Friday night’s match-up between host Bradenton (Fla.) IMG Academy and Paramus (N.J.) Catholic lived up to its billing as one of the biggest games season nationally, with big time coaches from across the country dotting the sideline. One of those coaches was University of Michigan headman Jim Harbaugh. His presence was definitely noticed by IMG standout Isaac Nauta. The nation’s top tight end prospect was fresh off an official visit to Ann Arbor the prior weekend that definitely opened his eyes more to the Maize & Blue.
“I mean I knew I was going to like Michigan, but I didn’t think I was going to like it as much as I did,” Nauta reiterated. “The Big House… that explains itself. 112,000 were at the game and the Michigan degree goes way… way beyond football. It’s definitely a great program.”
While he clearly gained a better appreciation for the big game atmosphere and the strong academic reputation at Michigan, Nauta’s eyes appeared to have opened to one attribute more than any other.
“Really just the tight end use,” Nauta said regarding what impressed him most. “They didn’t really use them (a great deal) in the Michigan State game, but from what I saw in film and what not, some of the stuff they run is just ridiculous. I had to bring it out here and maybe install it here, but just their tight end use.”
“Coach Harbaugh sent me a picture of a four tight end set at one point. It’s something I’ve never seen before. They definitely use their guys and Coach Harbaugh is also proven to use them when he was at Stanford and in the league with Vernon Davis. So he’s a tight end guy and I love that about him.”
He has also taken a liking to the other Harbaugh on staff, his would-be position coach in Ann Arbor Jay Harbaugh.
“Jay is awesome,” said Nauta. “He’s a younger guy so you can relate to him real well but at the same time he’s into what he does and he loves his job and takes it very seriously. You can cut it up with him and be a regular guy but at the same time he’s coaching you up and making you a better player.”
Nauta’s feelings about Michigan have also been undoubtedly helped by his family ties to its staff. His uncle played at Western Michigan when Jack Harbaugh was the head coach and Greg Mattison was an assistant. And furthermore he still has family in Michigan.
A lot of it.
“The bulk of my family is up in Michigan,” he said.
“The biggest thing to me is always has just been being close to some type of family. When you’re far away from home… if there’s someone there in your family you feel comfortable with you can still hang out at the house. (You can) go do something… get dinner, something like that. That’s a huge plus in my opinion. Like I said, the bulk of my family is in Michigan so that definitely helps being away from my direct family.”
His immediate family is still in Georgia. That’s where he spent the majority of his high school career. That has contributed to the speculation that the former Florida State commit is a Bulldog lean. Nauta has heard the rumors and warns fans against believing everything they hear.
“No I wouldn’t say (Georgia is the favorite) at all,” Nauta replied. “People like to make their assumptions and whatnot but I don’t have a leader at this point. I decided I was going to figure it out after all five of my officials and I’ve had two very good officials so that just makes everything a lot harder.”
The Army All-American can’t yet say which school is likely to pick, but he does know the criteria he will use to determine the victor.
“Obviously I like a good education… that speaks way more than football will ever go,” said Nauta. “You’ve got (to have) a good degree to fall back on. I love a good fan base, I’m a guy that feeds off energy and a good crowd. Tight end use and a place where I just feel comfortable.”
And what about style of play?
“I’m definitely a pro-style tight end, but the one interesting thing is with being at IMG, I’ve been more of a spread guy,” he said. “They’ve found more ways to incorporate me and get my hand down and stuff like that. I can definitely see myself in a spread system too.”
Next up on the docket will be visits to two spread teams and one pro-style team before closing in on a decision.
“I’ve got Ole Miss this weekend, then I have Bama vs. LSU at Alabama, and then my final one is TCU vs. Baylor at TCU.”
“I will definitely figure out something after my officials but I’ll officially commit at the Army Game.”