Ten NSD Takeaways: Part Two

On Sunday, we counted down from No. 10 to No. 6. Today, we discuss the top five stories of the Card's remarkable 2012 recruiting class.

Before we examine the top five signing day stories, here are a few of the story lines that didn't quite make our top 10.

Honorable mention No. 1: Wide receiver haul

Although none are can't-miss prospects, Stanford's four wide receiver recruits are a solid, versatile group who will have plenty of opportunity to earn early playing time. Conner Crane, Kodi Whitfield, Michael Rector, and Dontonio Jordan have distinctive skill sets, and should compete with Jordan Pratt, Jamal-Rashad Patterson, Drew Terrell, and others to find a spot in Stanford's receiver rotation.

Honorable mention No. 2: No tight ends

Stanford targeted a few tight ends early in the recruiting cycle, but was unable to add any to its 2012 class. After loading up with Zach Ertz, Levine Toilolo, Ryan Hewitt, and Jordan Navjar in 2010, Stanford has only signed one true tight end in its past three classes in Davis Dudchock. It will be essential for the Card to ink a strong tight end class in 2013 if they want to continue to use the two- and three tight-end sets that were so successful in 2011.

Signing day story lines, No. 5 – No. 1

5) All three levels

Stanford continued its strong recruiting on the defensive side of the ball in 2012. The Cardinal inked elite prospects on all three levels of defense: along the defensive line, at linebacker, and in the secondary. Aziz Shittu (DL), Noor Davis (LB), and Alex Carter (DB) were ranked among the top-100 prospects nationally by multiple recruiting sites, and have the offer lists to back up those lofty rankings. Shittu was heavily pursued by Cal, USC, UCLA, Texas A&M, Michigan, and a host of others before signing with Stanford, Davis had offers from essentially every SEC school and USC, and despite committing to Stanford very early in the process, Carter had offers from Cal, Notre Dame, the Virginia and many others. That trio, along with other star defensive recruits including Jordan Watkins and Luke Kaumatule, should help the Card's defense reload sooner rather than later.

4)Around the nation

Stanford recruiting on a national level isn't a new phenomenon. Between the 2010 and 2011 classes, the Card signed players hailing from 17 states and Washington D.C., most of whom were pursued by local schools. But few teams have made as many hometown enemies as Stanford did in 2012. The Card signed nine players ranked either No. 1 or No. 2 in their home state by a major recruiting service: Josh Garnett (Wash.) Kyle Murphy (Calif.), Nick Davidson (Minn.), Barry J. Sanders (Ok.), Brandon Fanaika (Utah), Alex Carter (Va.), Andrus Peat (Ariz.), Luke Kaumatule (Hawaii), and Graham Shuler (Tenn.) That accounting doesn't include account for Noor Davis and Jordan Watkins, who were both chased after by nearly the entire SEC. 2012 was an impressive display of the Stanford football program's national reach and appeal.

3)Defensive line dominance

For all the attention that Stanford's 2012 offensive line class has rightfully attracted, the Card's defensive line class shouldn't be discounted. Stanford signed four defensive ends with four-star ratings by at least one recruiting site (Aziz Shittu, Luke Kaumatule, and Jordan Watkins), as well as a raw, but athletically imposing lineman in (Ikenna Nwafor). Rivals.com ranks the defensive end class fourth best in the nation, and for good reason. Shittu and Watkins had offers from national powers from coast to coast, Kaumatule was arguably the top recruit in Hawaii and had his choice of offers from nearly every Pac-12 school, and though he flew somewhat under the radar, Lohn is a high-motor, physical, versatile lineman in his own right. Finally, while he doesn't have the name recognition of ratings, Nwafor's ceiling may be the highest of the bunch. He garnered rave reviews at the Offense/Defense All-American game, and is another candidate to play early. In 2010-2011, Stanford's defensive line keyed the team's stingy run defense and freed linebackers like Chase Thomas and Shayne Skov to wreak havoc on opposing running backs and quarterbacks in years past. 2012's banner defensive line haul suggests the Card's front-seven will be imposing for years to come.

2)Coffee's for closers

For all the energy Jim Harbaugh breathed into Stanford football during his four-year tenure, Señor EUTM was never a prolific closer. In roughly the last week of the recruiting cycle (from Jan. 25 – signing day), Stanford received commitments from only two four-star players in Harbaugh's four recruiting classes (2007-2010). With only a few weeks to operate last year, Shaw didn't fare much better in 2011. In 2012, however, Stanford had arguably the best close of any program in the nation, earning commitments from four players with five-star ratings from one of the major recruiting sites. It began on Jan. 26, when five-star offensive lineman Joshua Garnett committed to Stanford over Michigan at a press conference at his high school. After a few quiet days, the real fun started in earnest the morning of Feb. 1, national signing day. First, longtime Washington commit Michael Rector announced his switch to the Cardinal. Then, at a little after 9:00 a.m., former Cal commit Zach Hoffpauir did the same. An hour and a half later, all-world tackle Andrus Peat announced his intentions to the Card. Before the day was done, fellow five-star guys Kyle Murphy and Aziz Shittu had done the same, vaulting Stanford into the top-10 in the national recruiting rankings.

1)Offensive line for the ages

Stanford's 2012 offensive line class is the best in the recruiting service era (2001-present). According to Rivals.com, which ranks position groups, the Card's 2012 group has an average star rating of 4.14 and accumulated 765 total points. USC's 2004 class, second-best according to Rivals, tallied 732 points. Three of Stanford's seven offensive line commits have five-star ratings by at least one recruiting service. Six of the seven are ranked four-stars or higher by multiple recruiting services. Stanford's class includes one of the nation's top offensive tackles (Andrus Peat), offensive guards (Joshua Garnett, the top interior lineman in the nation according to MaxPreps.com, and No. 2 according to Rivals), and top centers (the versatile Graham Shuler, listed as Scout.com's No. 4 center.) And that doesn't account for Nick Davidson, a near-unanimous four-star player with offers from national powers such as Ohio State, Oregon, and Clemson, the No. 1 player in Utah, Brandon Fanaika, and Johnny Caspers, a scrappy interior lineman from Illinois. The offensive line haul is truly an embarrassment of riches.

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