In what was one of USC’s more surprising commitments of the 2017 class, cornerback Je’Quari Godfrey flipped his pledge from the California Golden Bears to the USC Trojans. Godfrey is USC’s second commitment from Bishop O’Dowd High School in Oakland as four-star offensive tackle Alijah Vera-Tucker also hails from the same program. Godfrey is not a highly touted recruit like his teammate Vera-Tucker, but his size and athleticism give him intriguing upside.
Listed at 6’2” 185 lbs., Godfrey has excellent size for a cornerback. Combine that with rare athleticism (his 40 yard dash on Hudl is 4.4 and his vertical is 37 inches) and the Trojans may have just unearthed a true diamond in the rough prospect. Godfrey is rated as only a three-star prospect and the 73rd best cornerback in the nation according to the 247Sports Composite rankings. If defensive backs coach Ronnie Bradford can find a way to tap into Godfrey’s elite size and speed combination, his new commitment could easily blow away his mediocre prospect rating.
From watching Godfrey’s tape, his speed immediately jumps out. As a two way player in high school, he easily beats cornerbacks on deep routes when lined up as a wide receiver. On defense, he shows the ability to keep up with just about any receiver on the outside. A 6’2” cornerback with speed is a rare commodity and the Trojans appear to have found a player who possesses this attribute.
Despite the positives to the Bishop O’Dowd product’s game, USC fans have been far more negative than positive about his commitment. Cal was the only other Pac-12 team to offer Godfrey and without USC’s recent advance, there is a good chance he may have ended up playing in the Mountain West conference if Cal decided to look in another direction before signing day. With multiple highly rated cornerbacks in Southern California deciding to spurn USC, many fans are disappointed that the staff has decided to settle on a prospect with such little popularity among other programs.
This is an understandable complaint for USC fans being that Clay Helton and the staff have as much momentum on the recruiting trail as any team in the nation right now. However, Godfrey could become a legitimate star for the Trojans. Clancy Pendergast loves big cornerbacks and Godfrey fits the mold perfectly. Plus, he is not afraid to play in press coverage and be physical at the line of scrimmage. This fits well in Pendergast’s system where cornerbacks are often tasked with going man to man on the outside in various blitz packages.
Godfrey has not had to rely on technique to be effective at the high school level, but this will obviously need to change in college. His tremendous athleticism is a massive advantage that gives him the ability to be elite, but he needs to work on the fluidity in his hips in order to reach his potential. One area where Godfrey does excel in terms of technique is getting his head around to locate the ball. This is a vital habit to have for cornerbacks as it prevents costly pass interference calls and it is something Godfrey already has.
Godfrey has the physical attributes to be a starter at USC. 6’2” cornerbacks that can run a 4.4 40 yard dash are very rare commodities that usually end up playing on Sundays. It is surely no guarantee that Godfrey will tap into his huge upside, but this potential was simply too much for USC to pass up.
With Iman Marshall entering his junior season and USC having relatively few proven corners on the roster, Godfrey’s playing time outlook is certainly positive. That being said, the Trojans do have Jack Jones, Keyshawn “Pie” Young, Jonathan Lockett, and Isaiah Langley competing for the starting corner spot opposite Marshall in 2017. It is unlikely Godfrey is able to crack that group for playing time as a freshman, but if Marshall declares for the draft after the 2017 season, the depth chart could slowly begin to open for Godfrey.
USC’s decision to take Godfrey is slightly questionable with so many talented prospects looking to come to Southern California, but the young cornerback has the potential to make this decision seem like a stroke of genius down the road. His frame and athleticism scream NFL cornerback, it just depends on whether or not coach Bradford and Godfrey can put in the work to help make the youngster into the dynamic player he could become.