2003 Stanford Football Camp Wrap-Up

No single event has produced this much news and excitement in the recruiting year than the Stanford overnight camp of the last four days. Buddy Teevens drew in an all-star crowd from all over the country, and they showed that they could hold down several spots in this class come February. Here are assesments and rankings of the best of the best who camped multiple days, plus a smattering of recruit scoop.

With a healthy (or unhealthy) dose of sunburn and beat-down from four days of watching camp activity, I think I have a pretty solid handle on the star performers at this year's Stanford overnight football camp.  I've shared a few nuggets and recruiting notes from the last two stories, but to wrap up what I saw Saturday and Sunday, I'm diving right in with my rankings of the top position groups, and the top performers within each group.  See them listed below, with the linemen taking top honors for their three elite standouts. 

Offensive/Defensive Line

Alex Fletcher The Stanford coaches have recruited Fletch with a very clear purpose - to be the center of the future, but he showed awfully well as a DT to boot (Dave Tipton's eyes lit up on many plays).  Great leverage, power and he plays with his motor in overdrive.  The focus of improvement in this camp was the use of his left hand, which Fletch will take back to NY and practice.  Fiery emotion set the tone for the camp, and he played through the whistle on every drill.  He's the real deal. 
Bobby Dockter Dockter did not impress on defense, but that matters not.  He blew me away with his footwork in drills and one-on-one's.  He is a true glider who is an elite pass blocker at this stage.  With a little improvement in his drive-blocking, he'll push for playing time in his freshman year of college.  Though Dockter takes immense pride in his technique, he wholly underrated his athleticism.  He could be a better version of Kirk Chambers, and that says a lot.
Andy Levitre Levitre came into this camp with nowhere near the accolades of Fletch or Bobby.  But he left Sunday with four days opening the eyes of both Steve Morton and Dave Tipton.  He's lost a lot of weight, but still is an incredible force at 310 pounds.  Levitre is truly a two-way prospect who could fit in this class at OG or DT, and that versatility raises his stock.  He's quick and explosive for his size, but has great leverage and technique.  He just moved up the board.

Wide Receivers

Austin Collie In passing drills, it's easy for a WR to look good.  Just catch all the balls thrown at you, honestly.  But a closer eye reveals that Collie stands above other receivers in both technical proficiency and also his underrated leaping ability.  He showed throughout camp that he also has great hands and comes down with a lot of the tougher high balls.  In the 7-on-7 competitions, it was fun to watch him play a little quarterback, which is a window into some razzle-dazzle plays of the future...
Kelton Lynn Lynn is one of those Colorado players who showed that I didn't expect.  I had never seen film or even a photo of the kid, so this was informative.  He's not as strong as Collie, or quite the leaper, but he pulled down a lot of badly thrown balls.  Great body control helped him snag several one-handed catches.  I think his performance made him more interesting to Stanford, but with maybe one or two WR slots in the class and some high talent ahead, he's a tough call.
Donald Butler This photo may not do him justice, but this kid from Del Campo HS sure looks the part.  His upper body and arms grabbed my attention, and at 6'1" 202 pounds he presents a very mature body.  But then he takes off is helmet and you see this baby-faced kid.  That's because Bulter will be a sophomore this fall.  He will be a great looking athlete, though maybe not at WR - pretty raw and inexperienced right now.  Oh, and he says he pulled down straight A's last year.

Defensive Backs
Brandon Robinson Ironically, I just received Brandon's film the day before camp started.  But watching in person truly makes you a believer.  Very inexperienced, but his instincts take over in critical situations and he just makes plays.  Worked out as both a WR and CB, and he has high level potential for both.  Stanford needs corners so badly that you have to primarily label him as such, but he was maybe even better than Collie at attacking balls as a receiver.
Ray Jones He worked out at the very beginning of camp as a RB, but then Wayne Moses' wife went into labor and had to leave.  So Jones moved over to defense for the majority of camp. Not quite as quick or as smooth of hips as Robinson, but he has a good frame that could make for a very good safety.  I only wish I had a chance to really watch him run the ball.
Philip Ray High school teammate of incoming frosh safety Brandon Harrison, and though a quarterback he is being recruited as an athlete.  His best chance is as defensive back, based on what I saw as a receiver.  He has good closing speed and is a very tough kid.  Lost a bunch of his junior year to injury, so he's one you have to watch this fall to see meaningful game film.

C.J. Bacher I had already seen a lot of C.J. as a quarterback, so there weren't any real surprises here.  But when you are looking for a quarterback, you are also seeking a lot of intangibles.  And in a camp environment like this, you had a great chance to examine Bacher from many angles.  His leadership, competitiveness and his genuine love for his teammates and fellow recruits came shining through.  I think he strengthened his case with Stanford.
Liam O'Hagan If I expected coming into this camp that Liam would be a baseballer in pigskin clothing, like his older brother David O'Hagan, then I was proven wrong.  Good mechanics (though not the athlete that Bacher is), and I can understand why he has some Division I scholarship offers.  That being said, I think he's likely a notch below what Stanford needs in a QB.  They'll be watching him at Breck with Robinson this fall, though, and will see.
Kyle Manley From Buford HS in Georgia, and if that rings a bell, it should.  This is the quarterback teammate of Darius Walker, and as such he has clearly been overshadowed with such a dominant running talent.  It make sense that Manley is underdeveloped, and he intrigued the coaches with his raw ability.  He would be a bit of a project, though not a substantial project.  Like O'Hagan, Stanford already has a reason to watch his school this fall.

Tight Ends
John Gibson I think it's time to move Gibson from the OL recruiting board to TE.  Stanford has serious need at tight end in this class and not a lot of great prospects, so the door was open for him this week.  He hadn't caught many balls the last two years but looked smooth enough in passing drills.  He was one of only two TEs to also work out with the OL/DL in line drills, where he showed that he can be a punishing blocker.
John Solder Solder is the more impressive receiving threat, as compared to Gibson, but he has size and reps on his side.  This guy stands at 6'8", which puts him in Darin Naatjes' ZIP code.  He looked great catching the ball for his size, but the huge question is his ability to block.  His frame is slender and he plays basketball all year, which keeps him from lifting and bulking up.  If you demand a top blocker of your TEs, he's a question mark.  But as a receiving TE, he's hugely attractive.
Patrick Bowe This kid had zero rep that I was aware of coming into this camp, but he has good size at 6'6" and 220 pounds.  He looked good catching the ball and has a prototypical frame.  I never talked to the kid, so I don't have a clue on grades or schools talking with him.  But somebody out there has to be looking at him.  And his high school profile page says that Stanford is his college preference.  Add him to the TE board if the academics are in order.

Slade Norris Best name of the camp, and he was one I really wanted to watch.  He lost his entire junior year to a broken collarbone, so there is no film to go on.  What camp showed was that he has good athleticism and instincts that could allow him to be a Kevin Schimmelmann type player.  Camp strongly confirmed that he could be a very important LB recruit, but you still have to see him play this fall to know what he does in live game situations.
Jonathan Alvarado Teammate of Philip Ray.  And he carried a huge reputation after his junior year as one of the top prospects in Louisiana.  He's a good player in a great program, but in this camp he looked like his ceiling might be lower than that of Norris.  He's a tough kid who can attack the ball coming out of the line of scrimmage, but could he play outside?  Might be a prototypical MLB, but you'd love someone who can play multiple spots in the linebacking corps.

Some additional recruiting notes on these guys...

  • Ray Jones was one of the biggest surprise attendees at this camp (to me), and that gave me the chance to learn a lot more about him and his recruitment.  He is a talented athlete who can play on both sides of the ball and will be recruited by Stanford with that "athlete" label.  Some schools have him pegged as an RB, some as a DB.  But the consensus from schools throughout the Midwest is that he's a bigtime player.  With the summer just underway, Jones already has offers from Kentucky, Maryland, Boston College, West Virginia, Duke, Northwestern, Purdue, Wisconsin, Michigan State, Indiana, Wake Forest, Vanderbilt, Cincinnati, Ohio and Bowling Green.  I think what the coaches saw at this camp on both sides of the ball (particularly in 7-on-7 action) moved him up their board and could put him in an attractive position for an offer.  He says that Stanford "definitely" is one of his top favorites, if not his overall leader.  He was able to meet a lot of the coaches, and has forged particularly strong bonds with Wayne Moses and Pete McCarty.  Both he and his mother left hugely impressed with the staff, coaches and school.  Academics is #1 on their list (his unofficial visits have been to Stanford, Northwestern and Duke), which makes me believe Ray Jones is Stanford's to lose - it's a just a question of the offer right now.
  • Brandon Robinson had a great camp on both sides of the ball and might catch the label of Best Athlete, if not Camp MVP (tough debate between him and Fletcher).  He and his parents loved the visit, so much so that they cancelled the planned visit to UCLA that was supposed to immediately follow this Stanford camp.  With what he saw at Stanford and BC, he has a very solid top two schools that he is contemplating.  Notre Dame has asked him to camp so that they can get a closer look, but Robinson says there are no more camps for him this summer.  As for the experience at this camp, he says, "I did just what I came here to do - prove to the coaches that I can play both wide receiver and cornerback.  I wanted to show them that I'm every bit of what they saw and liked on tape.  I also improved myself here.  Coach Kelly showed me different ways to come off the line.  Coach A.J. [Christoff] worked on my turn-and-go; shorter steps can help me turn quicker and make faster breaks.  All of the coaches were really cool, and I really enjoyed them.  Stanford is the best, and with that academic reputation, you can't go wrong."  He does still say that Stanford and BC are his top two and won't openly say that either of these camps broke one ahead of the other.  But he was grinning from ear to ear a lot in this camp, and forged really close bonds with Fletcher, Collie and Bacher.  He also noted that the Stanford admissions application is now at the forefront of his mind.  "I want to jump on it as soon as possible and show the [Stanford] coaches that I am serious about my interest," he proclaims.
  • Fellow Breck School standout Liam O'Hagan has three offers right now: Vanderbilt, Boston College and Minnesota.  Beyond that he says he is looking strongly at Stanford, Virginia and Colorado.  The Cardinal are his leader right now, though how his offer landscape progresses will mold his leader board.
  • Before coming to Stanford, John Gibson had big camp performances at USC and UCLA.  Both head coaches gave him the most enthusiastic reviews he had yet seen from those schools.  USC openly says that they have some guys with offers outstanding they are watching right now, but he is at the very top of the list next in line.  UCLA made intimations that sounded like an offer could come before long.  He worked out at both camps at OG, with bits of TE intermixed.
  • O'Hagan was the man among all these recruits who led his team to the 7-on-7 championship at the camp.  Though seeded lowest, his squad went undefeated in bracket play.  The other competitions of the camp were held in the evening, dubbed the "Cardinal Games."  They were a variation of ultimate frisbee, though using a football rather than a disc.  They were a great form of athletic competition that the guys were revved up for at the end of some grueling days.  The winning squad was controversially stacked with Fletcher, Bacher, Collie, Robinson, O'Hagan and more.
  • Slade Norris doesn't have any offers right now, with all schools anxiously waiting to see him this fall for the first time since his sophomore year.  He'll play at strong safety and wide receiver for a stacked Jesuit program in Portland (OR).  He is hearing from most of the Pac-10, plus Colorado, Michigan State and Yale.  He names a top five today of Stanford, Washington, Arizona State, Cal and Colorado.
  • All in all, this was the most talent-rich camp Stanford has probably ever put together.  It's tough to get recruits across the country to come pay their way for a camp, and that will always keep the talent density down at this annual overnight camp.  Further consider that the California talent (at least, those who have Stanford-level academics) is down this year, and this 2003 collection is all the more amazing.  With Alex Fletcher as the centerpiece, I can see anywhere from three to six commitments in this class coming from this camp.  The one huge caveat is that I am not forecasting admissions probabilities - I'm running under the premise that attendees have the academics and am solely assessing athleticism and skill level.  If any of the above top talents get the Admissions Axe, then that 3-6 range could shrink.  But in a Stanford class that could number as few as 12 or 13 kids, that is a very high percentage.  And very exciting.

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