2012 Defensive Tackle Has a Favorite

2012 defensive lineman Aziz Shittu plays a position of great interest to Stanford fans – defensive tackle. The California junior describes himself as a Stanford lean, and was nearly a lot more than that, as The Bootleg explains…

Aziz Shittu (Atwater, Calif.) received his Stanford offer three weeks ago, and reports additional offers from Washington State, San Jose State, Boise State and Iowa State.

As Shittu is just a junior, presumably more offers yet are on their way. Shittu, however, nearly selected a school this Friday, as he detailed in an exclusive interview with The Bootleg.

"Yesterday I was about to pledge and commit to Stanford, but I thought it over and decided not to," he said. "It is kind of early and I am still going to a lot of camps and stuff like that. I've been out to Stanford and seems like it's a great place, and the academics are great and not going to change. I wanted to make sure I'd seen campus and I did, I loved it, but it's just like that for everywhere. I want to see everything."

A Friday conversation with Coach Shaw found Shittu on the verge of committing, before he walked back from that ledge.

"I had contact with Coach Shaw for the first time [Friday], and I made sure the offer was still on table, because it was from Coach Harbaugh," he said. "We talked for maybe six minutes, and I was going to think about committing. I was going to call and leave him a message saying sign me up, but then I kept thinking about people, my classmates, telling me that it might be too early, people telling me mixed things about committing as a junior, so I'm probably going to hold out a little bit.

"I'll see the Junior Day for sure and see what they have to offer. Other offers are going to roll in and I'll make a decision off that."

Shittu grew more confident in his decision to delay committing as he talked with this reporter.

"I don't have to make a rush decision," he said. "I don't know what offers might be coming in.

"The other thing that stopped me from committing too is that I want to take all five visits, whether I'm committed or not. I have schools in mind, if Stanford's okay, I would have talk to them and seen if they were okay with me being committed and then taking those visits. So I would have committed, but I didn't want to give them a mixed signal."

Ultimately though, Shittu's decision not to commit speaks more to his grade and where he is in the recruiting process than it does about Stanford. However long Shittu chooses to continue his recruitment, it appears Stanford will be the school for other programs to beat.

"I'm a Stanford lean, no doubt," he said.

The statistics are sobering: of millions of high school football players, only thousands will receive Division I football offers. Fewer yet will receive five offers their junior year, two from top-10 teams. What, The Bootleg asked Shittu, makes him stand out?

"My quickness off the ball and my ability to move around," he said. "We play a 3-4 and I play nose tackle, but I move throughout the line. If it's a passing team, I'll go to the edge and play end. If they need me to stuff the gaps, C gap, double A gap, stuff the run, I'll do that."

Given his versatility, perhaps it's no surprise Shittu is unsure of where he projects come college.

"I feel comfortable anywhere, wherever I'll help the team the most. I do like playing end, but if they want me to play nose, not a problem.

"4-3 teams see me as a three-technique [a 4-3 DT who lines up opposite a guard's outside shoulder, as opposed to a 3-4 "zero technique" nose tackle lining up directly across center] and Stanford just sees me somewhere on the DL, depending on my development."

While most college (and pro) teams run a 4-3, Stanford ran the 3-4 in 2010, under then-defensive coordinator Vic Fangio. Does Shittu have a preference as to defensive scheme?

"I mean, I've always wanted to play in a 4-3 but my high school runs a 3-4, so it's not going to be a deciding factor. Wherever they need me, I'll do what I have to do; it's not that big of a deal. A 4-3 is nice though, being the three technique, shooting in the gap and making plays."

The Bootleg asked Shittu about any pros he may model his game after (current star three-technique DTs include Warren Sapp and Tommie Harris), but Shittu had a revelation that made him one of our favorite interviewees in awhile.

"I'm more into college football," he said.

You and me both, Aziz. Interestingly though, Shittu only started watching football when he started playing football – his freshman year of high school. Given that Shittu has only been playing organized football for three years, one has to figure he's still somewhat raw, so his ceiling may be higher than similarly accomplished players his age.

Not to imply that Shittu hasn't accomplished plenty on the gridiron already. He reports being named Second Team All-State, Second Team All-Section, and his league's Lineman of the Year.

"Our team [Buhach Colony HS] made it to the semifinals and lost to Folsom," he said of his past season. "I was All League and All District, and All Area too. I had 76 tackles, seven sacks, three forced fumbles and one fumble recovery for a 63-yard touchdown. Our coach doesn't track them, but I had a couple of bat-downs, probably three or four."

When he's not busy with the high school game, Shittu has indeed gotten into college football, and the teams he follows may hint at which programs Stanford could have to fend off if they hope to land the defensive lineman.

"To be honest, I really started watching when I was a freshman, when I started playing football, and I liked USC then," he said. "I always wanted to play basketball for UCLA. Now, Stanford is one of the teams I watch. They had a great season this year. And I watch Cal, a lot of West Coast, Pac-10 teams."

Indeed, when we asked about location, Shittu said he saw himself most likely staying out west.

"Right now, I want to be on the West Coast, but if there's an offer and I see the place and it resembled California or something I like, I'll go explore that, but right now it's the West Coast. I still do want to check out out-of-state programs though. … I'd like to hear from a UCLA, USC, Oregon, maybe some Florida schools, schools like that."

Back to Stanford, however, which Shittu first set foot upon as a sophomore.

"I was there for an elite camp," he reports. "It was a beautiful campus. I've only been to a few campuses ever, but Stanford, it looks real nice out there. [Laughs.] Real nice. I didn't get to see much outside of the stadium and the field we did workouts on though, just a couple of buildings and the pool."

Academically, Shittu is confident he could gain admission to Stanford. He reports a 3.75 overall GPA, on a 4.25-scale, and a May SAT date.

"I'm about to start next year, especially for Stanford or an Ivy League school, you have to take multiple AP classes. I haven't given too much thought to it yet though. Right now, my favorite classes are probably AP Bio or US History."


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