RECRUITING

Former Notre Dame RB commit Markese Stepp finds new home at USC

Tyler James
South Bend Tribune

Markese Stepp didn’t need too long to find a new home after parting ways with Notre Dame.

Fifteen days after announcing he was no longer committed to the Irish, the four-star running back recruit announced Sunday a new commitment to USC. Stepp said he plans to sign with the Trojans later this week.

Stepp has long-established ties to USC through running backs coach Deland McCullough, who played at Miami (Ohio) with Stepp’s father. A weekend visit to Los Angeles led Stepp to solidifying his future with the Trojans.

“Even though that was my first time visiting, it felt like I had been down there four or five times,” Stepp said. “The coaches are really down to earth. Coach McCullough, I believe he's the best running backs coach in the country. He's going to get me where I want to be.”

Where Stepp had wanted to be for so long was Notre Dame. The 6-foot, 210-pound senior at Indianapolis Cathedral had been committed to the Irish for nearly 18 months. Then came the news on Dec. 2 that he was reopening his recruitment.

Stepp declined to specify why he left Notre Dame’s recruiting class, but he described the result as a mutual decision.

“It was just time for us to part ways,” Stepp said.

Despite his previous commitment to the Irish, Stepp said he had no hesitation about committing to the rival Trojans and playing against Notre Dame in the future.

“Nothing against Notre Dame. It was just motivating,” Stepp said. “Why not play against them? That game obviously is going to be highly anticipated. It's going to be magnified just because of that.

“It's going to be a great atmosphere. I love all those cats over there. Great people, great guys, great coaches, great program. I love all of them, but it's going to be a fun game to play in."

Playing football hasn’t been a lot of fun for Stepp in his last two seasons. Hamstring issues have limited his playing time. As a junior, he played in only three games. He was injured on his first run of the season, a 46-yard touchdown run, and missed the next nine games. He finished the year with five carries for 81 yards and four touchdowns.

This past season, Stepp played in 10 of Cathedral’s 13 games but didn’t carry a full workload in many of them. He totaled 975 rushing yards and 17 touchdowns on 124 carries.

“I haven't had the feeling of really playing full speed since like my sophomore year really,” Stepp said. “Even the big games I had, I still wasn't 100 percent healthy. I was just kind of fighting through it. Once I get back to where I originally was, I can't wait.”

The injuries didn’t slow down schools from recruiting him after he left Notre Dame’s class. In two weeks, he heard from USC, Indiana, Iowa, Louisville, Purdue, Alabama, Tennessee, LSU and Nebraska.

Stepp understands that choosing the path to USC will sit wrong with some Notre Dame fans, and he’s already seen as much on his Twitter account. But Twitter has also been a source of support especially from several of Notre Dame’s commits.

"I didn't expect anything else but that because they're like my brothers,” Stepp said. “They're like my family. I didn't expect them to bash me or any of that stuff. I knew they had my back. That's what brothers do."

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Markese Stepp runs drills during Irish Invasion Saturday, June 10, 2017, inside Notre Dame Stadium in South Bend. Tribune Photo/ROBERT FRANKLIN