California love for Tenn. OL Shuler

Brentwood Academy (Brentwood, Tenn.) offensive lineman Graham Shuler reports offers from eight colleges and interest from several others. However, the 6-foot-5, 270-pounder says that one of his more recent offers stands out.

Graham Shuler told The Bootleg that while he views most of the interested schools on an even level, if he had to name a favorite, it would be the Cardinal.

"For the most part everybody's still pretty even, but Stanford's definitely jumped," Shuler said. "I don't know if I can necessarily say they're my No. 1, but they've definitely jumped pretty high. If I had to say a favorite it would probably be them, in all honesty. I'm pretty excited about this offer."

For a while, Shuler wasn't sure a Stanford offer was headed his direction. Shuler sent Stanford a highlight tape last fall, but it took a while before he and the Cardinal coaches began to maintain regular contact.

"I believe I sent them a tape, a five-game cut up from earlier this season, back in November or October," Shuler said. "I started getting some letters here and there from them. They started getting in touch with my coaches and then the whole email deal, and I started hearing more and more from them and pretty recently started talking on the phone with [running backs coach Mike] Sanford, so it kind of progressed that way."

Even after he began to speak with Sanford, Shuler wasn't quite sure whether he would ultimately receive a Stanford offer. That changed when Shuler gave Sanford a call last Thursday.

"I just gave him a call and we were talking, catching up, and he wanted to tell me that they watched my film again today in their meeting and were talking about me more and decided they wanted to offer," Shuler said. "He just told me and extended the offer. I was pretty excited about it. I was very glad to get that call. We had been talking for the last couple of weeks, but I wasn't sure which direction it was headed. I'm glad it headed this direction."

There are still some loose ends to be tied up between Shuler and Stanford, however. While the recruit reports frequent contact with Sanford, he's yet to spend much time speaking with his potential future position coach, Mike Bloomgren. As a result, Shuler isn't exactly sure if the Cardinal sees him more as a tackle or an interior lineman.

"I haven't gotten a chance to speak much with Coach Bloomgren about that," Shuler said.

Other schools hold varying opinions about the offensive lineman's future position. Shuler, for one, doesn't seem to hold a preference.

"Some schools like Virginia Tech, Duke, Vanderbilt and some other schools want to keep me at tackle," Shuler said. "They like the way I play out there. Other schools have talked about moving me to guard, other schools have talked about center.

"To me it's not a huge deal. I've played all three this year for my high school based on some crazy injury things we had happen. I'm very versatile and well-versed all over the offensive line so I'm pretty comfortable moving around. I feel like I could play center, I could play guard, I could play tackle in college, it's really where the need is and where it allows the best players to be on the field."

Obviously, Shuler is a bit more particular about the college decision process. He outlined several factors that will play a role in his ultimate choice.

"Really it's just my gut feeling," Shuler said. "Just where I feel at home and where I feel is the best place for me. I have an incredible support group around me with friends and family and mentors who have really helped me start trying to figure out what I'm looking for. I've bounced a lot of stuff off them.

"I want to be somewhere where I'm wanted. I want to go to a program that really wants me and is excited about me, because I know that's where they'll care the most about me. I want to be around caring coaches and coaches who teach and who want to win. I want to be at a competitive program and also want to get a great education. Those are some of the things that play into my decision."

To get a better indication of how each school fits those criteria, Shuler plans to take several unofficial visits in the upcoming months.

"I'm heading down to Auburn in about two weekends," Shuler said. "I'm definitely looking to make a trip out to Stanford if we can get stuff lined up the right way here on our end. It's probably going to be Auburn, then Stanford, then I'm not really sure what else, but I'm sure there will be a couple more trips in there."

If Shuler likes what he sees on one of those trips, he could end up pulling the trigger on a commitment sooner rather than later.

"I'm looking to make a relatively early decision," Shuler said. "I really want to make sure I find the right mix of things and I'm confident in that decision, but I'm definitely looking to make an early decision, probably by June. I'd love to help build a class and really get settled in to where I'm going to be for the next four or five years."

While it might not make an impact, it's worth noting Shuler and his family do have a few Stanford connections.

Shuler's father, Rob, played football at Auburn with Alex Dudchock, the father of current Cardinal tight end Davis Dudchock.

The Shulers also know wide receiver Brandon Gottfried, through Rob's relationship with former Alabama basketball coach Mark Gottfried.

Finally, Rob is well acquainted with Stanford graduate and current faculty member Bob Grady.

"One of my dad's really good friends is Bob Grady," Shuler said. "He's a Stanford grad. I've known Mr. Grady for a while. He's an awesome guy and in my opinion exemplifies the kind of guy I want to be when I get older." Shuler reports a 3.4 core GPA and plans to take the SAT and ACT for the first time in the spring.

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