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(photo by Morgan Genser)

SAMOHI — Chad Wheeler may go from being a Viking to a Trojan.

Santa Monica High School’s Wheeler gave a verbal commitment to USC this week, after previously agreeing to play for Arizona State next season.

The reversal came once USC began showing interest in the towering defensive and offensive lineman. Wheeler had dreams of playing for the Trojans growing up and the offer was just too good to pass up.

Things could change between now and signing day, but Samohi Head Coach Travis Clark is confident that Wheeler will honor the commitment. Wheeler shows skill on either side of the line, but USC is interested in him as an offensive tackle.

“I just want my guys to be happy with what they decide,” Clark said. “But, with USC, you couldn’t do any better.”

Wheeler said that USC just recently entered the recruiting chase. But, once he realized the Trojans were interested, he couldn’t help but give it serious consideration.

“It’s a great opportunity,” Wheeler said after Friday’s win over Palisades. “It’s hard to turn them down.”

Wheeler tallied 38 tackles last season with 5 sacks. This year, he plays nearly every down on both sides of the ball.

Clark considers Wheeler essential on both lines for the Vikings, but believes that his skill set is more geared toward offensive tackle.

“USC is getting a wonderful player and a human being,” Clark said.

If Wheeler does decide to honor the commitment and signs with USC, he’ll begin in the spring semester. He is scheduled to graduate from Samohi after the fall semester, paving the way for him to join the Trojans for spring practice.

An added benefit of adding Wheeler is USC’s scholarship situation. They have a number remaining from the current year that were left behind by players leaving the program following NCAA sanctions. He won’t count against next year’s total, giving the Trojans a larger recruiting class than usual.

“He’s dreamed of this offer for a long time,” Clark said. “I think he’s just happy to get it over with early in the process so he can focus on the season.”

Wheeler isn’t alone in being recruited by major schools.

Senior linebacker Chris Collins has received offers from Nevada, Washington State, the University of Arizona and New Mexico State, Clark said.

Cornerback/wide receiver Dylan Muscat, who has been offered by a number of Ivy League schools, has recently drawn the interest of Idaho and Fresno State. Clark expects interest to grow in a player he describes as versatile.

“It’s been such a luxury to have him here for three years,” Clark said of the three-year varsity starter.

Senior running back Kori Garcia has also drawn the interest of Ivy League schools, but Clark believes that if his starting running back continues to have the same type of production that he’s enjoyed through the first two games of the season, he’s sure to draw interest from other schools.

Garcia has scored five touchdowns this year, four rushing and one receiving.

“He’s special for sure,” Clark said of Garcia. “I’m sure he’ll get some attention.”

daniela@smdp.com

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