If there are two profiles that have provided the greatest difficulty for Stanford recruiting the last few years, they are defensive tackles and bluechip players from Virginia. The former are a difficult group for any college to recruit, but more so for Stanford given the Cardinal's academic admissions standards. The latter has proven difficult because the in-state draw of UVA and Virginia Tech has been an overpowering and unbeatable force. Tech has enjoyed several years of on-field success that has continued to raise its profile, while the Cavaliers have become a recruiting machine under new head coach Al Groh.
Departing from the past and moving forward to the present, we examine the case of Jon Kirchner, the 6'5" 260-pound two-way lineman from Lexington, Virgnia. He is rated one of the top linemen on the Atlantic Coast, who could play several different positions on either side of the ball. He's big and strong, but jumps out on film with his quick first step to the ball on defense. With a 3.32 GPA and a 1020 SAT from his sophomore year (just took an April retake), he presents the academic profile for Stanford to go with his football resume.
But here's the bad news: he publicly proclaimed early in this recruiting process that he would like to commit to Virginia Tech early, as soon as they offer. Both of his parents went to VaTech, and he has grown up a heavily indoctrinated fan of the Hokies. Sounds like a great talent for Stanford to recruit on paper, but a longshot in the recruiting scheme of things. So it was on a lark that I called Kirchner this past week to check and see if his recruiting might be any more open than advertised, or if the VT offer and endgame was imminent. What I learned surprised me.
Kirchner now boasts three offers, from Virginia, West Virginia and most recently Stanford. The Cardinal offered a week ago Thursday, when Buddy Teevens was talking with the head coach at Rockbridge County High School. As Kirchner tells the story, he was in the middle of a weight session when his coach interrupted and put him on the phone. Teevens kept the discussion brief, so as to let the big lineman return to his conditioning regimen, but made a surprise scholarship offer. "Stanford has been talking to me and telling me they really liked me," Kirchner explains. "But particularly to come at a time when I was not expecting it, it was pretty much a surprise. It sort of pushed [Stanford] to more of a possibility for me. Not long before that, my mom and I had been looking at Stanford on the Internet, actually. And we liked what we saw. The 1:7 student to professor ratio is really attractive, and they have a good engineering department, which is what I want to major in. Coach Teevens explained that Stanford would be a great fit for me, as a top student as well as a top athlete. And he said that despite the distance, it's just four or five hours away by plane. I'm definitely keeping Stanford as an option, even though it's far away."
The other compelling offer for Kirchner was the one from Virginia, who he says is recruiting him for offense or defense, while other schools like Stanford are talking primarily defense. The Cavaliers put their stake in the ground with the early offer, while Kirchner's state favorite Hokies have yet to make the move. Interestingly, the top prospect was in Blacksburg not long ago for the Virginia Tech spring game and even briefly chatted with head coach Frank Beamer. Kirchner says they shook hands and extended pleasantries, but despite the prime opportunity Beamer gave no offer. "He told me that they will keep watching me," the Rockbridge County junior relays.
A few more interesting dynamics to consider when looking at this puzzle:
- Though Virginia has stepped up with an offer and is "right there" for Kirchner, his father is a militant Virginia Tech fan and did not speak for several days after UVA made their offer, according to the son in the crosshairs.
- Kirchner also notes that his high school head coach has "tight bond" with the staff at Virginia personally, and has gone to the campus several times to help with coaching clinics
If that paints a cloudy picture for this young man to you, then you are beginning to understand the increasingly complex situation that is developing in his mind. "I've been thinking really hard the last couple weeks about everything," Kirchner admits. "I used to think I would just go to Virginia Tech as soon as they offered and end this thing early. I mean, both my parents went to Virginia Tech, but a lot can change about a place in 20 years. I still want to see the Virginia Tech engineering department, and I want to wait a while to see what my options are. Virginia and Virginia Tech are my top two right now, but Stanford is a very close third. I like their engineering. I want to take my time. After all, it's a life choice for me and not for my parents."
But when you hear a recruit say they want to "take their time," you may be crafting a timeline in your head that pushes the decision into the fall or winter. In Kirchner's mind, though, taking his time means letting this thing go deep into the summer. He remains resolute that he would like to decide before his senior season, so as to avoid the distractions. The clock has been extended, but not long enough that Kirchner is likely to take fall official visits. The good news for the Cardinal coaches, though, is that he says he wants to take an unofficial trip to The Farm this summer with his father. "I think when he goes and sees what a place like Stanford can offer, it will open up his mind," the younger Kirchner says hopefully of his father.
His criterion in choosing a school will be (in order):
- "Academic standards - I want to make sure that strong engineering is offered"
- "Overall campus atmosphere"
- "The standard of the football team"
Jon Kirchner played defensive end at Rockbridge County as a sophomore, and then added offensive tackle to his repertoire this past junior season. The offensive experiment worked and played a big role in a turnaround season for the program, which finished 8-3. But Kirchner says he loves defense - "I like defense a lot more. I love the challenge of sacking the quarterback." His senior season will mark yet another progression as he moves inside on defense to tackle for the first time. "Our coach likes the biggest and strongest players inside, and I've gained 20 pounds since the beginning of last season. I want to get to 285 by the start of my senior year. Defensive end was more about footwork, but defensive tackle will be more strength and blowing through the offensive line - more down and dirty."
Though most offenses ran away from Kirchner's side of the field last fall ("I was intimidating to them"), he totaled an impressive 58 solo tackles, four sacks and 15 hurries. He will participate in the Nike Camp at Virginia Tech on May 15, and says he is spending much of this spring working on agility and strength.
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