Stanford football has had great success of late in plucking the premier preps from the Sacramento area, though few fans keep that metropolitan area in mind when surveying the state of California for its top recruits. The Cardinal reeled in All-American tight end Matt Traverso from Christian Brothers High School in 2002, and just landed All-American fullback Emeka Nnoli from Natomas High School in this most recent 2003 class. Though Stanford's 2004 class is in its earliest formative stages, already we have learned about the deep involvement of the Card with exciting dual-threat quarterback C.J. Bacher from Jesuit High School. The story you have not heard, though, which is one of the biggest developments of the spring recruiting season, surrounds 6'1" wide receiver Austin Collie from Oak Ridge High School in El Dorado Hills.
Collie, though a junior playing behind a veteran senior, emerged as the standout receiver that powered a very explosive and dominating Oak Ridge offense that averaged an eye-popping 40.9 points per game. He caught 56 balls for 857 yards and 10 scores over the course of the 2002 season, and played a big role in the offense that powered Oak Ridge (12-1) to a CIF title for the hotly contested San Joaquin Section. He twice caught nine passes in a game, and record single-game receiving yardage totals of 211 and 128 yards in the second half of the season. He also was an explosive punt returner, averaging an amazing 19 yards per return and scoring three touchdowns. Collie earned all-conference honors and was named Second Team All-City by the Sacramento Bee.
But even before the El Dorado Hills junior broke out late in the season, he was establishing contacts with several West Coast college programs. Collie made a name for himself at the Palo Alto Nike Camp on Stanford's campus last May, when he showed well as a sophomore in a sea of talented juniors. His father, Scott Collie, was a top receiver from 1979 to 1982 at BYU (plus four years in the CFL thereafter), and has through the years built many contacts through the coaching ranks. Those relationships, plus his alumni roots, put Collie front and center with the BYU Cougars, who got an exciting look at the younger Mormon talent in their own summer camp. Then the Collies made contact with receivers coach David Kelly at Stanford this past October, and sent the Cardinal coaches a junior highlight film shortly after the 2003 Signing Day.
Defensive backs coach and co-defensive coordinator A.J. Christoff handles the recruiting in the Sacramento area for Stanford, and though he was immediately excited by the tape, he passed it on to the staff's offensive coaches for a second look. The tape earned rave reviews and an immediate energetic response from the Stanford coaches to the Collie household that they wanted to vigorously recruit Austin for this 2004 class. They had already been sending mail for the previous five or six months, but wanted to take their efforts to a higher plane. The talented junior was set to visit the campus when he would make his return to the Nike Camp in May, but the coaches urged Collie to take the two-hour trip down to The Farm sooner. Austin and his parents hopped in the car very soon thereafter, and traveled I-80 and Highway 101 to see the coaches and campus on March 21.
The very first stop during the visit was at head coach Buddy Teevens' office, and it took all of ten minutes for the Stanford head man to make a scholarship offer to the Oak Ridge receiver, contingent of course upon his acceptance by the Stanford Admissions Office. Neither the recruit nor his parents had even the slightest expectation of such an offer at that early date, and were energized by the bombshell. The remainder of the day was spent eating lunch with David Kelly, A.J. Christoff and Matt Doyle, then a Stanford student taking Austin for a tour of the campus and a few classrooms. The younger Collie had seen the campus the previous May, and then before than when he attended a Stanford football camp as a 13-year old. But this tour and set of experiences showed him something different.
"I knew Stanford was a great school," the Oak Ridge receiver explains, "But I didn't know that the coaching staff was so great. They're all great people, and they really know what they're doing. Stanford also showed me that they can be highly focused on both football and school, not just one or the other. Stanford is definitely #1 on my list right now - I was really impressed."
Three other schools have stepped up with intense recruiting efforts and round out Collie's top four. BYU has familial ties not only through his father but also Austin's older brother Zach, who is wrapping up his Mormon mission this spring and will enroll as a freshman receiver in Provo. They have been following and recruiting their third Collie for some time, but after Stanford's offer the Cougar staff ratcheted their efforts to the maximum allowed contacts under NCAA rules. Not to be outdone by the impact of the Stanford unofficial visit, they have invited Collie for a trip to BYU next week (April 13-17) to give their own sales effort. The Oak Ridge junior says that he knows quite a bit about the school and campus through various visits and camps through the year.
Arizona is a school rapidly increasing its recruitment of Collie, with the interesting BYU tie of new receivers coach Mike Borich. Borich was recently the offensive coordinator and receivers coach in Provo, and has carried his enthusiasm for the LDS receiver to Tucson. The other Pac-10 school very much in the mix is Washington State, who laid their stake in the ground early and as a result have earned an upcoming trip by Collie to their Junior Day. One school outside his top four from which he would like to hear more is Notre Dame. "I really like their football tradition," Collie notes.
But there is little question that BYU is the most formidable opponent for Stanford in this recruiting battle. The Cougar link to both father and brother is a strong one, and Austin admits that it has always been an attractive prospect to play with his brother in school. And as a devout Mormon, the LDS tie to Provo has an undeniable pull. But this recruit and his father both have reasons that Stanford may end up the winner.
"I usually like to be unique - the one who makes my own decisions," says Austin. "I want to find my own path."
His father adds his own perspective on a future in Provo for his younger son. "As a parent, there isn't anything more fun that seeing both boys on the same Saturday," Scott starts. "But both boys play the same position, and you don't like to think of that competition. One would be taking playing time away from the other."
The younger Collie adds that Stanford's offer is