Defensive back recruiting is a very touchy part of the business for college coaches. Foul up on your choices of whom to recruit, and your defense may be torched for several years as a result of a couple mistakes. And almost as tough as finding that true talent at defensive tackle is finding the smooth and talented cover cornerback. But too often, it seems like safeties are easier to come by. Stanford has for one had enough options at safety that freshman Gerald Commissiong was moved this past fall to running back, and just this spring Kevin Schimmelmann made the move up to outside linebacker.
Beyond Commissiong, the Cardinal currently have Trevor Hooper (strong) and Marcus McCutcheon (free) at safety in the freshman class and will add Brandon Harrison most likely to the mix when the next crop of frosh arrive in the fall. But when you look at cornerback, only T.J. Rushing and Nick Sanchez will stack up in single coverage at the line of scrimmage in these two combined classes. It's clear that Stanford needs to recruit corners in this 2004 class, but with as few as 12-15 scholarships to give, would you recruit and offer a safety?
Five years ago, the Stanford coaching staff then in place thought they were well stocked at the safety positions and passed on the younger brother of Chijioke Asomugha, who was a redshirt cornerback at the time for the Cardinal. Nnamdi Asomugha was a very well regarded defensive back recruit, but Stanford and other schools had him pegged likely as a safety. The Card decided to pass because they didn't believe they could use another safety. The younger Asomugha wrought more than a little revenge, though, choosing Stanford's rival across the Bay and playing at Cal as a true freshman. This past weekend, he was selected by the Oakland Raiders as their pick in the first round on the NFL draft.
The moral/lesson of this story: if a kid has real talent and can make your team better, you don't pass on him because of perceived depth at a position. Position switches are bound to unfold all over a roster, and very few players will pan out just how you had them pegged by their recruiting ratings.
So we return to the present, and examine the case of Jacksonville (FL) safety C.J. Hirschman, who stands at 6'0" and 195 pounds. Most high school defensive backs will tell you that they see themselves as cornerbacks, eschewing the seeming stigma of being a safety. But Hirschman has a clear mind when it comes to evaluating his own abilities. "I'm definitely a safety," he frankly states. "I don't think I have the flashy speed for cornerback at the next [college] level."
For the record, Hirschman reports that he ran a 4.59 forty and a 4.24 shuttle at the recent Nike Camp in Gainesville, to go with a 27" vertical. And if he doesn't look that fast on film, you might carefully consider who on the Mandarin roster is lining up at corner in that same defensive backfield. Classmate and nationally renowned stud cornerback Tony Carter has been said to have "4.2" speed and delivered an MVP performance at that same Gainesville Nike Camp, including a lockdown set of repetitions in one-on-one drills to go with a 4.37 forty. Carter is reputed in some recruiting circles to be a top five national CB recruit, and already has offers from the trio of in-state powers.
But here's the kicker: Hirschman currently holds a spring ranking as a top 100 player in Florida and has already been given an offer from Florida State. In fact, the Mandarin standout holds offers today from the Seminoles and Cardinal, as well as Syracuse and Mississippi State. Heavy recruiting interest is also coming from Iowa and Auburn, though there is one school close to Hirschman's heart from whom he would like to hear more.
"My dad played at Miami, and I'd like to go there," the Jackonsville junior reveals. "But they're not really recruiting me that hard."
The offer from Stanford came three weeks ago, when Hirschman spoke on the phone with Cardinal head man Buddy Teevens. "Coach Teevens had talked with with my high school head coach earlier that day and asked me to call back," the recruit recalls. "He's a pretty cool guy and really stressed the student in our conversation. I have a 4.1 GPA, and that's what they're really looking for - smart football players. He told me to come take a look, and said I wouldn't find geeks and nerds at Stanford. He also said that the faculty recognizes that Stanford players aren't just jocks - they're real students."
Hirschman goes on to name Stanford and Missisippi State as his top two, with his four offer schools filling the top four.
- Mississippi State - "We have a [Mandarin] coach who is there now, I think as a GA [general assistant]. Also an offensive lineman from our school is going there next fall - David Price."
- Florida State - "They've had some problems lately, and that concerns me."
- Syracuse - "They're probably at the bottom of my top four."
His recruiting plans at this time are in flux, waiting to see what schools suggest in the way of visits. "I know I have a national list of schools, and honestly I thought in the beginning that I was going to stay in the South," Hirschman discloses. "But Stanford is a great academic school, and people take notice when they see you have a Stanford degree. I think this will all come down to my visits. I've already been to Auburn for their spring scrimmage, and it was kinda nice. I'll take my official visits whenever schools ask. I have no set date or deadline for my decision and don't want to stress out."
On the field, the six-foot junior free safety is looking for improved health for his upcoming season, after some back problems a year ago. He started the year as a safety, but after rupturing two discs in his back in August, his coach moved him closer to the line of scrimmage. He still played some downs as a DB, but put in most of his time as an OLB and even up at DE. "I was quick and just ran around the offensive line to get to the quarterback," he explains. Hirshman recorded 64 tackles on the year, plus 11 pass breakups, five INTs and three sacks. He returned one interception for a score. On offense, he received a little time as a slot receiver, and will work primarily at WR and DB this fall.
Though reported by one service to carry a 1230 SAT, Hirschman tells The Bootleg that he has an 1190 in the bag and just took the ACT in April. He is retaking the SAT this Saturday.
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