Junior year is the more important year for football recruits. For Denzel Ward (Chicago/Hales Franciscan), it is also his first year.
The 6-foot-9, 295-pound offensive tackle was a basketball player until this past summer, when the would-be junior turned to football with some advice from cousins Jordan Diamond (four-star 2012 Auburn signee) and Robert Gregory (three-star 2012 Purdue signee).
“They said my size is good for football,” Ward said. “I gave it a try and it’s really working out so I’ve been focusing on that.”
Ward visited Illinois this past weekend, and he will make it to Purdue this weekend. The Boilermakers are Ward’s first and only offer, and it will be the fourth time Ward makes it to West Lafayette for a visit.
Purdue coach Danny Hope used to coach the offensive line at several schools including Purdue on two separate occasions, and that is a big plus for Ward. With only having three games as a high school player under his belt, Ward knows he will require more development than most in college.
“I talked to a lot of people and they told me Purdue is one of the top five schools in the Big Ten for developmental schools, and that’s big,” he said.
In a little more than a week, Ward will make another visit. On Oct. 13, he will head to Michigan for an unofficial.
The Wolverines are showing preliminary interest after seeing film of Ward’s first two games. The staff now wants to see a highlight from Ward, and he hopes to get that to them in the next few days. He believes it could end in an offer if the staff likes what it sees from his highlight.
“They’re really excited and really like the [full game] film. Each game I get better and better,” he said. “Really I’m just going up there so they can talk to me.”
Ward has his sights set on a few other big-time national programs, too. He is a big fan of LSU, Oregon and USC and said Oregon is showing early interest in him.