5-star QB Julian Lewis remains bound to USC amid high-profile decommitments

MANHATTAN BEACH — As Julian Lewis’ father T.C. stood on the sidelines for the Elite 11 Finals on Thursday afternoon at Mira Costa High, watching his son prepare to compete in a showcase with some of the best quarterbacks in the nation, his phone buzzed.

Ingrained in the middle of a conversation about Lewis’ future, college football fanbases hanging on every step of the USC commit’s recruitment, T.C. answered. It was the father of Shamar Arnoux, a 2025 cornerback and USC target who plays with Lewis at Georgia’s Carrollton High. Arnoux, his father told T.C., had just met with Trojans head coach Lincoln Riley the past morning.

T.C. nodded, listening.

“It’s special, man,” T.C. told him. “I told you, it’s special.”

In the past week, in the midst of a clear program shift toward recruiting big-time defensive talent from the South, two highly touted 2025 defensive line commits – Isaiah Gibson and Justus Terry – decommitted from USC. It set fire to the college recruiting world, a major blow for a program trying to build in the defensive trenches, USC defensive line coach Shaun Nua firing off a public tweet speaking of “the quest for finding the BEST TROJANS.”

Lewis’ father reacted to it all with hardly more than a shrug.

“I mean, Shemar, our corner, was here yesterday – Jahkeem was here the day before,” T.C. said, speaking of Jahkeem Stewart, a top-ranked 2026 defensive lineman who had visited USC in the past week. “I mean, we spent time with both of them. We’re just trying to help build it up, you know.”

“Get Jahkeem reclassified in 2025, you’re not worried about the guys you just lost,” Lewis’ father continued. “Just play ball, man.”

As Lewis has continued along a slew of official visits after committing to USC last summer, since reclassifying himself from 2026 to 2025 in January, the recruiting world has attacked any seeming shakiness in the five-star QB’s pledge to USC. The decommitments of Gibson and Terry were the latest inflection point, fueling further chatter Lewis could jump off the wagon himself. And the ramifications of Lewis dropping USC would be considerable, the clear future of the Trojans at quarterback, a kid who threw 48 touchdown passes during his freshman year in high school.

Through it all, though, Lewis has remained expressively bound to USC, with father T.C. emphasizing his relationship with Riley, his faith in the program’s defensive direction – and that continued visits have simply been a way to learn more about his college options beyond football.

“A lot of this has just been, like, exploration of him as a human being besides being, like, the quarterback,” T.C. told the Southern California News Group.

But there’s a deeper reason, too, that Lewis has continued to take visits, one T.C. isn’t shy to explain. The strength of Lewis’ commitment, T.C. said, is founded on current stability within the program. If Riley wasn’t at USC, Lewis’ father affirmed, his son wouldn’t be committed. And T.C. has explained to Riley that at any given moment, say, Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones could call him and ask him if he would coach the Cowboys.

The official visits, then, are a contingency plan, an effort to build relationships in the event that winds of change blow around USC. That’s a concept, too, that applies beyond Riley. NIL is playing a part in Lewis’ decision-making, a source with knowledge of the situation told the Southern California News Group.

“Julian is committed to SC as long as they do what they said they were going to do,” the source told the SCNG.

And USC, T.C. said, has never expressed concern directly to him that Lewis would decommit, or asked the family to stop going on other visits. A two-way trust has developed since Riley first asked Lewis to reclassify following his freshman year at Carrollton. The timeline, now, has accelerated rapidly, with Lewis now facing the prospect of signing early in a few short months not long after he turns 17.

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He more than held his own at the Elite 11, winning the competition’s Pro Day by showcasing quick processing ability and pinpoint accuracy while competing against a field largely a year or two older. But the MVP award went to Alabama commit Keelon Russell, and after competitors straggled out with their families Thursday afternoon, Lewis remained on a metal bench off to the side of the field. Alone. Headphones, near the size of an air traffic controller’s, shielded his ears.

That night, he posted a picture of a lion on Twitter. It had no other context. Quickly, the comments mounted, a host of Auburn fans evidently hoping it was some sort of reference to the Tigers.

“There’s a lot of people that have all the ideas in the world as to what he should do, how he should do it, why should he be doing it to this point versus that,” said Jake Heaps, the Elite 11 Finals’ head coach.

“And the honest truth is, he doesn’t have to be loyal to anybody at this point.”

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