The nation’s No. 1 class of 2016 tight end, Naseir Upshur (Imhotep/Philadelphia, Pa.), admitted it’s been difficult to wrap his head around the recruiting game. The 6-foot-3, 235-pound four star has around 35 offers and counting, with suitors new and old in contact with him on a daily basis. Upshur said his Twitter account is filled with messages from college assistants, while he’s personally called a number of them himself when he was allowed to during the contact period.
“It’s so many schools, man,” Upshur said. “So many schools. Sometimes I don’t even know what to think about it all, but it’s a blessing. A lot of people don’t have this kind of opportunity.
“Right now I basically have everybody [offers wise]. The only offers I don’t have are like UCLA and Notre Dame, but I talked to Notre Dame, and their coach said they’re going to offer as soon as I send my transcripts out. So that’ll be another great offer to have.”
Upshur shied away from using the word “leaders” this early in the recruiting process, but he did put out a top 15 list back in December, which included: Ohio State, Michigan State, Miami, South Carolina, Temple, Auburn, Maryland, Florida, Arizona State, Florida State, West Virginia, Rutgers, North Carolina, Penn State and Alabama.
Of those 15, Upshur mentioned that a couple programs are beginning to catch his eye.
“First I was just putting that list out, because those were the schools that I was looking to go to, and their coaches were contacting me the way I wanted to be contacted,” Upshur said. “But my list can change any day. I still have another year to think all this recruiting stuff through. I wouldn’t look too much into that list yet.”
But when pressed a bit about said list, Upshur admitted there were at least two schools that have made some significant inroads.
“Miami and Ohio State have been on me ridiculous. Like every day their coaches write me and stuff,” Upshur said. “I wouldn’t call them leaders yet, but those two are standing out some. I like what their coaches are telling me.
“Like Ohio State, I mean, they’re national champions. A lot of people didn’t think Ohio State would beat Oregon in that game, but they really showed me something. I was excited for [OSU]. I talked to their coach right before the game, and he was all amped up. I was very high on [Ohio State] before that game, but the chance to play for a national champion is a great opportunity.”
Upshur went on to acknowledge a few other universities that have his attention. He specifically pointed to Arizona State, Maryland, Auburn, Michigan State, Rutgers and Florida State, though he once again insisted there’s plenty of time for his recruitment to ebb and flow.
“Auburn has been in there, Rutgers has been in there. Florida, they were a school I was high on until everything happened with the coaches there [being let go]. But they’re back on me now with the new guy [Jim McElwain],” Upshur said. “Maryland is a school I like a lot, and Michigan State, that’s another program I’m high on. I talk to their coaches a lot, and I like them a good bit. And Arizona State, I can’t forget them. They’re one of my favorites too -- one of my standouts. I visited there twice and loved it.”
Although some have surmised Upshur won’t venture too far from his Philadelphia home for college, the Imhotep product said distance isn’t a major factor for him. In fact, he said it would be “kind of cool” to play on the West Coast.
“It’s not like I could come home every day anyway, even if I went to a place like Maryland or Pitt,” Upshur said. “Like, I was talking to my friend David Williams, and he said, ‘It doesn’t matter where you go, because we all come home at the same time for break.’ So that’s kind of my thoughts on that.”
As far as the Terps are concerned, Upshur continues to maintain the nearby school is right in the thick of things for his services. Upshur has held a Maryland offer since last spring, and has visited College Park, Md., several times since then.
Moreover, he has maintained a solid rapport with area recruiter John Dunn, and knows several other staff members, including head coach Randy Edsall, as well. Of course, Upshur’s teammate, receiver D.J. Moore, is a current Terps pledge and has been in the tight end’s ear for months.
“I like the Terps a lot. I came down there in the springtime last year, and they liked me and offered me then. It was a great experience there, and I actually went with D.J. and we got the offer together,” Upshur said. “It was great, and I really liked it there. It’s a nice campus, the coaches are real cool, and I hear they’re doing big things building a new indoor facility and all that.
“And D.J. has been recruiting me to Maryland since even before he committed there. Like ever since he knew he was going to Maryland he’s been pushing the Terps on me. He wants me to stay high on them, and I am high on them.”
Upshur went on talk about his relationship with Dunn, who happens to coach tight ends.
“Coach Dunn, we’re in contact all the time. He’s a cool dude, and he’s pressing for me. He wants me bad, like all the other coaches do,” Upshur said. “He tells me how they need tight ends there, and how I can have an immediate impact there. He tells me how he wants to coach me. So we’ll see; I know I’d have a chance to play right away at Maryland.”
Upshur had a chance to attend Maryland’s game against Michigan State last fall. He also watched a couple other Terps games on TV, including UMD’s road victories against Penn State and Michigan.
“I went to the Michigan State game, and that was a good game to go to because I like both those schools. I thought it was a great atmosphere. I didn’t know Maryland could pack [the stadium] like that, so it was great to see,” Upshur said. “But I think their season went OK overall. They did good, but I think they could’ve done a little better. There were some games I think they could’ve done better in. But I think they have a good future in the Big Ten, and they showed they could compete in that conference this year, just beating teams like Michigan and Penn State.”
One factor that could potentially play in Maryland’s favor (and South Carolina’s as well) is Upshur’s relationship with a couple elite area quarterbacks. He said he talks to Council Rock North (Newtown, Pa.) dual-threat Brandon McIlwain and Bullis (Potomac, Md.) gunslinger Dwayne Haskins “all the time.” McIlwain committed to South Carolina Dec. 31, while Haskins is high on the Terps, along with Notre Dame and Ohio State.
“I actually do look at [programs’] quarterbacks,” Upshur said. “Like McIlwain, we talked a lot last summer, and he was like, ‘Look, we’ve gotta play together.’ He wants me there with him, so I’ll be looking at [the Gamecocks]. And another one is Dwayne Haskins -- we talk a lot too. I know some of the schools he’s high on, and I’ll definitely be looking at some of those places. He wants me with him too.”
This offseason, the Imhotep product said he’s trying to visit Miami and Ohio State “in the next four weeks.” He hasn’t thought about other potential trips beyond those two, however.
“I don’t want to do any junior days. I want to go on some visits where it’s just me, and I want to learn about the school by myself. Like, if you think about going to school, I don’t want to be in a class where it’s 50 students, I want to be in a class where it’s 13 students so I can really learn on a one-on-one basis,” Upshur said. “That’ll make it easier for me to make my decision. So I’ll set up some personal visits this offseason to some of my main schools.”
Upshur said he has no timetable for making a decision, although he acknowledged education, early playing time, and comfort level on campus and with the staff are the foremost factors he’s considering.
“I don’t know right now; I haven’t thought too much about that,” Upshur said of a potential decision timeframe. “I don’t see myself saying, ‘Hey, let’s just get this over with before my senior year just so I can be done with it.’ I don’t see myself just committing somewhere out of the blue. But, honestly, I don’t have a date in mind yet.”
This winter, Upshur said he’s been doing two workouts a day, one at 8 a.m. before school and another in the evening. He said he has a personal trainer who pushes him in the weight room, while he works on his football techniques on his own time. Upshur also goes to another trainer every Sunday to hone his footwork and to catch passes from several other area recruits who work out with him.
The Imhotep prospect is coming off a season where he recorded 22 catches for about 600 yards and eight touchdowns. He also scored three defensive touchdowns when lined up at defensive end.
“I think I had a pretty good year. I had a lot of touchdowns, like eight on offense and three on defense,” Upshur said. “I think I did real well this year at tight end, just with my route running, getting open, catching the ball, and my blocking too. I’m still working on getting faster and stronger, but I think I did good this year.”
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