In-state 2021 defensive end T.J. Bollers used his strength to nab a pair of tackles against Iowa City Liberty. Des Moines Register


Clear Creek Amana defensive end T.J. Bollers, one of the country's most sought-after defensive recruits, has released his final six schools: Iowa State, Nebraska, Wisconsin, Cal, Alabama and Northwestern.

Bollers, the Register's No. 1 in-state 2021 prospect and a consensus four-star recruit, broke down his six finalist schools with the Register after making his announcement.

Iowa State

Bollers: "My first offer, and I've had a great relationship with the coaches there for a very long time. I know a lot of players there, too, so I've already built a relationship with some guys on the team. I like that their team is trending upwards, too."

Bain's take: The Cyclones are squarely in the mix at the top of Bollers' recruitment, and have been for some time. It boils down to relationships here. As long as Matt Campbell is the head coach at Iowa State, it has a great chance. Bollers trains with current Iowa State recruit Dodge Sauser, and he has previously trained with 2020 Iowa State recruits Tyler Miller of Greene County and Brady Petersen of Ankeny Centennial.


Bollers: "I also have a great relationship with these guys. too. I think I've been there the most out of all my visits and every time I've been there it has been awesome. I love Coach (Scott) Frost and (defensive coordinator Erik) Chinander and how they do things. The new (outside linebacker) coach (Mike) Dawson is amazing. I also like how much effort they put into development of their guys."

Bain's take: Bollers was one of Frost's first big 2021 targets after he took over at Nebraska, and that longstanding relationship is paying off. Bollers is also similar to Kuemper Catholic 2020 defensive end Blaise Gunnerson, who Nebraska is turning into an outside linebacker. Bollers has trained with Gunnerson and currently trains with Huskers 2021 recruit Henry Lutovsky of Mount Pleasant.


Bollers: "I've never been there, but I definitely will be going on a visit once all this ends. I've been on multiple phone calls and FaceTimes with (head coach Nick) Saban and all of the stuff he has told me about the program is enough to make me want to visit — other than the fact that it's Alabama, one of the best teams in college football every year. I've spoken with the strength coach and the work they do to develop their guys is top-notch."

Bain's take: Alabama is Alabama. Nick Saban is Nick Saban. The chatter behind the scenes is that Bollers has been very impressed with the Crimson Tide’s head coach, and that Alabama is a strong contender. If Bollers isn’t eventually able to visit Alabama, though, that obviously hurts its chances.


Bollers: "I love their program and the culture they have there. Coach (Paul) Chryst is an awesome coach and so is (outside linebackers coach Bobby) April. I've got a good relationship with some of the other 2021 recruits, as well."

Bain's take: Wisconsin has felt like one of the frontrunners for a while now. It provides a balanced combination of year-in, year-out football success and the high level of academics Bollers wants.


Bollers: "I've been there once and it was enough to make me want to go back for an official. They showed me everything and I enjoyed all of it. I have a great relationship with (defensive line coach Andrew) Browning and (head coach Justin) Wilcox and I'm excited to see where it leads. Their engineering program is one of the best in the nation and that's another big factor for me."

Bain's take: Bollers loved his time at Cal and came away impressed with what it could offer him academically, too. If Bollers is looking for a different experience, Cal would be that — out in California, playing a Pac-12 schedule.


Bollers: "I've only been there twice, but the times I was there I enjoyed it a lot. They have an awesome school there and a great football tradition, as well."

Bain's take: Northwestern provides a similar type of academic appeal as Cal, but in a college that’s closer to home. A combination of Northwestern’s high academics plus a Big Ten football experience is certainly appealing to Bollers.

Matthew Bain covers recruiting, Iowa/Iowa State athletics and Drake basketball for the Des Moines Register and USA TODAY Network. Contact him at and follow him on Twitter @MatthewBain_.

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