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For weeks it seemed Kennedy Catholic High School (Washington) offensive lineman Micah Banuelos was likely to choose the Oregon Ducks.

The 6-foot-3, 290-pound Under Armour All-American selection was widely projected to pick Dan Lanning's program and was filmed wearing Oregon gloves at the Northwest Showcase in early June. 

But that proved not to be the case Monday, as Banuelos announced his commitment to USC over Oregon and fellow finalist Texas A&M.

The reason?

Banuelos said conference realignment played a major role in USC's late surge.

"SC is the move. The Big Ten is different," he said. "For SC to come out of nowhere to join the Big Ten. It shows they have a lot in store for the program."

Asked if he would've chosen Oregon if the Ducks were invited to the budding super conference, the Washington product didn't hesitate. 

"To be honest, I feel like It would've been more of a challenge for me,  but because SC did that so fast..." Banuelos paused. "Oregon didn't really have a chance to join the Big Ten according to all of the people I've talked to, many of the coaches. Who knows? Things might change, but right now I know where I want to go." 

In terms of USC's program, Banuelos has been impressed by how quickly Lincoln Riley has turned the Trojans into a Pac-12 - and possibly national - contender.

"Man, USC... I love USC," he said. "Something that they bring to the table is Lincoln Riley. I feel like he knows how to lead a program. The amount of players that he brought out of the transfer portal to rebuild the culture, it was a smart move. It was a smart thing to do. I felt the family vibes and coach (John) Henson and coach (Zach) Crabtree, those are my guys, man. They are like friends to me, but they know how to coach, too." 

Banuelos, who is rated the nation's No. 13 interior offensive lineman, is taking extra classes this summer in the hopes of enrolling early.

USC's 2023 recruiting class is ranked No. 13 nationally, and is led by five-star quarterback Malachi Nelson and five-star wide receiver Zachariah Branch. 

Banuelos is the second offensive lineman in USC's class, joining Ventura High School (California) three-star offensive lineman Tobias Raymond. 

Junior season highlights