Chase Winovich had little experience at linebacker, but it didn't stop lots of college coaches from wanting him to play the position at their school.
Winovich, who will be a senior at Thomas Jefferson High School in the next school year, has played only eight games at the linebacker position in his high school career. As a sophomore and for the first three games of his junior season, Winovich played defensive back.
After the switch to linebacker last season, Winovich shined -- and colleges thought he had a bright future. By the time this spring hit, Winovich had a couple dozen scholarship offers from Division I colleges across the country. Pitt, West Virginia, Ohio State, Michigan State, Virginia Tech, Arkansas, Arizona, Florida State and Stanford were among the schools that offered.
This past Saturday, the University of Michigan won the chase for Chase.
Winovich, a 6-foot-4, 220-pounder, made a verbal commitment to Michigan. Pitt and Ohio State were his other two final choices. He can't sign a binding letter of intent with Michigan until next February.
"The thing is, I think his best football is so far ahead of him and I think all the college coaches recognize that," said Thomas Jefferson coach Bill Cherpak. "Just because of his skills and what he does well translates so much better to college than a lot of kids who are the best they're going to be in high school.
"He's big, he can run, he can finish plays. I think he's just going to get better and better because he hasn't played linebacker that long. He only played eight games for us at linebacker."
Eight was enough to show plenty as Winovich led the team in tackles last season.
"I think he just fits in at Michigan," Cherpak said. "He's that type of kid who, I don't want to say is 'preppy,' but fits as a person with those Michigan kids. He visited up there a couple times and stayed overnight up there with those kids. He knows where he fits."
Winovich actually visited Michigan three times on his own, the last time being a few weeks ago. He also visited Ohio State and was at Pitt numerous times.
"[Ohio State] might be great for some other kids, but it just didn't fit me," Winovich said.
He also said it was hard to say no to Pitt, a place where Cherpak played. Pitt also has landed some other Thomas Jefferson players in the past. Winovich visited Pitt for the final time last week.
"I went down to Pitt with an open mind," Winovich said. "I wanted to give Pitt as fair a shot as I did Ohio State and Michigan. I found out that I really liked Pitt. They're class 'A' people. That's what is tough. It's your home city. Their coaches are so genuine in their approach to everything."
Winovich said he knew Michigan was the place for him after his visit to the school a few weeks ago. He said he chose Michigan for a number of reasons, but one of the biggest was "I think what might have helped sway Michigan was the fact that I think they have a legitimate shot at winning a national championship."
Winovich will be the second member of his family to play Division I football. His older brother, Pete, was a 2004 Thomas Jefferson graduate and a member of the Post-Gazette Fabulous 22 as a senior. He signed with Bowling Green, was recruited as a quarterback, but played quarterback, tight end, linebacker and then fullback.
Chase Winovich, who will play some at quarterback for TJ this season, is very close to his brother, who lives in Toledo and works in the financial planning business.
"My brother is the biggest role model I could've ever asked for. Any time I need advice, that's who I go to," Chase said.
"Everyone was kind of afraid to pick a side in this recruiting. He just wanted what's best for me. He wasn't playing favorites. But Michigan is only about 35-40 minutes from his home so I'll be close to him."
Mike White: email@example.com, 412-263-1975 and twitter @mwhiteburgh