Plainsboro South (Princeton Junction, NJ) LB/TE J.B. Fitzgerald may not have been one of the hot names on the on 2008 recruiting trail over the past several weeks, but the buzz about him is now starting to spread. Slowly but surely, college coaches from across the country are catching on to the talent that this Garden State star possesses. The 6-3 220-poounder was a bit of a hidden gem until last season when a position switch opened the eyes of opponents and scouts alike.
"As a team, our season went pretty well," Fitzgerald said. "We made the state tournament for the second year in a row. We started off rough and went 1-2, but the first three games of the season, I was playing defensive end. Then after the third game I moved to linebacker. We went on a little bit of a run after that and finished out the season pretty strong at 7-3."
"My whole high school career, I had been a defensive end," Fitzgerald continued. "I had played a little linebacker in my earlier years and I expect I'll probably play linebacker or tight end in college. The transition to linebacker went pretty well. I really found that it was my natural position. I definitely feel a lot more comfortable playing linebacker than I ever did playing defensive end."
That comfort level was obvious to recruiters judging by the escalation in the attention they've paid him recent weeks. Many of them are still in the evaluation process, but a few have already seen enough.
"So far everything is going pretty well," said Fitzgerald. "I was always getting a lot of mail from Rutgers, but the first school that really showed serious interest was the University of Virginia. I have four offers so far. One from Michigan, plus offers from Virginia, Iowa, and then today I got offered by Wake Forest. None of the schools are really exactly sure where they want me. Most of them are saying linebacker, but they aren't sure which linebacker position."
Michigan assistant Steve Szabo has been the point man in Fitzgerald's recruitment for the Wolverines. The veteran linebackers coach wasted little time determining the talented youngster would be a good fit in the Maize & Blue. An offer followed soon after, and that ultimate sign of interest prompted the Fitzgeralds to visit Ann Arbor for junior day last weekend.
"Michigan started showing interest about two or three weeks ago," Fitzgerald recalled. "A week prior to my visit, I talked to Coach Carr on the phone and he offered me. I decided to go to Michigan's junior day and my dad and I flew in Saturday morning. We went to get some breakfast and I called Coach Szabo to let him know that we were in, and he said to come on over. We went up to his office and talked for a little bit and then he took us over to see Coach Carr. We had a nice little meeting and they basically told me that I'm the kind of guy that they're looking for."
Fitzgerald, who had already been to Rutgers, Virginia, and Notre Dame, was blown away by his trip to the Great Lake State. "It was beautiful," he said. "How can you not like a place like that? They have so much to offer."
As impressed as he was in his time on campus, Fitzgerald wasn't quite ready to call Michigan, or any other school for that matter, his leader. However, the Wolverines have definitely put themselves in a very strong position.
"I can't really say that I have a favorite," Fitzgerald said. "Definitely the schools that have offered are among the top (on his list) just because they've shown the most interest in me. Then it's whatever schools I get on from there. I'm going to give everybody an equal shot because I want to keep all options and all doors open. I'll probably start trimming down my list right around the start of my senior season. I'll be going to two more junior days this weekend. I'll be attending the University of Virginia on Saturday and the University of Maryland on Sunday. Then I'm going to go to the junior day on Rutgers on March 3rd. This summer I'm going to try to hit up as many camps as I can. I'll be going to the schools that offered me first. I'll definitely try to make it to all of their camps. I'm not sure exactly which other ones I'm going to go to yet."
The frequent trips will play a key role in Fitzgerald's decision making process. He wants to be 100% sure that the school he ultimately picks fits a specific list of criteria that he feels will set one program apart form all of the rest.
"I'm going to take a serious look at all of my options this spring, then this summer I'm going to take trips to all the schools…mostly second trips to all of the schools," he said. "I'm going with my gut when I say this, but I'm probably not going to make my decision until after I take some official visits. The most important things to me are three things I've laid out. First I want a school with great academics, then I want a great football program, and finally…the third thing is what I call a feel factor. It's where I'm really feeling the school, really feel like it's the place I've got to be, and I really feel like I fit in there."
GoBlueWolverine will have much more on Fitzgerald in the months to come.