- Jared Shanker, ESPN Staff Writer
Wyomissing (Pa.) Area linebacker Alex Anzalone has made visits over the last three weekends, and all three programs sit high atop his favorites.
Though the ESPNU 150 Watch List prospect does not have a leaderboard or an order to his favorites, Florida, Notre Dame and Ohio State are all in great position for the 6-foot-3, 225-pound linebacker.
Anzalone’s most recent visit went to Ohio State this weekend. It was his second visit to Columbus following a February visit for the Buckeyes’ junior day. This trip to Ohio State was a much more in-depth look than the one he received more than a month ago. Anzalone had a chance to watch from the sideline as the Buckeyes practiced in pads for the first time this spring.
“It was really impressive, high tempo,” Anzalone said. “I know coach [Urban] Meyer was running the same type of practice he ran at Florida a couple of years back. They’re definitely working hard.”
Buckeyes linebacker Ryan Shazier was also able to shed some light on Ohio State and Meyer. As a member of the 2011 class, Shazier committed to Florida before eventually signing with Ohio State after Meyer resigned as the Gators’ coach. Anzalone said much of his conversation with Shazier was about his experience at Ohio State and not about joining the Buckeyes program.
It wasn’t all about football for Anzalone, though. An early enrollee candidate, Anzalone met with the administration in the business college and also had a chance to speak with university president E. Gordon Gee. The academic support staff at Ohio State told Anzalone he could also be a candidate for the honors college.
Planning to major in business, Anzalone is intrigued about the possibility of attending school in a city such as Columbus.
“Being in a city they definitely have a lot of opportunities,” Anzalone said. “I know they do internships during the year, and they said that’s how people usually get their job offers. There’s definitely a lot of networking with there being so many alumni.”
On the field, Anzalone likes the idea of playing under two linebackers coaches essentially. Luke Fickell holds the official title of linebackers coach, but defensive line coach Mike Vrabel coached the unit last year and is a former NFL Pro Bowler at the position.
“They have a lot of experience. Watching them [coach] in person, I think I’d like to play [for them],” Anzalone said. “It’s pretty cool how coach Vrabel had been in the league for 14 years. That’s intriguing.”
Fickell told Anzalone he can see him playing any of the three linebacker positions with his versatility.
Notre Dame, on the other hand, sees Anzalone playing inside linebacker in the Fighting Irish’s 3-4 scheme.
“The coaches said they like me at inside linebacker, which is a first,” Anzalone said. “I think I played a game or two at inside. It’s something I’m definitely open to.”
Much of Anzalone’s visit – his first to South Bend – was spent with the assistant Harry Hiestand and the Notre Dame staff. The most impressive part of his trip did not have much to do with the on-the-field product. Anzalone pointed to the history, facilities and atmosphere of the university as the best parts of his trip.
“It’s something you have to go and see for yourself,” he said. “You can’t really explain it.”
Anzalone also liked that the staff was candid about the program and university.
“They said Notre Dame isn’t for everyone. If it isn’t for you then it’s all right, they’ll move on,” Anzalone said.
Is Notre Dame a place for Anzalone?
“I think so. The academics are very good, so that’s definitely a plus.
“I think [Notre Dame is] pretty high up there.”
Anzalone will visit Stanford, UCLA and USC this coming week and plans to cut his list down some when he returns.