Purdue picked up its fifth commitment for the class of 2014 in football today, and it is a big one. Denzel Ward, a massive offensive tackle from the IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida, chose the Boilermakers and Darrell Hazell earlier today. This is one of Purdue's biggest commits to date.
Ward is huge at 6'8" 307 pounds and is a 3-star prospect by ESPN, Rivals, Scout, and 247. His stock has been rising of late, however, and he could easily be a four-star by the time the coming season is over. He was already gaining national interest with Oklahoma, Florida, Arizona State, Michigan, and Ohio State giving him offers. Looking at the names and seeing him pick Purdue makes me feel very, very good about Hazell's early recruiting efforts.
Ward had originally committed to Michigan but backed out before coming to Purdue on a visit last week:
Otherwise, the Chicago native who now attends at IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla., enjoyed another visit to West Lafayette. In fact, Ward has the Boilermakers among his final four schools along with Ohio State, Florida and Oklahoma.
"They're all in an even mix right now," Ward said. "I'm just trying to see what's best right now. It's not a timeline thing for me but it's when I feel the most comfortable and when my family feels the most comfortable to make a decision. It could happen any day. I could happen on signing day."
Ward said Purdue "does have an edge somewhat over schools" only because he's visited the campus more than the other three. He's yet to visit Oklahoma. Ward de-committed from Michigan about three months ago.
This is a very, very big pickup. He is currently projecting as a left tackle but he wants to learn right tackle so he could play both. A large 6'8" gentleman protecting our quarterback's blind side is never a bad thing. He has the size and ability to play as a true freshman, something that does not often happen with linemen we recruit.
He has also been on the SB Nation radar:
Denzel Ward was one of the top offensive line recruits at the recent Orlando Nike Football Training Camp (NFTC). Out of the Bradenton (Fla.) IMG Academy, the consensus three-star checked in at 6'7 and 307 pounds, and performed well during the event. And before the event, he named the Florida Gators as his top team.
"My leader is Florida," Ward said. "It's their coaching staff, how they've connected with me and how they have a passion in recruiting me."
From the sounds of that we may have to fend off the Gators before signing day, but for now, he is ours.
Welcome aboard, Denzel. We're happy to have you in the family.