There were initially some questions about what position Shirley would play in college – whether he might be a "tweener," between a defensive end and a linebacker. But then Shirley's highlight reel made the rounds among college programs across the country, and the common feeling was: Sign him then decide where to put him later. With one of the more impressive highlight films in this class, Shirley has become one of the elite prospects in the class of 2009.
"Cal was the latest to offer me," said Shirley. "They offered me the same as everyone else, as a hybrid, three-down ‘backer who can get after the quarterback."
Before that, Tennessee offered Shirley, an offer that he had been hoping for since we first talked to him in March. And more could be on the way.
"Oregon is definitely close and Notre Dame was up at the school last week," said Shirley. "That was a surprise. Randy Hart and Brian Polian had been hearing about me so they came by and got some film. We'll see what happens there."
Shirley also landed offers from the two Los Angeles schools in April, both offers he was anticipating.
"UCLA has been the school I've been having the most conversations with," said Shirley. "Coach (Wayne) Moses is recruiting me but I've been talking to everybody there. USC started recruiting me more and I think I'm going to go to both UCLA and USC's camps."
Shirley said those two schools, plus four more, make out his top list. "As of right now, my top schools would be UCLA, Tennessee, Washington, Arizona, Cal and USC," said Shirley. "But I don't have a leader yet."
Shirley is also prepared to take his time in the process. "I think I want to take all five visits and decide after that. It won't be until maybe until late fall that I'll decide," said Shirley.
While Shirley didn't doubt the attention would come, even he was surprised with how quickly it progressed. "I'm taking it all in stride but I didn't think it would be like this. For a while, I thought I'd have to wait until all of the camps started rolling in so I could start being compared to the guys with 15-25 offers. Then the coaches could see what I could do. But I guess the coaches liked my film a lot," said Shirley.
Shirley is thinking more and more that he could play with his hand down in college, but he's also keen to the fact that linebacker could ultimately be where he ends up.
"Schools at first were offering me as an athlete, but then the linebacker and d-line coaches said they wanted me strictly for defense and they were deciding which one I'd play," said Shirley. "What helps me is I'm versatile enough to make the switch. I'm fast enough to play linebacker, but strong enough for a 3-technique. I love the nature of the position. The pass-rushing abilities I have, I think my motor just takes over. Every camp I'm going to, I'm doing some end and some linebacker. I'm working every weekend at B2G as a linebacker."
Shirley's brother, Jason, was a draft pick of the Cincinnati Bengals, and while the two brothers have very similar defensive talents, Shirley didn't get graced with the same weight his older brother did.
"Oh man, he's a monster," said Shirley. "I'm not going to be the 6-6, 340-pound guy like him. I'll be content to be 240-245. But it's been cool to watch him and see what he's done."
Shirley has been an active camper, going to the Badger/Scout 7on7 Passing Tournament, where he earned all-camp honors, the Nike Camp and FBU Camp in Los Angeles and he's planning to camp at the B2G Elite Camp and the Scout.com Combine, plus the USC and UCLA camps.
Shirley had a big junior year, earning First Team All-State Underclass and Third Team All-Golden State honors by GoldenStatePreps.com, one of only ten underclassmen selected to the All-Golden State team. He finished the year with 88 tackles, 17 sacks, 12 knocked-down passes and three forced fumbles.
Academically, he has a 3.5 and took the SAT on May 2nd.