Recent recruiting for Stanford football in the Lone Star State has been tough sledding, as it has been for almost every program in the country outside of Austin city limits. Mack Brown has brought a veritable recruiting machine to Texas, and with each passing year is gobbling up more of the state's premier talents earlier and earlier. At this time, the Longhorns have already nabbed 12 standout commitments, including two of Stanford's early targets in safety Andrew Kelson and offensive tackle Adam Ulatoski. Last year the Card were trumped early in the spring recruiting war for elite tight end Steven Hogan, who needed little of Brown's hard sell, with Hogan's father a former Longhorn gridder.
Hogan was a standout senior this past year at Houston powerhouse Strake Jesuit, which is also a strong academic school that should provide fertile recruiting grounds for Stanford's target student-athlete. But the Crusaders have been anything less than a success story for Stanford. The year before Hogan's class, the Card tried to recruit safety Steve Dildine to walk-on at The Farm, but he opted for Princeton instead.
Fast forward to the present, where the next big talent out of Strake Jesuit with Stanford academics is 6'1" 203-pound Chris Ogbonnaya, and he is another big battle the Cardinal will fight with the Longhorns. Though an all-around athlete who has performed as a standout for Strake at receiver, running back and quarterback, most schools project Ogbonnaya as a college wideout. Texas has identified him at that position as well, and have the full press on the junior wonder. Texas has already lined up three receivers with commitments in this class, and they want four. Ogbonnaya is their prime target for that fourth slot, and he's feeling the pressure.
After watching junior year film on this athlete, it's easy to understand why he has an offer list that includes Stanford, Texas, LSU, Oklahoma and Northwestern, as well as heavy recruitment from Ohio State, Notre Dame and Michigan. Just in the past week he has had the Irish, Horns and Wildcats in his schools, plus Miami and Arizona State. Ogbonnaya does not have the most elite of speed for an athlete his size (generally timed at 4.5 though just recently lowered to a 4.46), but he is a flat-out playmaker whenever he touches the ball. He alternated between option quarterback and receiver throughout the year, with the formations and plays fluctuating with the opponent.
Ogbonnaya has great football speed, with a natural elusiveness and smooth hips in the open field. As a runner, he cleared 500 yards last year and scored seven times on the ground, plus another 500 yards receiving on 20 catches including seven more scores. On defense, he locked down 52 tackles as a cornerback. Ogbonnaya is also a lethal kick returner, streaking to a 25-yard average and bringing back two for scores. His senior year, he will lead the Strake offense as a full-time quarterback (passing and option) on offense and cornerback on defense.
There is no question why Stanford made this Houston talent one of their very first offers in the country this winter. But Texas didn't take long to follow suit, and the Longhorns clearly remain the team to beat. "I like Texas a lot," Ogbonnaya discloses. "I wouldn't say they are in the lead, but they have made me feel the most comfortable. Coach Brown is a really nice and receptive person. He seems real. And Texas has a lot of good players; they take only the best. When they offer you early and recruit you like this, you know they think very highly of you. Texas tells me that I'm a good fit because of my overall talent, but they also like the fact that I get good grades and have character. I have a lot of respect for that. Stanford, Texas, Michigan and Notre Dame all say they are big on grades and character, which is appealing because so many schools just hand out offers without researching the person."
To make matters more difficult for the Cardinal coaches, graduating Strake senior Steve Hogan is working hard to aid the Longhorn recruiting effort. "He's my best friend," Ogbonnaya explains. "He's like a mentor to me and tells me all about recruiting. He speaks well of [Stanford running backs and Houston recruiting] coach Wayne Moses, but he also really wants me to go to Texas. Steve had a family tradition at Texas, though, and I have to decide based on my preferences."
At this time, the hot Houston talent names his list of favorites as Texas, Stanford, Michigan, Notre Dame and Florida. "I'm looking for the best balance between academics and athleteics," he says. "There has to be a good homeostasis." Stanford does hold one recognized advantage amongst its competitors according to Ogbonnaya, but will it be enough?
"Stanford has the best academics of any school on my list," he says. "But maybe they don't have the best football team. For most schools, I wouldn't want to go too far away from home, and Stanford is far, but their academics make it so worth it. They have a pretty good shot, except I haven't gone up there yet. I wanted to go to the Spring Game, but a track conflict came up. That sucks." One other ace in the Cardinal's corner is the fact that the recruit's father is big on Stanford. "My dad has liked Stanford ever since the beginning."
Ogbonnaya did manage a trip to Michigan recently, though, during their spring session of football, and he ran into an interesting situation. "I went to Michigan over my spring break, and they seemed surprised that I showed up," he relays. "I had told them I was coming up, but they must not have taken me seriously. They were actually looking at my film when I got there, so it was a little weird."
Spring football just started for Ogbonnaya on Monday, though he has spent the bulk of his time in the off-season running track and lifting weights. The Nike Camp at nearby College Station is available to him this weekend, but he has previously scheduled at SAT the same day. He says that he is shooting for a 1300 score and already took the test once at the beginning of April. He carries a 3.5 GPA and is a member of his school's National Honors Society.
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