Zack Oliver’s commitment to Northwestern on Tuesday was the climax of numerous recruiting trail factors – a good visit this spring, an affinity for NU’s offense, the desire to commit early and the lack of an offer from hometown LSU.
With all that in play, it’s no surprise that he is now basking in a sense of relief having made a commitment.
“I’m very relieved,” Oliver, a 6-4, 218-pound native of Baton Rouge, La., said. “It feels like a load off my back. Now I’m just going to hang out and practice and get better, get ready for the upcoming season.”
Oliver, who also had offers from Tulsa, Memphis, Tulane and Western Kentucky, is Northwestern’s seventh commit of the 2011 class, and the first quarterback. This spring the Wildcats signed a pair of quarterbacks in Kain Colter and Trevor Siemian.
Oliver, who claims a 4.7 40, has known for months that he wanted to commit before his senior season at Catholic High School, where last season he completed 191 of 308 passes for more than 2,500 yards. He also tossed 32 touchdowns and only five picks.
With a self-imposed summer deadline, it then became a matter of deciding on a school. And Northwestern had plenty working in its favor.
“The people are really great,” said Oliver, Scout.com’s No. 35 QB in the 2011 class. “Coach (Mick) McCall, Coach (Pat) Fitzgerald, Coach (Randy) Bates – they’re all great people.
“I went up there to visit over spring break and stayed with (rising sophomore quarterback) Evan (Watkins). He was really a great guy. The facilities, the staff, the players – it just seemed like a perfect fit.”
Add to that perfect-fit list the offense, which is nearly identical to the one Oliver currently runs as Catholic. The offensive similarities were something that Oliver was talking about back in early April, after his visit to NU.
And he’s still talking about it.
“That was a big factor,” Oliver said. “Their spread option type of offense is just like what we run. They mix in the spread passing with the running game. It’s the same thing I do now, so I’ll feel really comfortable with that.
“Also the numbers system is the same. It will be like I never left Catholic. The way they call plays when they’re in the no huddle, the way they communicate, it was just something I kind of noticed, something I liked.”
Oliver echoed the sentiments of ’10 QB commit Siemian who, like Oliver, was smitten with Northwestern’s spread O.
“Different colleges were telling me, ‘You’re a drop back sort of guy,’” Siemian said last June. “But I run (the spread) in high school, a lot of no huddle, call it at the line. It’s definitely cool knowing that I should be comfortable with that when I get to Northwestern.”
Siemian’s high school coach, Bob Head, added to that.
“To be honest with you, it was a big factor,” Head said last summer. “He wanted that spread offense because we’re always in the gun (at Olympia). We run the ball out of the shotgun, we do a lot of quick passes, we spread the ball all over the field. We do everything from that formation, so Northwestern running the spread was big.”
Anyway, back to Oliver. Another school Oliver was interest in was LSU. He had camped at LSU in early June admits that they were a team he was interested in all along.
“I never got an offer (from LSU),” Oliver said. “But even if I got an offer from LSU, it still would have been a big decision for me. I’m firm in my stance and I’m happy about going to Northwestern.”
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