Stanford's running back recruiting in this 2004 class has been a bit of a broken record. In this year of small scholarship numbers, all signs point to Cardinal head coach Buddy Teevens taking just a single tailback. And all the focus we have seen has been on Darius Walker, the elite 2000-yard rusher from Buford, Georgia. When we last reported on him earlier in the spring, Walker had pulled down big offers from the likes of Stanford, Nebraska, Notre Dame and Maryland. The momentum on his recruitment was just heating up, and we knew a national focus of attention would build to a crescendo during the remainder of the spring and summer.
Indeed, offers have poured down on the Buford back much like the torrential rains that fell from the skies during the spring. In fact, Walker's offer list has climbed to such a point that today he has culled a top 10 group of schools - all of which have offered. He says that those top 10 programs, in no particular order, are Stanford, Notre Dame, Southern Cal, Florida, Maryland, LSU, Arkansas, Michigan, Ohio State and Nebraska.
But no matter how hard you try, you can't extract any verifiable favorites Walker holds within that group. He'll gladly extoll the virtues of any program you bring up in conversation, and that's why you will see him give earnest praise for several schools in various Internet recruiting reports. "It's great," he says of all the attention and opportunities he has in front of him. "I'm excited that all of these schools are interested in me."
You can pry a little differentiation among these 10 favorites, however, when you enquire about what criterion sit at the forefront of his mind when he thinks about his college choice. "My top values are the combination of academics and athletics, plus the atmosphere and environment. All of these schools have some of the things I'm looking for," he reveals. Walker can evaluate the academics/athletics from his own research, and that is an ongoing process for him this summer and the coming fall ("I want to see how each team's season goes"). But the atmosphere/environment dimension is rather difficult to discern from afar. In fact, if you look at his school list, you will see that he has no in-state school in his top 10. That leaves a lot of visits for him to yet take.
Walker has not to this point taken any unofficial visits, however. He has been busy training and does not have a lot of plans in store to check out these campuses in the near future. The electric running back does say, though, that he thinks there is a very good chance he will check out the Florida schools "in the next few weeks." A quick check of his top ten schools and offer list may surprise you, in that neither Florida State nor Miami have offered, yet he plans on visiting them both, along with Florida. Walker is unlikely to take many, if any, other unofficial visits to schools that have yet to offer him, but the allure of these locales in adjoining states is enough to bring him to their campuses later this month. "I'm interested in schools who are interested in me," he plainly comments.
But when it comes to assessing that academics + athletics combo he desires in his college choice, he does have a little to say about his early feelings. "Well, I don't know a whole lot of about all them," he admits. "But I guess Stanford, Notre Dame and Michigan all have a really good balance."
You get a sense that Walker has a lot to still mine in this unending earthen mass that is his universe of college possibilities, but don't look for him to do too much in the way of narrowing down the field anytime soon. He has his senior season highest on his mind, and recruiting will play a firm second fiddle. "Right now I'm in the middle of a lot of hard work and preparation for the next season," he describes. "I'm working out and running all the time. I'm always trying to stay focused. I know the phone calls and all that from college coaches will start up soon, and that will be the hardest thing for me to balance. It's going to be tough, but I am going to handle it the best I can."
The Buford back does not rule out the possibility of taking an official visit or two during his season, but more than likely he will take the bulk of those when his senior campaign concludes. The big question of course for Stanford fans is whether he will take one of his precious five officials to Northern California. He won't make those kinds of commitments today, especially considering that he still has the Stanford admissions process to push through.
On that academic front, Walker is proud to reveal that he pulled another row of straight A's in his junior year, maintaining his perfect 4.0 GPA. He also took the SAT for the first time in June, and earned a mildly disappointing 970 on the standardized test. "That score did not go as well as I had planned," he allows. "I don't think I did enough preparation. My goal is to still get an 1100, and I'll retake it in October. I'll definitely do more prep for that one."
In the absence of a trip to The Farm, Walker was fortunate enough to have his high school quarterback, Kyle Manley, make the cross-country journey just a few weeks ago for Stanford's overnight football camp. The two are friends and talked about the experience. "He has very high praise for Stanford," Walker begins. "I have heard how beautiful Stanford is, but to hear it from someone I have known for a while makes me believe it is true."
The rising senior running back also had praise of his own for Manley, who is seeing his stock climb in Division I quarterback recruiting. Stanford and many others are giving him a hard look, even though his talents are seldom optimized in the run-heavy Buford offense. "I think Kyle is a very solid quarterback. He's confident and always focused - plays hard and never gives up."
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