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August 30, 2007Michigan's early run on commitments in the class of 2008 continued Thursday when the Wolverines landed four-star linebacker J.B. Fitzgerald of Princeton Junction (N.J.) West Windsor Plainsboro South. The 6-4, 225-pound prospect ranked as the No. 117 player in the nation by Rivals.com is the Wolverines' 15th in this class.
Fitzgerald made his announcement Thursday night on ESPNU during halftime of the Murray State-Louisville game. He chose the Wolverines over Florida and Rutgers.
"This is huge," Fitzgerald told ESPNU. "This has been a long process, but it's been a great process. I'm ready to wrap it up.
"I've got these three hats lined up here ... I've got Florida, I've got Rutgers and I've got Michigan. The school I'll be attending next year is the University of Michigan."
Fitzgerald donned his maize and blue hat before explaining his decision.
"I've been there three times, and every time I've been more and more comfortable there," he said. "I really felt comfortable [with the possibility of] playing at Rutgers, Florida or Michigan, but at the end of the day I really wanted to walk away with a strong degree. I felt Michigan was the best choice for that."
Fitzgerald remained diplomatic when asked whether he'd like to play early.
"I'm going to do whatever I can to help the team out the most," said Fitzgerald. "I'd love to get on the field the first year, but if that's not in the plans, I'd be certainly willing to redshirt."
Michigan started to appear the team to beat for Fitzgerald early in the summer when he made his third visit to Ann Arbor in four months. That visit was the first for Fitzgerald's mother, however, and by that time Fitzgerald and his father, who had also accompanied him on the first two visits, were doing as much selling as the Michigan coaches.
"I don't know how much selling my father and I had to do," Fitzgerald said at the time. "The university pretty much sells itself."
Following his trip to Michigan, the four-star linebacker did take trips to both Florida and Rutgers with his parents, leaving some doubt to his eventual destination. In the end, however, the feeling felt at Michigan could not be overcome.
"It's hard to match up with them anywhere else in the country," Fitzgerald said of Michigan after his first visit in February. "They definitely have a great football program with a long history and I really started to get a good feel of it."
In Fitzgerald, Michigan is getting an athletic linebacker who possesses both speed and power and could be a candidate for the outside linebacker or inside linebacker positions. U-M coaches have expressed a desire and plan to play Fitzgerald at the middle linebacker position. He recorded 112 tackles and five sacks from that position as a junior.
"The obvious things you see when you watch him on tape are the impressive size coupled with the athleticism," said ESPNU analyst Tom Luginbill. "At 6-4, carrying 225 [pounds], he could easily play at 240 or 245, which makes him a candidate to put his hand down as a rush defensive end. There's a lot of versatility with him.
"What I love about him between the tackles is he is a bull in a china shop type of kid. Rough and tumble, tremendous speed and I guess you could say explosiveness when he's rushing the passer. And he's also an outstanding tackler. He's going to have to shore up his game in terms of discipline, pursuit angles, all of the little things he'll learn as he continues to get coached at the next level."
Michigan identified Fitzgerald early in the process as their future middle linebacker, becoming one of the first three teams to offer him a scholarship along with Iowa and Virginia.
Watch TheWolverine.com for more on Fitzgerald's commitment in the hours to come ...