of interaction with Coach Kiffin himself. The interaction with Coach (Clay) Helton and Coach (Ed) Orgeron was outstanding. But as parents, we didn’t have a lot of involvement. USC was one of the few schools that didn’t involve the parents, per se.

“It didn’t feel like a recruiting process with USC. It felt different. And I don’t think Rick ever really gravitated to it. But I don’t think that was Coach Kiffin. I think that might have been the instability and uncertainty about who was going to be coach. You kind of had that feeling that they weren’t sure (about the future), you know?”

And what about the speculation that Town’s interest in Alabama ended upon Kiffin’s arrival? “We had mutual contact with Coach Kiffin,” Town Sr. said. “He was very cordial on the phone. Just for Ricky, I think it was that USC was coming at him.

“We had built a relationship with Coach (Marques Tuiasosopo) when he was at Washington. He had always asked ‘What are the chances that Ricky comes to Washington?’ I said ‘Honestly, not too good. But if you and Sark end up at USC …’ We both laughed and said ‘You never know.’ And two months later, they were there at USC. That had a lot to do with (the switch) as well.”

Town learned a lot from the experience. What advice would he give to other 2015 recruits on how to handle a flip the right way?

“I think the most important thing is that you have to do what is best for you when it’s the right thing to do,” he said. “It’s your four years that you have to spend at a college. So if you’re going to be unhappy there, it’s not going to be the right place for you. And then when you decide you’re going to switch, you have to do it with confidence. ‘This is what I’m doing and why.’ And get out. Don’t hesitate about it. Be confident with it, and go on your way.”

Even though Town flipped to USC, he still hears from other colleges. But he’s not interested. He’s focused on preparing for his senior year of high school, and trying to recruit other elite prospects to go to USC with him. At the Golden Arm Challenge, Town made an effort to strike up conversations with other camp participants. He also impressed with his work ethic.

“I’m just trying to improve myself,” he said. “Being rated as one of the top quarterbacks, you can’t just be happy with that. You always have to progress and keep working at it. I’m always working to get better.”

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– By Michael Carvell, AJC’s Recruiting Blog

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