Despite holding a four-star ranking from Scout.com for nearly a year, 2016 Flower Mound (Tex.) Marcus defensive end Andrew Fitzgerald did not pick up his first offer until the middle of January.
20 offers, and just seven months, later, Fitzgerald’s recruitment is on the back nine.
The rising senior confirmed with Scout.com his top 5 schools right now are SMU, Baylor, UNC, Oregon and Vanderbilt, and he hopes to make a decision either before his season starts or within the first few weeks of his final high school season.
Five different conferences represented thanks to five different schools that, according to Fitzgerald, all offer their own unique college experience.
To some, the most surprising school on Fitzgerald’s list is SMU because of their recent struggles, but the Flower Mound native knows how special that program could be.
“SMU is close to home, their business school is phenomenal, and I feel like Coach Morris is going something special over there,” The 6-foot-5, 245-pound Fitzgerald said of the Mustangs. “They’re 35 minutes from home and I feel like they’re on the come-up with the new staff.”
Fitzgerald gets up to SMU’s campus frequently thanks to his family connections. His cousins have attended SMU in the past and he has family living in Dallas.
Scout’s 225th ranked player in the 2016 class also gets to interact with the SMU coaching staff on a weekly basis, exchanging messages with Coach Morris and defensive line coach Buddy Wyatt.
But Chad Morris and company will have the tall task of fending of some of the nation’s top programs in Baylor and Oregon.
“Baylor is only two hours away. Obviously, they’re a powerhouse now in football and they’ve got a great education,” Scout’s 7th ranked defensive end in Texas said. “Oregon speaks for itself. I haven’t visited yet, but I want to and they’re one of college’s best teams so it’s hard not to consider them.”
Two schools not to be forgotten are North Carolina and Vanderbilt; two programs that have been on the pass rusher since the beginning.
“Coach Scott (UNC DL Coach) is probably my favorite position coach. I love Chapel Hill, but the only problem is distance. I love everything else,” Fitzgerald explained. “(At Vanderbilt) their coaching staff is really sincere and I feel like they can offer a lot of playing time.”
With summer coming to a close, and the fact that Fitzgerald is still hoping to commit by the end of summer, the defensive end plans to take his official visits during football season.
But before that, a few more trips could be in the works before camp roles around.
“I probably want to get back out to North Carolina and maybe Oregon. I’ll probably visit SMU since it’s only 45 minutes away,” Fitzgerald said. “I don’t have anything officially planned yet though.”
Nothing is set and stone, and Fitzgerald is in no rush to make a hasty decision.
“If it happens, it happens,” Fitzgerald said. “But if it goes into the season and I don’t feel ready then I’ll wait until I know exactly where I want to go.”
Whether Fitzgerald commits in August or October, expect SMU, Baylor, UNC, Vanderbilt and Oregon to all get one final look for an official visit during the season and after his commitment.