Issaka Names A Leader

Woodbridge (N.J.) High defensive end Max Issaka, a former Pittsburgh commit, visited North Carolina over the weekend and had Rutgers coach Greg Schiano in for a home visit Monday. He also has a trip set to Rutgers for this weekend while trying to schedule another for next weekend. Through it all, Issaka also has a leader, and he revealed which school sits atop his list, and why.

The twisting and turning in the recruitment of Woodbridge (N.J.) High's Max Issaka continued early this week when Rutgers re-connected with the defensive end.

Rutgers coach Greg Schiano had an in-home visit with Issaka and his family on Monday, and while the Scarlet Knights are a player in his recruitment, the 6-foot-2, 236-pounder is listing another school as his leader after a weekend official visit to the school.

"My leader would be North Carolina," said Issaka, who recently picked up an offer from the Tar Heels. "Everything seems like it just fell in place there. From Day One, they've been following me.

"They said they weren't quick to jump and offer me because they didn't know if I was going to go to a different school, which is true because I went to Pitt. They were constantly on me."

Issaka's recruitment gained steam in the last two weeks after he de-committed from Pittsburgh in the wake of the coaching upheaval with the Panthers.

During his in-home with Schiano, Issaka was able to get answers as to how much Rutgers values him. Contact between the two sides halted after his August commitment to Pittsburgh, and didn't begin again until recently.

"Everything was clarified," Issaka said. "I just wanted to see where (Schiano) stands with me as a player and what he wanted from me. It seemed like everything was there since Day One. The problem was we hadn't talked since I committed to Pittsburgh.

"This conversation we had was actually the most important conversation we've had the whole time in the recruiting process. It was great to see his aspect of what he was feeling about what happened with the situation."

And, after meeting with Schiano, Issaka talked about where Rutgers stood.

"I'm back in the picture now," Issaka said. "He said he feels the same way as he did Day One, which makes me a little more happy and a little more open."

Issaka is planning an official visit to Rutgers this weekend, and added he could trip to another undetermined school Jan. 28-30.

Central Florida is on his radar, but he said two other schools (he was not ready to name them) are also moving into the picture and could get his last visit.

And although he named North Carolina his leader, he sees a lot of similarities between Tar heels coach Butch Davis and Schiano, whom worked as Davis' defensive coordinator at Miami.

"I just came back from North Carolina, and I really appreciate North Carolina a lot," Issaka said. "Both of them appreciate the students, and they don't make it more of a business than it needs to be. After all, we still are players. We're not pros. It's college, and it should be more about the player.

"You want to be able to respect the coach that you play for, and able to come to them like he's another father and you can come to them with a problem. You want that as a player. Personally, that's what I want to know. "

Distance could turn into a factor in Issaka's decision, especially since he lives 20 minutes from the Rutgers campus.

But if he wants to be close to family, he can also get that at North Carolina. Issaka has extended family in Greensboro.

"I like everything about (Chapel Hill)," Issaka said. "It's not too cold. It's warm most of the time. I like every aspect of the campus, and I remember walking around and saying, ‘I really like this place.'

"And Greensboro is close to Chapel Hill, and I have family that lives in North Carolina, and some in Greensboro, so I can re-connect with my family. It's a long drive, but it's that not long. It's eight hours, but it's only two hours more than Pitt."

Issaka is uncertain when he will make a decision.

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