Lakota West High School offensive lineman Nolan Ulizio was content with the idea of playing for the University of Connecticut after he committed there in mid-December.
But then, his senior highlight film went viral, and several Division I schools started showing interest. When Michigan came through with an offer Jan. 18, Ulizio couldn’t pass up the opportunity to at least check it out.
The 6-foot-5, 284-pound senior tackle de-commited from Connecticut and gave his pledge to Michigan at lunch Sunday during an official visit in Ann Arbor. He is Jim Harbaugh’s first offensive line recruit to commit since Harbaugh took over the program Dec. 29.
“It’s not too far from home, and the tradition there is amazing with the fans and stuff,” Ulizio said. “Being able to play there is a great opportunity. The coaching staff, hiring Harbaugh, I feel they are going to be competing for a national championship and I want to be part of that.”
Ulizio, who helped Lakota West to its first two playoff wins this season, went from low-level recruit to Big Ten prospect in a short period of time. Indiana State accounted for his first offer in the summer, but until the end of the season, it was only FCS schools showing serious interest.
Once his highlight film got around, UConn offered – following West’s second-round playoff win against Lakota East – and he committed during his first official visit the second week of December.
Over the holidays, Ulizio picked up interest from Kentucky, Cincinnati and Pittsburgh. According to West coach Larry Cox, recently hired Michigan defensive coordinator D.J. Durkin, who previously recruited the area while at Florida (2010-14), got a hold of Ulizio’s film, and two days later, Harbaugh offered him, along with an invitation to visit.
“I was surprised a little bit because I was fine with UConn, and then all these other schools started getting interested,” Ulizio said. “I was thinking about taking another visit, but when Michigan offered I had to visit. I’m relieved it’s all over with. I’m just happy I have an opportunity to play at a school like Michigan.”
Cox wasn’t surprised in the interest Ulizio received after a great senior season. He said his highlight film made Ulizio a “YouTube sensation.”
“They really liked how aggressive he was as an offensive lineman,” Cox said. “Offensive linemen in high school are not always aggressive, but he’s a rarity. He’s aggressive, and he plays with a chip on his shoulder and I think that shows in the film. He’s a smart football player. He conceptualizes the game and understands little things that average kids don’t pick up.”
“The biggest thing I’m proud of is here’s a kid that took full advantage of senior year,” Cox added. “He went from near-anonymity to FCS recruit to UConn and then Kentucky, Pittsburg and Cincinnati. Now he’s committed to Michigan. That’s a testament to his hard work on and off the field.”
Ulizio was named to the All-GMC and Journal-News All-Area first teams. He had been listed as a two-star prospect by most recruiting sites, but Scout.com recently moved him to three stars and ranked him the 32nd best prospect in Ohio. Ulizio is West’s first Michigan recruit, but he joins a growing list of Firebirds to go to major Division I programs, including Kevin Schloemer (UC), Ryan Kelly (Alabama), Kyle Meadows (Kentucky) and Georgio Asafo-Adjei (Kentucky) since 2010.
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