Chicago (Ill.) Simeon High Denzel Ward may be committed to Purdue, but that hasn't prevented him taking a hard look at some other schools. One of those programs that has stepped up their interest is Syracuse, who spent Tuesday night visiting with his family in his home.
"It was coach DeAndre (Smith) that came and saw me," Ward said. "The running backs coach. It went pretty well. He really just made my mother real comfortable with the school. Just talking about things I really wanted to hear like the academic opportunities I would have at Syracuse with them being the top communications school. I would have a chance to get that degree and play the type of football I want to. It's a really great opportunity.
"I would get to take internships and minor in sports management program. That's great to hear. My mother really liked it. She was actually raised in the New York area in her younger days. So she's very acclimated to Syracuse. She actually wants to meet the rest of the coaching staff and thinks it's a family type of place. They're going to push me to be the best person I can athletically and academically. She thought it went well and I thought it went well. Coach Shafer is actually coming next week for another in-home and I'll be taking my official on January 31st there for the Duke game."
Taking his official visit when Syracuse faces Duke has a little extra meaning to Ward.
"It's amazing," Ward said. "Back about a month ago, they had a big tournament here where they had Kentucky, Michigan State, Duke and Kansas. Actually, Jabari Parker is one of my good friends. He's like a brother to me. I didn't get to see him play in that tournament, but I always wanted to see him play in college.
"I grew up around his family. His father is like an uncle to me. It'll just be great to see him on a big time level like that in a conference I could be possibly be in. Just see how that stadium rocks to give me a feel for what it's like to play there."
Syracuse really needs offensive tackles in this class, and the three star prospect may be their top target as the dead period approaches.
"He said they plan on taking two tackles," Ward said. "They only really have two big recruiting weekends left after the dead period. The one right after and my weekend. He just told me there's no pressure on me to play as a freshman. If I'm ready I can but if I need to take a year and learn from Sean Hickey, it's pretty cool to learn from a guy like that.
"He said I'm a top priority and tops on their list. He just was welcoming to my mom and trying to sell us out on it."
Knowing he would have the chance to compete for playing time, or at least make the two-deep, is important for Ward. Oklahoma has told him he would have to redshirt as a freshman. While he isn't opposed to that, he is looking for the ability to compete right away.
"It's very big just to have that opportunity," Ward said. "It's encouraging to know that you have to work even before you get there. You have to compete yourself during the offseason or else you won't be ready. But they really have the resources to get me ready. They're going to get me the playbook after signing day and give me direction on what I need to do NCAA wise.
"I feel like I would have everything I need to be ready. Coming from my background, I already have a lot of elements of the offense down, so transition wise it won't be that big of an adjustment. I'll be ready to step up and play in a big time league like that."
After the visit, Ward remains very interested in the Orange. Still, he says all of the schools are even right now with official visits on the horizon.
"Everybody's still even to me right now," Ward said. "I haven't taken any of my officials yet, so I'll have to make those decisions after my officials. I think I come back that Sunday and signing day is that Wednesday, so I have a quick decision to make.
"I'll just to have to do more research on my own and get to know the coaching staff. That's really where I'll go from there."