Shaw's signing day press conference

Stanford head coach David Shaw capped one of the best signing days in recent memory with a press conference that gave some insight into his staff's recruiting strategy. Shaw also talked about how the Cardinal's newly inked recruits will fit into the program, including where some true freshman might see significant playing time next season.

The head coach wasn't exactly modest about the signings, either. "I think we've got probably one of the best classes in the history of the school," he said to open the press conference. "It's not about the rankings or the stars. It's about the quality of individuals we've added to our team."

I'm inclined to agree with his general assessment of the quality of the class.

Stanford's selling points: In assembling the country's No. 6 class, Shaw's biggest feat as a recruiter was to turn Stanford's traditional weakness on the recruiting trail into its chief asset. The stringent academic standards on the Farm used to be a major handicap, limiting coaches to the pool of recruits who could keep pace with Stanford classes. However, Shaw repeatedly emphasized the blend of world-class academics and a major-conference football program when recruiting players. This strategy paid off handsomely, with a number of key recruits citing academics as a major reason for committing to the Cardinal.
"There's that component, of the academic reputation of Stanford University," Shaw said. "Every single one of these kids on this list were looking for that, along with BCS-caliber football. They found it."

Offensive line class stands out: Naturally, Stanford's offensive line class was the most prominent topic during the press conference. The Cardinal's haul, headlined by tackles Kyle Murphy and Andrus Peat and guard Josh Garnett, seemingly ensures that the program will be able to employ its physical, run-first brand of offensive football for the foreseeable future. According to Shaw, all three signees will immediately compete for playing time, and could win one or both of the starting roles along the line vacated by Jonathan Martin and David DeCastro.
"This could be one of the best offensive line classes in modern football history," Shaw said. "The combination of size, athletic ability, toughness—it's rare that you get this many guys that can play this well."
"For guys who play, it's obvious—we let the offensive linemen tee off," Shaw added when asked about why Stanford was attractive to offensive line recruits. "They come off the ball, we come off physically. I think we've got outstanding teachers here, with Mike Bloomgren and Ron Crook, as far as the techniques that help these guys be successful at this level and the next."

Wide receiver concerns: Though Stanford landed four wide receivers in the class of 2012, none were rated higher than three stars, and Shaw didn't inspire much confidence when he discussed the receiver recruits during his press conference. Compared to his enthusiasm in discussing the offensive line, the coach was somewhat muted in his praise of the four new wideouts—Conner Crane, Dontonio Jordan, Kodi Whitfield and Michael Rector. None of those players really stood out as he briefly talked about them and their potential. He didn't offer a strong assessment of the Cardinal's current depth at the position either. Behind Ty Montgomery, the top wideouts on the roster are Drew Terrell and Jamal-Rashad Patterson, neither of whom made a significant impact in 2011. Interestingly though, Shaw indicated that Patterson had made a great deal of progress in practices before the Fiesta Bowl.

Secondary gets an upgrade: One area of need the Card did successfully address was the defensive backfield, where an already weak unit is losing three of its 2011 starters. Shaw indicated that top prospect Alex Carter, a presumptive safety, would play cornerback, with Zach Hoffpauir and Drew Madhu rounding out Stanford's crop of defensive backs. The unit will also be bolstered by the return of Wayne Lyons from an injury that sidelined him during his freshman campaign.
"Here at Stanford, we're always looking for defensive backs," Shaw said. "There have been years where we've gone through classes without a single one. But to get a guy like Alex Carter, a big, physical corner that NFL teams are looking for—he's a special young man with an NFL pedigree."

Other news and notes: Guard Brandon Fanaika will take a two-year church mission before enrolling at Stanford in 2014.
Shaw gave no word on whether Dallas Lloyd will be in camp this fall, but he did seem to exclude Lloyd when he said that the Cardinal had four scholarship quarterbacks on the roster for next season. (Though he didn't name them, those players are Brett Nottingham, Josh Nunes, Evan Crower and Keith Hogan.)
Stanford also remains in play for quarterback Jameis Winston, the second-rated QB prospect in the country. Winston has verbally committed to Florida State but has not yet signed a letter of intent, and (though he was unable to say so explicitly) Shaw hinted that the coaching staff was still trying to get Winston to flip to the Cardinal.
Shayne Skov is expected to miss at least part of spring practice and possibly all of it, though Shaw is still planning to have him start at linebacker in the fall.
Patrick Skov is expected to miss the first session of spring practice but could return for the second session.


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