December 2, 2003

Rivers: Leaning pretty heavily to USC

Maybe it was something in the turkey and stuffing, or maybe it was a holiday weekend used for reflection, but the recruiting picture is more developed for Lake Mary, Fla. linebacker Keith Rivers now more than ever.

"I have USC on the December 12. I am not sure yet on a date for OU. I have finals on the 19th, so I won't be going then. I can't go this weekend because they are going to be in Kansas City," Rivers, the nation's top linebacker, said.

"I will most likely make that visit in January."

At one point this fall, the 6-foot-3 215-pound Rivers had tentatively scheduled a visit to Oklahoma on December 12, but now he will be in Southern California instead.

Rivers has always been a USC lean, but the change in his visit itinerary may signal an even heavier lean.

"I am leaning pretty heavily to USC right now," he said. "It is just a great program that I am very comfortable with. I am the most comfortable with their staff, all of them. I like coach Kiffin, coach Carroll, and his son, the tight ends coach. They are all great to talk to, and I feel like I really fit in there."

The comfort with the USC staff is a stark contrast to Rivers' relationship with the Oklahoma staff. While coach Brent Venables and Rivers have a good relationship, the rest of the defensive staff is still in question with the recent departure of co-defensive coordinator Mike Stoops.

"The Mike Stoops situation is crazy," Rivers said.

"I don't really know what to make of it just yet. It is a great situation for Mike. He can get out of his brother's shadow and make a name for himself running his own program. I don't think it will hurt Oklahoma's program very much, but I also don't know what direction they are going."

Rivers got out of the house last Saturday to attend the annual Florida-Florida State grudge match in Gainesville. Rivers said that he couldn't imagine a more heated atmosphere.

"The swamp was just rocking," he said.

"It was a great atmosphere. In terms of pure hate, I can't believe that there is any game more intense than this one. The players really don't like each other. You can see that when they're always getting into fights."

Rivers was as unimpressed with the officiating as he was overwhelmed by Gainesville. Flatly, Rivers will tell you that the officials stole that game for Florida State.

"That was some of the worst officiating I have ever seen," he said. "Florida still should have won the game, but the officials cost them at least 21 points. Those Florida fans were mad."

Rivers is still considering all three schools. While he has admitted to leaning to USC, he once again denied the rumors that he is "silently committed" to USC.

"I don't even know what that means really," Rivers said. "I guess you just tell them that you are coming, but I haven't done anything like that. I am not committed to anyone."



 

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