Damarkus Lodge is arguably the top 2015 prospect in Texas but doesn't appear intent on staying in the Lone Star State during his college career. The 5-star wide receiver told 247Sports reporter Ryan Bartow he views three options to the east as preferred destinations.
Lodge named Ole Miss, LSU and Clemson as favorites, leaving in-state institutions to fight an uphill battle for his services.
Texas and Baylor offered the Cedar Hill High School standout last April, during the final stretch of his sophomore year. Texas A&M and Texas Tech followed with scholarships in May.
The 6'2.5", 190-pound playmaker is one of the hottest commodities of his class. Lodge is listed as the nation's No. 1 receiver in 247Sports' composite rankings after a dominant junior season.
He helped lead Cedar Hill to a state championship, electrifying the offensive attack with big-play ability. Lodge caught 72 passes for 1,255 yards and 22 touchdowns in 16 games.
His wide range of skills has warranted understandable national interest. Lodge carries offers from dozens of programs, including Alabama, Cal, Ohio State, Oklahoma and Florida.
He identified LSU as his clear favorite at this stage, citing the program's success rate at his position as an alluring element.
"They are putting out great receivers," Lodge told 247Sports. "LSU is looking pretty good with me right now. ... They need some deep receivers like myself to come in and do good things.”
Lodge plans to take advantage of multiple official visits later this year, so it's probably safe to pencil him in for a trip to Baton Rouge. The Tigers extended an offer in February and have already made up enough ground in the race to be considered a front-runner.
SEC rival Ole Miss is also strongly in the mix.
Lodge, who lived in Mississippi through middle school, appreciates the proximity to his old stomping grounds and is greatly enthused by the Rebels passing game.
"I think they are going to dominate the SEC," he told 247Sports. "Especially (wide receivers) Quincy Adeboyejo and Laquon Treadwell. I’m picking them to win it.”
Adeboyejo is a 2013 Cedar Hill graduate. He didn't receive as much notoriety during his recruitment process as a 3-star prospect but saw the field in Oxford last fall as a true freshman.
Lodge told 247Sports he plans to spent time at Ole Miss this summer. He is also set to attend the team's Oct. 4 matchup against Alabama, representing the only concrete plans of his official visit slate, per the report.
Lodge hasn't traveled to Clemson yet, but the Tigers are still in his top three. The team has established an outstanding track record at receiver under head coach Dabo Swinney, producing first-round NFL talents in consecutive drafts.
The Houston Texans selected former Clemson star DeAndre Hopkins with the 27th overall pick in 2013. Orange Bowl MVP Sammy Watkins is the consensus No. 1 receiver this year.
Their success undoubtedly helped put the Tigers in position to round out Lodge's list.
“If LSU is one, who would be two and three?" Lodge said. “I’d have to say Ole Miss two and Clemson three.”
Although Lodge's top three choices are sensible opportunities for any premier pass target, the glaring lack of a Texas team in his favored group is certainly a surprising development.
247Sports' Crystal Ball lists Baylor as a heavy favorite, with Texas and Texas A&M as the next likely contenders. He attended an Aggies junior day in February and remains a top offensive target for Charlie Strong's new regime in Austin after Mack Brown laid the groundwork for his recruitment.
An early commitment from Lodge appears unlikely, so there's still time for an in-state program to push its way to the top of his pack before a decision is made. For now, news of this freshly revealed surprise trio of favorites will resonate quite differently at LSU, Clemson and Ole Miss.
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