Stanford’s recruiting class follows old pattern
David Shaw’s latest recruiting class is short on numbers and
marquee names. If the past has shown anything, though, that might
not matter much.
Looking for the right combination of brawn and brains, Stanford
signed 12 players to national letters of intent Wednesday. That’s a
considerably smaller – and less heralded – group than a year ago,
when the Cardinal coach hauled in 22 players in what the program
called the best class in its history.
The type of players signed, Shaw said, remains constant.
”You’re going to see toughness. You’re going to see guys play
with the attitude that we have here,” said Shaw, sitting at a
table flanked by the Pac-12 and Rose Bowl championship trophies.
”You’re going to see guys that are bright and intelligent. First
and foremost before we ever start this process, you’re going to see
guys that fit us.”
That has been Stanford’s strategy during its recent
With so many players returning from a team that just won the
Rose Bowl, Shaw focused on finding targets to help breakout
quarterback Kevin Hogan as he enters his redshirt sophomore season.
Among those in the recruiting class are tight ends Greg Taboada
(Atlanta, Ga.), Austin Hooper (San Ramon, Calif.) and Eric Cotton
(Nampa, Idaho) along with wide receiver Francis Owusu (Oxnard,
Calif.), the brother of former Stanford speedster Chris Owusu who
Shaw said is even bigger at this stage in his development.
The hope is that the tight end trio will, in time, alleviate the
losses of All-American Zach Ertz and Levine Toilolo at a position
that desperately needs depth. Both decided to forego their final
year of eligibility to enter the NFL draft.
”With two tight ends walking out the door, you’ll see three
tight ends coming in the door,” Shaw said. ”Big, physical guys
that we believe have the talent both at the line of scrimmage and
as pass receivers.”
If Signing Day 2012 was Shaw’s masterpiece, this year might be
more of a patchwork.
Stanford is bringing back most starters – and their primary
backups – just about everywhere on the field but tight end, wide
receiver and linebacker. So it’s no coincidence those three
positions makeup most of the Cardinal’s class.
The dozen signed, which come from eight different states,
include: Owusu, three tight ends, four linebackers, two offensive
linemen, quarterback Ryan Burns (Leesburg, Va.) and three-way
threat Taijuan Thomas (Monroe, La.), who is listed as wide
receiver, cornerback and kick returner.
Shaw declined to discuss how many players were accepted to the
university and turned down an offer. He did the same when asked
about those the school targeted who didn’t meet the rigorous
admissions standards. He likened both to ”doctor-patient
Linebackers coach and admissions liaison Lance Anderson said it
was a normal recruiting year as far as the difficult Stanford
standards. He said it’s always encouraging to see how hard
prospects work to meet the grade, noting that Hooper took the SAT
test four times before he qualified – still two shy of the record
set by tight end Luke Kaumatule, part of last year’s class.
”We recruit a different kind of athlete here,” Anderson
The main difference from a year ago, when Stanford surprisingly
rolled up rankings in the top 10 of most major recruiting services,
is that this class lacks a star-studded punch. The Cardinal failed
to crack the top 50 this February – not like Shaw cares much.
Instead, the two-time reigning Pac-12 Conference Coach of the
Year has carried on the philosophy started by predecessor Jim
Harbaugh: focus on players smart enough to clear Stanford’s
admissions who could thrive in a throwback brand of physical
football. And with few scholarships available this year, that
approach resonated even more.
”It’s a small class because we didn’t have a lot of guys
walking out the door,” Shaw said. ”We have a lot of guys coming
back with a lot of high expectations as far as their play and their
improvement is concerned. We wanted to bring some guys in that
could come in and compete.”
Shaw expects some of the success of this past season to have
more of an impact on next February’s class.
On Jan. 1, Stanford outlasted Wisconsin 20-14 to capture the
program’s first Rose Bowl victory since 1972. By that time, most of
this class had been secured.
The Cardinal finished with a No. 7 ranking and are one of only
three teams – Oregon and Wisconsin being the others – to have made
a BCS bowl each of the last three years. Shaw was so at ease this
signing day, he said he listened to folk-rock singer ”Jack
Johnson” while watching film instead of waiting by the fax machine
for the official letters.
The same comfort has been felt on the road for Stanford with an
established recruiting pipeline now.
”The first year we were here with Coach Harbaugh, a lot of the
doors we had to kick open, some of those doors are open right
now,” Shaw said. ”Walking in, it’s not, `Hey, is that a Syracuse
or North Carolina State `S’ on your chest?’ Now you walk in they
say, `Oh, it’s Stanford. Stanford’s here.”’
Antonio Gonzalez can be reached at: