It's an approach that makes sense for Zach Hannon, and one that loomed largely in the recent uptick in commitments, a flurry of verbal nods of allegiance that includes three three-star offensive linemen.
Hannon, a 6-foot-5, 295-lb guard from Kansas City, Mo., is intrigued by NU's marquee OL recruiting haul and believes he could be the next to join the group.
"It's definitely an attractive factor," Hannon said. "You always want to play with the top recruits."
Even though he played tackle throughout most of his high school career, Hannon is expected to switch positions at the next level. College coaches and talent evaluators have advised him to play guard, mainly because he lacks the length and wingspan that coaches at competitive high-major programs look for at the tackle position. Hannon is un-phased by the change, saying that he can contribute at both positions if need be.
"Most of the coaches I've talked to have been telling me that I should probably switch to guard, if I want to play at the top schools in the top conferences," he said. "But it's not really a big deal for me, I haven't lost sleep over it."
Nebraska, Arkansas, Kansas State and NU top Hannon's list of favorites, but he's also drawn interest from Oklahoma, Purdue, Illinois, Notre Dame and Houston, among others. He plans to make several visits in the coming weeks, including Illinois and NU, when he attends the Junior Rank combine in Chicago on June 30.
The Rockhurst (MO) native was first contacted by offensive line coach Adam Cushing more than four months ago. After two weeks of tape study and conversation with Fitzgerald, Hannon was surprised to receive an offer. Traditionally, NU is reluctant to offer offensive linemen without seeing them in person first. So when Hannon learned the news, his reaction was a mix of disbelief and excitement.
"It definitely caught me off guard," he said. "They hadn't seen me up close, so it was definitely surprising But it was a great feeling."
Similar schools with renowned academic stature, such as Cornell and Duke, have inquired about Hannon's services, but Fitzgerald's vibrant personality, personal recruiting approach and NU's upward trajectory since he inherited the program have relegated those other "smart schools" to secondary status.
NU matches up perfectly with his ideal future college, replete with high academic standing and an upstart, on-the-rise football team that competes in one of the nation's top conferences. For Hannon, it's only a matter of visiting and making sure that NU is a good fit both in mind and reality.
"I've only heard good things about it," he said. "Everything seems to match up, now I've just got to go see what it's all about in real life."
He plans to make his decision no later than mid-July.
Video: Zach Hannon talks recruiting