Plenty of recruits take unofficial visits to top schools of interest during the spring and summer. Some load up the family truckster Clark Griswold-style and hit all the campuses that one can imagine by car. Others criss-cross the country with scattered flights in a deliberate and careful manner.
Regardless of the itinerary, we pay close attention to the kids who cross off all of their so-called favorites with a blanket of unofficial visits before their senior year. That is often a tell-tale sign of a recruit who is gearing up for an early decision, without stretching the recruiting madness into their senior season and without the necessity of official visits.
For that reason, we watched intently as Pacific Palisades (Calif.) offensive lineman Mitchell Schwartz made his way to schools near and far the last several months. From Stanford to Virginia. From Michigan to Oregon. His final trip took him to Ann Arbor (Mich.) at the end of August. He has had some time to let all of his observations sink in. We spoke with the 6'5.5" 300-pound prospect last night to ping him on his updated outlook. Schwartz started off by giving his thoughts on the Michigan visit, as well as one last month to Charlottesville (Va.).
"Virginia - I really liked it there. I saw them practice and sat in on team meetings. I met the coaches and like how they work," the recruit relates. "At Michigan, I didn't get to see them practice, but I met the coaches and took a campus tour. It was good."
Now that his unofficial visit tour is done, Schwartz can start to stack up the campuses, people and environments he experienced. He says he liked them all, unsurprisingly, though one difference did jump out.
"I really liked what I saw at all of them," he offers. "I noticed how different the campuses are, though. Virginia is more like the colleges back there. It's secluded, but there is also a downtown. Michigan is a bigger campus but does not have a downtown area. Stanford is just huge size-wise. Oregon is in a little town, but they're crazy about it there."
Though he talks primarily about those four schools, Schwartz says that California and Tennessee are also in the mix. Moreover, he says that he has not narrowed his list quite yet, despite all the legwork he has already done.
"They're all pretty even. It's going to be hard. They are all such great schools," he maintains. "These visits let me get to know the coaches and let me see their interest in me. But next I need to sit down with my parents and figure out what is important to me. I've seen it all; now I need to filter the information."
One critical piece of information came from the Cardinal earlier this week. Schwartz says the coaches called him Monday night with news he welcomed with open arms: his admissions acceptance to Stanford.
"It was pretty exciting," he admits. "I had finished my part of the application in late July, but there were some pieces missing that got in later. I was definitely a little anxious. You can never know what will happen with that. Getting in to Stanford itself is just an honor. I'm pretty excited."
With a 4.33 weighted GPA and four AP and honors courses on his senior schedule, Schwartz looked like a promising applicant on paper. However, he moved his odds to an entirely different position of probability when he scored a monstrous 34 on the ACT at the end of his junior year.
"I was pretty shocked," he chuckles. "My brother found that the ACT was easier than the SAT, and I think that really worked for me. Half of the ACT is math and science, and the science is a bunch of interpreting graphs. That's my strength."
"I actually scored a 29 as a sophomore. I worked on the English section after that, and I hadn't done any prep before," Schwartz adds. "I thought I could improve if I did study and if I worked on the weaker parts. I just didn't think it would be a 34!"
There of course were other lessons and components that went into Schwartz' successful Stanford admission. A hard one for him and his family came when older brother Geoff was offered and recruited by the Cardinal but did not get into the school.
"It showed me how important school is. You can't just focus on sports and let the academics take care of itself," the younger brother says. "All of those prep courses and the classes I've been taking and working hard at in school really paid off. I did have a little better grades and scores than him, but I worked hard and it's exciting to see how it paid off."
And just how does this admissions acceptance news affect his outlook on Stanford?
"It definitely raises them a little. Now I don't have a question of whether I can go there," Schwartz states.
"I'm not sure if they are number one because I'm not sure if I have a number one," he opines. "I really like Virginia, Cal and Michigan, but, maybe it's because I got the news last night. But they're pretty high up for me."
As further evidence of his interest, Schwartz has scheduled an additional unofficial visit to The Farm this season to watch the Cardinal play in the new Stanford Stadium. He will take in the game against USC on November 4. His only other unofficial trip planned during the season will be to see his brother and the Ducks play this weekend in their highly anticipated showdown with Oklahoma.
The next question of course surrounds official visits. Does Schwartz need to take them, given all he armed himself with his unofficial trips? How many officials would he take, and who would receive them? Could any come during the fall, or would they wait until the winter?
"I don't know," he answers. "I think I took the unofficials to figure out where to take my officials. Right now I have more than five schools still on my list, and more could pop up. I would really like to take all five and be sure of my decision, but with recruiting you never know what will happen. Spots can fill up at places if you wait too long."
It will take a big roundtable with his parents before Schwartz is ready to name the five schools which will receive his official visits, but he is willing to bet that the Cardinal will make that list.
"I don't see them dropping off," he says. "They're a very high consideration for me."
That might not be expected by some observers around the country, after Stanford is off to a disappointing 0-2 start. Schwartz is aware of what is happening on The Farm, talking continuously with the Cardinal coaches.
"They expected that they would do better. It's been a pretty disappointing first couple weeks, but that happens," the offensive lineman offers. "They have to bounce back, and the coaches know what to do."
"They're pretty straight forward talking about it with me," Schwartz says. "They don't shy away, and that's good to hear. And Coach [Walt] Harris has been on good staffs and had good teams before."
Despite all of the recruiting travels he has taken, this coveted recruit appears to be nowhere near his college decision. Just as he waits to see what happens with Stanford on the field in the coming weeks and months, so too will we sit back and watch as his story slowly unfolds.
Mitchell Schwartz is ranked by Scout.com as the #47 overall player and #6 offensive lineman in California. The three-star standout is also slotted by Scout as the #68 overall player in the West.
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