Jordan Walsh plays with the type of hard edge that college coaches love. (Allen Trieu / Scout.com)
It's not often that an interior line prospect steals the recruiting spotlight, but it's been common for Glen Elyn (Ill.) Glenbard West offensive lineman Jordan Walsh. Ranked the No. 4 guard in the country and a four-star prospect by Scout.com, the 6-foot-4, 270-pounder has made a habit of flattening the opposition from his offensive tackle post. His efforts paved the way for an offense that powered a talented squad all the way to the state title game.
"Walsh is a great athlete," said Scout.com Midwest regional manager Allen Trieu. "On film you can see how well he gets off the ball and how well he moves his feet. He bends, and keeps his feet when in the second level. I think his mobility is one of his best assets. He's got decent size, but he's not as big as some of the other top linemen. Still, it's that athleticism that separates him. I think he just needs to get stronger. I think he's one of the elite guards I've seen and he can play for any school in the country. "
Soft-spoken off the field, Walsh plays with the type of hard edge that college coaches love. Many of them have already lined up to demonstrate just how much. USC, UCLA, Michigan, Michigan State, Iowa, Wisconsin, Boston College and Northwestern are but a few of the 19 programs that have already extended scholarship offers. The earnest evaluation of many of those suitors started back in the winter when the Walsh family began taking a firsthand look at as many programs as they could. A half year later, they've visited Northwestern, Illinois, Iowa, Michigan State, Wisconsin, Purdue, Ohio State, Notre Dame and Michigan. The Wolverines are among the lucky contingent that has been on the receiving end of numerous trips.
"Definitely Ann Arbor is an amazing place to be," said Walsh. "Also, Michigan just has so much tradition there. It's incredible. The coaches are awesome. The facilities are awesome. The fans are awesome. The stadium and the academic center are both really great."
Walsh's most recent stop in Ann Arbor occurred this past Tuesday. It marked the third time that the Michigan coaches had hosted him, but it was the first time they were able show him individual attention for the duration. His already positive views of the program and its staff were enhanced considerably. That was especially true of Rich Rodriguez.
"It went well," said Walsh of his one-on-one time with Michigan's head coach. "We talked a lot about (different) stuff, and not always about football. He told me about the new additions to the Big House, the town, and everything. I like him. I guess you could say he's different from how he is portrayed. He's a really cool, laid-back person. He's always smiling, and the way he talks about things, you kind of just feel good talking to him."
Walsh's would-be position coach also made a strong impression.
"I like Coach (Greg) Frey," Walsh said of Michigan's offensive line coach. "He's a funny guy. He's real cool, but he'll get on you if you mess up and he'll also teach you how to get better. We both think alike."
As taken as he was with Michigan's presentation, Walsh's parents may have been even more so.
"To be totally honest, I love Michigan," said the youngster's mother, Natalie. "I think their academic services and everything that they have to offer there academically has been the best we've seen yet."
While it's true that Michigan has a well established record of academic excellence, that parental perspective may also be benefitting from a prior familiarity and comfort with the Maize and Blue.
"My husband and I are both kind of sports fanatics, and I think we kind of fell in love with Michigan when the Fab Five started," Mrs. Walsh admitted. "He'll probably kill me for telling you this, but ever since he could talk, I'd always say, 'Jordan where are you going to school?' And he would say, 'I'm going to the University of Michigan.' I always knew that Michigan was known for their academics, and their sports teams were always fantastic when I was growing up. That is how I became a fan of Michigan."
Needless to say, the returns from the Walsh family's time in Ann Arbor were extremely positive. That said, he still was not ready to name a leader, let alone offer a commitment.
"They're still high on my list," he said of the Wolverines. "I just need to sit and talk with my parents and figure things out. Everybody is still on my list is right now."
The reason for that continued deliberation is Walsh also has seen a lot that he likes in many of Michigan's Big Ten brethren. The Iowa Hawkeyes were among the earliest to prioritize him on their recruiting board and they've developed their fair share of offensive linemen during Kirk Ferentz's tenure.
"Iowa is more about straight-up work ethic," Walsh told Scout.com. "It doesn't matter what they're ranked or what you're ranked, they build you into a better player and it becomes a better team. I feel like I'm hard-working and it's something I definitely could see myself being a part of. Iowa is a great place. Everything is top-notch there."
Northwestern has proximity, an outstanding scholastic reputation, and strong player/coach bonds to its credit.
"(Northwestern's coaches) are in constant contact with me," Walsh told Scout.com. "They've been to a few of my track meets (but) it's easy for them because they are so much closer than everybody. So I understand why other schools do not do that, but it was pretty cool."
Michigan State remains firmly in the mix as well. The Spartans will very possibly be Walsh's last visit destination of the summer when he goes there July 23. Whether that's his last visit before reaching a decision remains to be seen.
"To be honest with you, I have no idea when I'm going to make the decision," he said. "It's hard in that every day I'm always thinking about it. But I don't really know when I'm going to make it. I'm still talking it through with my parents and we're still trying to figure things out."
If mom has her way, the recruiting process will conclude sooner rather than later.
"Honestly, (I want him to make it) before the season starts -- so within the next month," Mrs. Walsh said matter-of-factly. "I do not want to see him have this distraction throughout the season. I do not want him to be thinking about other things or having to deal with focus (issues). I know the (college) coaches will be able to start calling after September. I want him to enjoy his senior year playing football. I just want it to be very special for him and for him to not have any distractions."
Sam Webb is managing editor of GoBlueWolverine magazine and GoBlueWolverine.com, and co-host of the "Michigan Insider" morning show weekdays on Sports Talk 1050 WTKA. His column appears every Thursday.