Out of nowhere, defensive tackle recruit Jon Kirchner showed up Friday at Stanford's second day of their overnight football camp. Well, to say "out of nowhere" is not quite accurate, as he reported to The Bootleg last week that he would be in the San Francisco Bay Area for some family vacation and would drop in on Stanford for a day. The Kirchners communicated the same to the Stanford coaching staff, though the family had not yet said which particular day they would come by. So it was quite a surprise for quarterbacks coach Bill Cubit, who is the lead recruiter for Kirchner, to see the 6'5" 260-pound Virginian ambling down the hallways of Arrillaga Sports Complex the middle of Friday morning - unannounced. The Cardinal coaches had to scramble to put together a campus tour and time for coaches to talk with Kirchner, while at the same time running a camp for a couple hundred kids. That's some bad luck for Stanford on what will probably be the only visit the Lexington defensive tackle takes to The Farm.
"This place is definitely different from anything back East," Kirchner said after his day of touring the campus. But is that a good different or a bad different, Jon? "Oh, definitely a good different. The campus is amazing and the weather is nice. And the people here are all good people."
But Kirchner's father, who along with Jon's older brother accompanied the recruit on this West Coast trip, felt like something could have gone better. "At all three places we've visited, nobody has done a good enough job really showing us their engineering," Mr. Kirchner says of Stanford, Virginia and Virginia Tech - his son's final three schools. "It boggles the mind that they wouldn't go all out, knowing how important engineering is to Jon. Here [at Stanford] they have some nice buildings and it's clear that they have a lot of money. I mean, nobody is going to be better endowed than Stanford University. I just wish we could have seen more."
If you're a Stanford fan, you undoubtedly are shaking your head in disbelief. This football program never has a recruit of this importance and with such a clear emphasis on studying engineering come visit and then walk away wanting for more. But as noted above, this was a surprise arrival by the Kirchners, and you can't snap your fingers to summon world renowned engineering faculty during the summer on a half hour's notice. And from everything I heard from all three of these visiting Kirchner men, it sounded like a superlative Stanford engineering meeting could have put the Cardinal over the top. As it stands, Virginia is his leader among his final three schools, and he sounds completely enamored with the Cavaliers.
Both his brother and father talked about the depth and nature of Al Groh's recruiting efforts, which have had a pronounced impact on Jon. "They send him three letters a day, every day," his brother explains. "And they put full color photos of him in there, in poses with Virginia gear and surroundings. They tell him he's their number one defensive recruit in the class. They tell him that they are going to win a national championship with Virginia-only talent. Heck, when they talk with me they make me feel like I'm the king of the world, and I'm just his brother."
The proximal advantages that Virginia has gained over the last year, with easy contact and close relationship with his high school coaches, has dug a very deep hole for Stanford. This visit was the ladder that could have brought Buddy Teevens back to daylight, but my impressions and reads are that Friday wasn't enough.
There are two qualifying notes, however. 1) Teevens had the Kirchners into his office at the end of the afternoon camp session, and they remained there in deep conversation for a solid hour. I haven't spoken with them since that office interaction for any further interview, and don't know how impactful it was. 2) The family is in San Francisco for several more days, and that leaves some window of opportunity for Stanford to bring them back down for a more thorough and planned visit. Coaches can't call recruits right now, though, so such a possibility will be predicated upon the family taking the initiative to call someone like Cubit.
But in the absence of a second drive down the 101 to The Farm to dive deeper into Stanford engineering, I'm calling this one for Virginia. And even with a second mini-visit, the Wahoos have a substantial lead for the Card to overcome. And that says a lot for a kid whose father is a Virginia Tech alum and is literally sick to his stomach about the thought of his son in orange and blue. Congrats to Al Groh and company if and when they land this outstanding student-athlete...
The second surprise of the day was the appearance of renowned Ohio running back Ray Jones. He has grabbed headlines with reportedly upwards of 20 offers, though most schools are recruiting him as a running back. Stanford is very tight on its RB recruiting this year and could take just one in this class. Jones was told this upfront by Stanford and knew that they were going to take their time evaluating him as a back. Nevertheless, he has talked about Stanford as his favorite school, even in the absence of an offer. His attendance at this camp was a big step forward for both parties, though Jones interestingly worked out Friday at defensive back and not running back. The early returns were very good, and he lit up a lot of people's attention. I think you can move Ray Jones immediately to one of the higher positions on Stanford's recruiting board at safety.
Said fellow camper, Alex Fletcher, "Ray and I went and lifted weights together and he went crazy. He went rep for rep with me, and that says a lot. Turns out he's like one of the highest rated powerlifters in Ohio." Fletch also had this to share about Jones on the recruiting front: "He says he doesn't care if he plays offense or defense in college. But he's out here with his mom and distance is a real factor for them. They want to get a feel for Stanford to help them figure out if it can make them forget about the distance.
More surprises and notes:
- "Hambone" Hamilton Holliday showed up on The Farm, which was not a surprise. But it was unexpected for him to suit up and hammer around for a day of practice. He and his father had previously decided that there was no need for the Stanford coaches to get him in camp and evaluate him, but sometime in the last week or so they came to realize that there was an important experience that comes with working in a practice environment with the coaches. That experience is part of Holliday's evaluation process as he is looking at schools, so they signed him up for one day of camp on Friday. Holliday's younger brother (I intentionally won't use the term "little") also joined in the camp. Afterward Hambone was enthused and excited about the day of work and all they got to see around campus. Holliday was also seen hanging out a good deal with Alex Fletcher, the Stanford OL commit, who is quickly earning the nickname of "Coach Fletcher" for his Stanford recruiting efforts and host-like demeanor he presents to prospective recruits. The two have conversed for just the last couple months but look like the oldest of friends.
- As predicted, John Gibson is working out at the camp as a tight end. He has some pass-catching rust to shake off, but the early returns are good...
- Fletch came to this camp to see more of Stanford and to get to know the Cardinal coaches a little better. But he's also looking to make himself a better football player and was very fired up to get the chance to work with his future coaches a full 14 months before his arrival as a freshman. On the first full day of camp, instruction was already paying dividends. "I finish kids, but Coach Morton mentioned I need to get my hands inside my defender," Fletcher explains. "When I did that today, I was finishing kids even stronger. He told me once you guy up against the big talents at the next level, like a Babatunde Oshinowo, getting your hands inside is crucial. I can get away without that now in high school because of the physical advantage I have over most kids, but that will all be gone at the next level. We also switched over to defense, and I got to work with Coach Tipton. He nailed the exact same thing and told me to get my hands inside. He said it really helps you to drive your blocker back and finish him."
- Brandon Robinson is the real deal. And as exciting a cornerback as he is, I saw him make some fantastic plays at wide receiver during 7-on-7's. He hasn't played football that long, but he already has a good instinctual feel for how to go up and attack the football in tight coverage. He's definitely a great athlete, wherever you put him on the field.
- Andy Levitre has dropped quite a bit of weight. I'll need to change his profile in the recruiting database from his old weight of 340 pounds to 310. He's still an unbelievable load, but now he's so quick...
- The list of noteworthy attendees at this camp grows. Add wide receiver Bryant Anderson to the list of talents, who at 6'4" and some 200 pounds is an interesting athlete with good size. Bryant is the son of Ray Anderson, the former headline-catching NFL agent and current executive vice president of the Atlanta Falcons. Anderson also went to school at Stanford, which helps provide some of the connection and interest for his son to come across the country for a day of camp. The Centennial High School athlete (from the same town and league as incoming freshman DE Emmanuel Awofadeju) could be more than just a receiver at Stanford, though. He might fit that role of a smaller, athletic tight end who can play in the versatile role of a halfback. When you see Stanford's offense this fall, you'll know better what position I'm talking about. Anderson is one worth watching.
- Like Anderson, another one-day camper I didn't expect but who showed on Friday was OL Jeff Kendall from Colorado. Interestingly, he was the first of a theme of intriguing Colorado talents that came to this camp. Another OL was big Dan Gury. I'll hit on two more big Colorado recruits in my next report...
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