football

Five-star showing for Shittu

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ATWATER, Calif. - Minutes after Aziz Shittu finished with about 10 tackles and a sack in his season opener, the five-star defensive tackle lined up to take some pictures.
Quickly, his demeanor changed from the fun-loving Shittu everyone knows and loves around here to the serious face, the tough-guy pose. Coaches quickly started making fun of him, telling him to show that pretty smile again.
The mean-mugging lasted about five seconds. Shittu couldn't hold it back any longer.
That encapsulates Shittu in a way, a youthful, vibrant teenager wrapped up in an incredibly difficult decision-making process. He committed to Stanford in late April only to reopen his recruitment by early June.
This summer at The Opening in Beaverton, Ore., he admitted that he has legitimate interest in every school that contacts him - and there are a lot of teams interested.
Since the season started, there has been a slight respite from the recruiting onslaught but it's always there, ever-present as the 6-foot-3, 275-pound prospect tries to figure out what's best for his future.
"I'm loving all the schools," Shittu said after a 34-13 win over Vallejo (Calif.) Bethel. "They're all up there. I'm just having fun. I really want to focus on the season and then I'll figure all that stuff out later."
There really isn't that much new recruiting-wise for Shittu, who would probably play defensive end in a 3-4 scheme or defensive tackle in a 4-3. Friday night he played almost exclusively defensive tackle as Bethel used mainly inside running plays.
"I just wanted to start at nose tackle to figure out what they were doing but it doesn't matter to me," Shittu said. "I'll play either position as long as I'm making plays. Position really isn't that big."
Shittu is expected to visit Texas A&M for its matchup against Oklahoma State the weekend of Sept. 24. All his other official visits will wait until after his season in December so he could make his commitment sometime in January.
All the same programs are involved which means Auburn, Boston College, Cal, Nebraska, UCLA, USC and Washington are in the mix. Even Stanford remains in the picture and it would probably surprise no one if Shittu pulled some kind of surprise and another school emerged through the fall.
"There's really nothing new in recruiting right now," Shittu said. "It is pretty dry with news right now. I only have one bye week so I want to focus on my season."
The five-star always likes to keep people guessing - sometimes even on the field.
After dominating the Los Angeles NIKE Camp this spring and being in the conversation as the best defensive tackle there alongside fellow five-star Ellis McCarthy, Shittu was average at The Opening and thoroughly unimpressive at times. He was a surprising no-show at the Stanford NIKE Camp.
Then he turned in a strikingly good performance in the season opener, he looks trimmed down, more athletic and has such an impressive first step at the line that Bethel's offensive linemen had no prayer when Shittu really wanted to turn it up.
On his sack, Shittu broke through and tracked down a wily quarterback after he tried to juke and dodge and maneuver around the burly defensive tackle. It was of no use because Shittu has the speed and agility to not miss many tackles.
Later on a screen play, Shittu got caught in the backfield but then came from behind and tracked down the receiver about 18 yards down the field.
All night, any play that was run to the sidelines or took even a moment to develop Shittu was there on the tackle, his speed too much for any offensive player to handle. There's no doubt he has the athleticism to be a successful defensive end and should play there some this season.
After the game when the stadium was cleared out, Shittu was around the 20-yard line talking to reporters and he was asked about tracking down that screen pass. How he did it since he was so far away from the play.
He smiled really big, knowing he did well on that one.
That's the Shittu they know and love around here.
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