New Jersey defensive lineman Fred Hansard postponed mid-May commitment plans to develop more confidence in his collegiate outlook. Nearly three months later, he's just about there.
"I'm ready to make my decision," Hansard told Bleacher Report.
The Hun School (Princeton) senior has spent much of his high school experience surveying options for the next phase of a promising football career. Hansard, who reports 33 scholarship offers, believes the time is right to conclude his widespread recruiting process.
"I've talked to my parents, and we sat down for a long time to make sure we're all on the same page," he said. "I know there's still going to be some recruiting here and there, but I'm trying to have a regular senior year and focus on winning another [Mid-Atlantic Prep League] championship."
Hansard will announce his choice via a B/R video.
The 4-star prospect, rated No. 10 nationally among defensive tackles in 2017 composite rankings, released a top-nine list July 11. Though he's not entirely ready to rule out any member of that collection from consideration through national signing day, Hansard admits three programs have separated from the pack.
With a commitment imminent, his focus is firmly on three universities: Florida, Rutgers and Tennessee.
"These are programs I've kept in touch with pretty much since the beginning," Hansard said. "I've been to all three schools and felt comfortable during each of those visits. I talk to their coaches almost every day, and I'm comfortable with their other recruits."
Aside from this trio, his most recent list of favorites featured Alabama, Michigan State, Oklahoma, Penn State, Pittsburgh and USC.
Hansard has used several campus visits and countless conversations with coaches to gauge his level of interest toward opportunities.
"When I look at schools, I want to see what life would be like there if football was taken out of the equation," he said. "Could I be comfortable there just as a regular student, and is there a perfect major for me to be successful after football? And then of course it's really important to have a strong relationship with the coaching staff."
Hansard, who may study communications and broadcasting in college, is done traveling to universities for now. Regardless of where he commits, Hansard plans to ask the staff for permission to pursue multiple official visits, but no school will host him before his upcoming announcement.
His final pre-commitment campus trip occurred this past Saturday when he spent time at nearby Rutgers. It was at least his fourth stop in Piscataway, New Jersey, where Hansard believes things are trending in a positive direction for the new Scarlet Knights regime.
"[Head coach Chris] Ash is doing big things with recruiting, and they're just on the right path to become great," he said. "Coach Ash, his staff and the strength and conditioning guys bring a lot of new energy to the team. They're hyped, and now the players there have that same kind of energy. The committed recruits do too."
Ash has assembled a top-25 class midway through his first full cycle at Rutgers, largely because of in-state recruiting victories that became increasingly rare during recent years. Hansard is another pivotal local target who could help push the Scarlet Knights toward improvement in the Big Ten Conference, and he frequently hears from pledges about joining this class.
Receiver commit Everett Wormley lives "right around the corner" from Hansard and constantly checks in regarding Rutgers, while offensive linemen Micah Clark and Jamaal Beaty are also ardent peer recruiters.
"It's awesome to know my home school is on the rise," he said.
Beyond state borders, Hansard is taking a hard look at SEC rivals Florida and Tennessee. Both schools have hosted him once.
The Gators welcomed Hansard to Gainesville in July when he vacationed to Jacksonville with family and friends. It was an intensive trip, as Hansard stayed on campus from approximately 9 a.m. to 8 p.m.
"It was a busy day," he said. "We toured the school, and I got to meet [head coach Jim McElwain], along with a lot of defensive linemen and [All-SEC cornerback] Jalen Tabor, so that was pretty awesome. I enjoyed the atmosphere a lot. It was a nice experience."
Tennessee hosted him in June, when he attended Orange Carpet Day alongside his parents. It was an immensely successful occasion for Volunteers head coach Butch Jones, who used the event to secure eight commitments.
"The family feel down there hit me a lot," Hansard said. "Coach Jones took some time to talk to me, so that was big. It's was a great opportunity to explore a new place, and I came away impressed."
He spent much of the day with sophomore defensive tackle Kahlil McKenzie, who arrived in Knoxville last year considered one of the Volunteers' most highly rated recruits ever.
"He's a player I've looked up to pretty much since he was in high school," Hansard said. "Getting to know him and seeing that he'd like to be my teammate was definitely cool."
Viewed primarily as a 3-technique prospect, Hansard has been busy working himself into better shape this offseason. Standing 6'3", his weight has dropped from 320 pounds to 305 pounds, and the ultimate plan is to maintain a physique just under the 300-pound mark.
"I'm doing whatever I can to prepare myself for the next step," Hansard said.
For one of the Garden State's most impressive talents, that step is set to draw closer with an upcoming commitment.
Quotes obtained firsthand by Bleacher Report National Recruiting Analyst Tyler Donohue unless otherwise noted. All player ratings are courtesy of 247Sports' composite ratings.
Follow Tyler via Twitter: @TDsTake.