As it turns out, the question of "Where will he play?" had a wider geographical component than Cardinalmaniacs™ knew. The Michigan native who was set to begin his third (redshirt sophomore) year at The Farm has transferred out of Stanford and will play the remainder of his college football career closer to home.
Head coach Buddy Teevens signed Mason's transfer release papers Saturday, though in a generous gesture is not limiting the schools from which his departed athlete may choose. Many head coaches will prohibit a student-athlete from transferring to a rival or opponent, but it is believed that Mason will be joining a yearly non-conference Stanford foe in South Bend: Notre Dame.
Several sources say that Mason was looking at Michigan, Michigan State and Notre Dame, with the Wolverines and Fighting Irish his top two choices. There is not yet confirmation from Notre Dame, but several of Mason's former teammates report that he told them he was heading to South Bend.
If you notice the proximal bunching of those three schools, that is because Mason is seeking to be closer to home for family issues. He just had a baby girl, Jordan, in March. Teammates and coaches say that it has been excruciatingly difficult for Mason to be away from home and his family at this new stage in his life as a father.
There has also been a little dissatisfaction with playing time for the aspiring two-way athlete, who told me several times throughout the spring that he wanted to make an impact on both sides of the ball.
Mason was initially recruited by most schools as a cornerback, but Stanford and then-head coach Tyrone Willingham placed him at wide receiver when he started his college career the fall of 2001. The Pontiac (MI) prep star redshirted his first year but enjoyed a breakout spring heading into his second season, earning acclaim from fans, coaches and teammates. The following fall for his 2002 redshirt freshman campaign, Mason was the #4 or #5 receiver for the Cardinal, catching 23 balls for 154 yards (6.7 avg) and no scores. It was at least a mild disappointment for both him and close observers that he didn't break into the top rotation for the offense.
But with the graduation of Ryan Wells and the NFL departure of Teyo Johnson, the stage appeared to be set for Mason to move up the depth chart and get on the field much more frequently in 2003. He surprised us all, though, last winter when he approached Teevens and asked to move to cornerback. It was his favored position, where he thought he could be a starter for Stanford.
I personally thought Mason showed great promise at CB, especially for someone
who had been away for defense for two years. But as soon as Spring Ball was
completed, he moved back to WR for the team's May voluntary practices. When I
asked him then about the (again) surprising move, he simply answered that he
didn't earn a starting spot on defense and wanted to move back to compete on
offense. The coaches felt at the end of the spring that Leigh Torrence and
Stanley Wilson would remain the starters ahead of him. Mason was clearly
frustrated that he had not achieved his goal during the four weeks of spring
football, and was still searching for his best fit on the team.
Fifth-year senior Luke Powell is all set as a clear starter at WR this fall, leaving one open spot that is hotly contested by Greg Camarillo, Nick Sebes, Gerren Crochet and others. Mason also saw that true freshman Mark Bradford was a special talent during the last two weeks of July workouts. The competition was going to be tough, and Mason was again faced with the possibility of not holding down a starting spot.
Couple those football concerns with his family situation, and Mason was a man in search of a lot of answers. Mason sat down with Teevens last week to discuss his situation, and both felt he could be better committed to football and his personal life elsewhere. The transfer release was signed, and Mason has moved on.
I have always enjoyed Grant Mason's athletic abilities on the field, and interviewing him off the field. He's a good guy, and we at The Bootleg wish him the best.
Moving on, we are left to address the implications of the transfer. Mason's loss would subtract another experienced player at WR, putting more pressure on a cadre of unproven players beyond Powell. Four of Stanford's top six receivers in 2002 are now gone, with Mason ranking fifth. He however had just a 6.7 yards per catch average and did not prove that he could stretch the field or break big gains after the catch. We'll never know what he could have been for this 2003 offense, but there clearly are a number of hungry receivers in the wings ready to snatch up the slack.
Veterans like Camarillo, Sebes and Crochet were already going to be lead competitors for the WR rotation, but Mason's departure may most effect the youngsters. Bradford now has a better shot to play this fall, and both David Lofton and Justin McCullum have more room to stretch their wings as they look for their first college receptions. The numbers and potential are there for Stanford to put a tremendous receiving corps on the field this fall, but several players will have to step up.
Mason also opens up a scholarship for the 2004 recruiting class, which had been looking quite small. By my count there are now 82 players on scholarship, and at least 11 of them will finish their eligibility this year (83 and 12, respectively if Ian Shelswell is on scholarship). That would leave at least 14 spots for this next recruiting class, with room for more as some fourth-year juniors graduate rather than complete a fifth year. A couple players like Alex Smith and Amon Gordon could take their shot at the NFL this spring before their eligibility is finished, as well. While it has been disappointing to see Jai Miller go play pro baseball and Grant Mason transfer out, those extra two spots in the '04 recruiting class could prove very valuable. The current recruiting efforts are lining up more premier talents with Stanford atop their list than in any previous year I can recall.
The silver lining to this transfer may come this fall, with younger receivers given the chance to emerge, and then in early February when one more prep All-American can sign with the Cardinal.
Are you fully subscribed to The Bootleg? If not, then you are missing out on all the top Cardinal coverage we provide daily on our website, as well as our full-length feature articles in our glossy magazine. Sign up today for the biggest and best in Stanford sports coverage with TheBootleg.com (sign-up) and The Bootleg Magazine (sign-up)!