Editor's note: This is the first in a series of 20 leading up to National Signing Day that features top 100 football recruits who have yet to announce their college plans. We're breaking down their finalist and predicting where each will wind up, starting today with Buhach Colony (Atwater, Calif.) defensive tackle Aziz Shittu. Uncommitted: Aziz ShittuHigh school: Buhach Colony (Atwater, Calif.)Position:
6-foot-4, 275 poundsTom Lemming's Top 100: No 41 Finalists (alphabetical):
Cal, Stanford, UCLA, USC
Kevin Swartwood had never coached a Division I football player before. And he didn't know what it exactly looked like until the colors of spring arrived last May.
But there at the Buhach Colony High School spring practice, in north central California, were recruiters donned with the colors of Auburn blue and orange, the orange and white of Tennessee, the gold and blue of Notre Dame, among others.
"There was BYU and Utah too," Swartwood said. "College coaches were everywhere. I wasn't used to it. I didn't know what to expect."
The recruiters showed up in droves to see if one, Aziz Shittu, a 6-foot-4, 275-pound defensive lineman with quick feet, enormous strength, a big brain and a large, vivacious personality to match, was as good as advertised.
More than 20 offers later, Shittu indeed proved that he was one of the top 100 college prospects in the country for the class of 2012.
He's one of 20 from MaxPreps.com's Top 100 national recruits who have yet to make a verbal commitment yet, though Swartwood said Shittu's finalists are (alphabetically) Cal, Stanford, UCLA and USC.
Swartwood has a very strong feeling where he thinks Shittu will pick Feb. 1 – National Signing Day.
"It's between USC and Stanford, but my gut feeling is he's going to go to Stanford," Swartwood said.
Shittu actually committed to Stanford last May, but within a month he re-opened his recruitment.
Unlike most, Shittu actually embraced the recruiting process and all that goes with it - the red-carpet treatment, the incessant interchange between recruiter, potential recruits and college players, and the constant demands of updating friends, family, Facebook, Twitter and reporters about your leanings.
"He's gregarious and he likes meeting new people," Swartwood said. "I would expect him to enjoy this and carry out the recruiting experience all the way to the end."
"He's definitely the life of the party," said Merced Sun staff writer Shawn Jansen. "He's definitely in-tune with the entire recruiting process. He knew what was going on from the start."
So why did Shittu decommit from Stanford in the first place.
"Nobody really knows why," Jansen said. "He won't say. Maybe he just thought he made his decision too soon and he decided to step back and really consider all his options."
Don't get the idea Shittu is flaky in any sense.
Quite the opposite, Swartwood said. His household, filled with mom and dad and a pair of sisters, is spirited, healthy and balanced.
"He has a 3.8 grade point average, is very dedicated to his football craft and his teammates," said Swartwood, who just completed his sixth season as head coach for 12-1 Buhach. "He's enjoyed every minute of the recruiting process. He has a plan for sure."
Shittu earned second-team Medium School All-American honors from MaxPreps after recording 89 tackles and eight sacks. He's the No. 41 senior recruit overall
, according to MaxPreps recruiting expert Tom Lemming.
"He's a premier defensive tackle," Lemming said. "He has enormous strength, quick feet and he plays with an aggressive style."
Here's a look at Shittu's finalists and where we think he'll end up. UCLA (small shot):
With a new coaching lineup, including latest hire Lou Spanos (former Redskins coach) to take over the defense, the Bruins are intriguing and exciting. But they are also risky. USC (small shot):
There's a lot of tradition at USC which attracts Shittu. But it's also a six-hour drive from Atwater. For family reasons, Shittu needs to be closer we think. Cal (still alive):
The Bears were actually the front-runner until master recruiter and defensive line coach Tosh Lupoi
took the same post at Washington Monday. Buhach Colony center Matt Cochran
, Shittu's best friend according to Jansen, is a firm commit to Cal and the duo were going to put Atwater on the map in Berkeley. But according to Smartwood, "(Lupoi) was a huge part of why he wanted to go
there," he said. "We're proud (Cochran) will be going there and he's
definitely set on going to Cal." Stanford (bank on it):
If anyone would know, it would be Smartwood. The combination of it being a top academic school, now a Top 10 football squad, plus being only an hour's drive from Atwater will lead Shittu to The Farm.Final take:
Another top 100 recruit and Cal commit, Freddie Tagaloa
, said Monday that he and others who have pledged to Cal are working on Shittu. You can bet Cochran won't stop either. But ultimately, Shittu will listen to his family and make his own decision. He's a smart, strong, confident lad. Stanford is a sure bet. Bullet proof. Solid on every front. With the departure of Lupoi, Cal reveals a smidge of instability in Shittu's eyes.