Look over the strengths and weaknesses of the past two or three Stanford recruiting classes, and you can piece together your own list of "positions of need" for this 2004 Stanford recruiting class. It's not that hard. There is huge need at defensive tackle and offensive tackle, plus the defensive backfield. One position that will likely not come to your lips is quarterback, where Stanford has locked up arguably the nation's best back-to-back quarterback tandems with Trent Edwards and T.C. Ostrander. Specifically, if the Cardinal can take a class this coming year of just 12-15 recruits, why would they pursue Jesuit High school quarterback C.J. Bacher (pronounced Bah-shay [French] and not Bah-ker) from Rocklin (CA) outside of Sacramento? Why would Bacher have handwritten letters from almost every coach on the Stanford staff, all the way up to head man Buddy Teevens?
The short answer is that Bacher is a different kind of QB than Stanford has anywhere on its roster today, or in what Ostrander will bring this fall. I have been fortunate enough to receive extensive film on his junior season, and his feet are unquestionably what set him apart from Stanford's pocket passers. David Lofton is possibly the closest Stanford signal caller to Bacher's scrambling ability, but this Sacto slinger has the complete package of playmaking ability that have many people talking about him and Randy Fasani in the same breath. The very first play I saw on Bacher's tape hammered home that comparison.
Jesuit has the ball on their opponent's 46 yardline, lined up in an I-formation. Bacher fakes play-action to his tailback and starts to rollout to his right side when a defensive end comes right in his face after beating the Jesuit offensive tackle. Bacher immediately turns his shoulders to reverse direction, while stiff-arming the pass rusher and putting him down on the ground. The quarterback reverses field and starts rolling out to his left (Bacher is right-handed), only to find a defender coming straight at him. By now, Bacher is back on his own 34-yardline and scrambling for his life with no blockers between him and the four defenders chasing him down. This is where Bacher's fleet-footed fancy dazzles you, as he outruns his pursuers and angles his way back up the field. He approaches the far sideline running full speed when a pair of linebacker dead ahead present a clear collision course. Bacher stops on a dime on his own 46-yardline and takes a step backward to give him that extra split second as he hurls the ball deep down the field. He is crushed from the right side as he releases the ball. Most of his teammates had come back to try and block once they saw him scrambling, but one receiver stayed in the defensive backfield. That receiver has tight single coverage just a foot behind him but heads toward the goalline with the ball in the air. The pass drops just over its target's shoulder, in stride, at the 5-yardline as a diving defensive back tackles him.
No exaggeration, I exclaimed, "Holy crap!" as I watched that surprising opening play on the tape of more than an hour of highlights and game footage. Talk about opening with a bang, that's a play that maybe a very small handful of senior quarterbacks this past year could have made. That play, which was mirrored several times throughout his film, earns him the right to carry a Randy Fasani comparison.
One important caveat, though, before you overheat your anticipation is that Bacher carries a smaller frame than Fasani. The Jesuit junior stands 6'2" and 180 today, a couple inches and about 35 pounds shy of Fasani when he was at Del Oro High School. But this budding star's athleticism just screams out to get him on the field, and like Fasani he could perhaps see some time at other positions on the field in his early years. He looks like he could help at safety, linebacker, wideout, slotback or special teams. He's somebody you recruit because he's going to make you a better football team.
Greg Biggins has also watched film, and this West Coast guru who evaluates prospects for Student Sports and his own PacWestFootball makes the comparison with one of the Pac-10's quarterbacking greats. "Bacher has the same quick drop and release as Jake Plummer and looks almost like he patterned himself after the former Sun Devil. He has a live arm, moves well in the pocket and can hurt a defense with his arm as well as his feet," Biggins says.
Bacher played on the junior varsity at Jesuit his freshman and sophomore years, then making the jump to the starting quarterback position his junior year. Jesuit has a history of some lofty QB talents, including Ken O'Brien (NY Jets), Geno Carmazzi (San Francisco 49ers) and JT O'Sullivan (New Orleans Saints), but Bacher broke the school's records for completions in a season and completion as a junior. He also turned a 6-5 team around to a 13-0 record, including a season-ending #7 ranking in the state by Cal-Hi Sports, across all regions and divisions. He threw for 1,932 yards on 139-of-219 passing, including 12 TDs versus 11 TDs. For his career he has thrown 46 TDs and just 16 INTs, so clearly his ability to protect the ball was a challenge as he made the jump to the varsity level.
"It was a little fast at first," he admits, "but the game got a lot slower at the end. My reads got better."
His improvement indeed was remarkable at the end of the season, as he put up fantastic numbers in Jesuit's storied playoff run. There he threw for 557 yards on 38-of-54 passing (70%), with four passing and two rushing TDs versus just two INTs. His pinnacle performance came against Sacramento powerhouse Grant High School, who had been ranked in the top ten in the state for first ten weeks of the season and #1 in the Sacramento area. Bacher threw for 256 yards and two scores, plus one rushing touchdown, with 18-of-21 passing (86%) and no interceptions. Jesuit won the game 35-34 in overtime for their season-defining victory.
C.J. Bacher earned all-city honors from the Sacramento Bee and all-state underclass honors from Cal-Hi Sports for his junior year performances.
Not ready to rest on his laurels, the highly touted junior quarterback is working with a personal trainer in the off-season to improve his strength, and meets with another trainer on Sundays to better his footwork. "I was expecting a lot more of myself my junior year," he reveals. "I know I can be quicker, stronger and smarter. I want to increase my passing touchdowns next year, as well as my rushing numbers."
In addition to his spring passing league, Bacher has a full slate of camps coming in the next few months. He will attend the Palo Alto Nike Camp held on Stanford's campus in May, where he acquitted himself well as a sophomore last year, including a 4.69 40 and 4.29 shuttle run. Bacher believes he can run this year in the 4.5's, and there is no question that