Shirley kicking it into high gear

Kaiser linebacker Josh Shirley – a top 150 recruit by both and – has kept his poker face pretty well throughout the recruiting process, as it has been tough to get a read on the 6-foot-3, 225-pound linebacker’s intentions.

“I have a lot of schools I’m looking at right now,” Shirley said. “I wouldn’t say that there’s one school that’s my favorite right now.”

Shirley has been frugal with his official visits, taking one to Washington in October and another to Arizona in November to go along with several unofficial visits to USC and UCLA. But the next two weekends will see Shirley on the road, as he heads to USC this weekend and out to Miami (Fla.) in the last weekend before National Signing Day on February 2.

“I’m looking forward to taking the visits and seeing what these schools have to offer,” Shirley said. “I’ve never been out to Florida before, so pretty stoked about seeing that part of the country and seeing what it’s like.”

While Shirley has kept things low-key for the most part, his January has been pretty frenetic. He started the month representing the West in the U.S. Army All-American Game in San Antonio, practicing in the Alamo City before playing in the game on Jan. 9. Shirley scored touchdowns on a 77-yard blocked field goal, one of many highlights from all-star week.

“Scoring a touchdown was pretty cool,” Shirley said. “It was just fun to meet and compete against all of those great athletes and see how the Army does things. You get to meet a bunch of guys you’ve only heard about and they are pretty cool. (National No. 1 recruit) Seantrel Henderson and I really hit it off.”

Along with travel, Shirley has dealt with some coaching changes at some of his favorite schools. Three of his preseason top 8 – Notre Dame, USC and Tennessee – have changed coaches in the offseason, with USC bringing in former Tennessee coach Lane Kiffin to replace Pete Carroll.

“I was really surprised that Coach Carroll left,” Shirley said. “I thought he might leave in 2-3 years, but I was really shocked that he left like this. Kiffin didn’t surprise me that much though – he’s just coming back to the school where he won national championships. I don’t pick a school for their coach though, because you don’t know when they are going to leave.”

While Shirley stopped short of ruling Notre Dame, who hired Cincinnati coach Brian Kelly, and Tennessee, who hired Louisiana Tech coach Derek Dooley, out, he didn’t mention them specifically as schools that he was considering, citing Arizona, Washington, USC, Miami, UCLA and Oregon in that category. But Shirley did make one declarative statement.

“I’m deciding on National Signing Day,” Shirley said. “I’m on the edge of my seat trying to figure out where I’m going, but I’m not deciding before then.”

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