It wasn’t a very dramatic signing day for David Shaw and company, who had locked up every piece of a small but star-studded recruiting class before Wednesday’s mad dash to the finish.
“Thankfully, the day was very anticlimactic, because the class was set before we got to today,” Shaw said.
When the dust had cleared, Stanford had emerged from the scrum with the No. 1 quarterback in the country, the No. 1 tight end in the country, and the top two offensive tackles in the country – not to mention two of the top seven athletes in the country in Washington flip Connor Wedington and Paulson Adebo.
Stanford was second to only USC with five top-100 recruits committed in its 2017 class.
“I still think, honestly, it’s an underrated class,” Shaw said.
In his press conference on Wednesday, Shaw gave some more details on how he expects the 2017 class to fit into the team and where we might see true freshmen get involved immediately moving forward. Here are the important takeaways from that presser:
Quarterback: Chryst is the starter, but he needs to get healthy
According to Shaw, Keller Chryst has earned the starting job moving forward and will be the team’s starting quarterback to open the 2017 season against Rice in Australia if he’s able to participate early in fall training camp and be fully ready to go by the start of the season.
There’s no way for sure to know the timetable on Chryst’s injury (Shaw still won’t confirm the widely suspected diagnosis of an ACL tear) but Shaw does expect Chryst to be back for fall camp in some capacity.
Until then, that will mean that Ryan Burns and K.J. Costello will both “prepare as starters” in case Chryst isn’t ready to go.
“K.J.’s going to be getting a lot of time with the starters as well this offseason. He’s earned the right to be in that competition,” Shaw said. “Not to say that those guys are competing for the starting job necessarily, but both those guys are coming and we’re going to push them both hard.”
Davis Mills, who is still recovering from a knee injury, is expected to be able to participate in fall camp, but will first need to come to campus in June to start working with Stanford’s medical staff to make sure that his rehab is on track.
“We’re not going to put any timetables on it because he’s coming off of an injury, but we’ll get him here and teach him our way of doing football,” Shaw said.
“As of right now, I believe both [Chryst and Mills] will be able to participate in training camp,” he added. “We’ll see how much by the time we get there. We have a lot of checkpoints to pass between now and August.
As for Burns’ decision to return to Stanford for a fifth year, Shaw says that Burns’ desire to stay within the Stanford community while serving as backup quarterback won out over the transfer option in the end.
“‘I love it here’ -- those were his words,” Shaw said. “‘I love it here, I love the people here, and this is where I want to be.’”
Who might play as a true freshman?
As Shaw said in his presser, it’s really impossible to know which of the true freshmen might be best suited to immediate action until fall camp rolls around and they’ve had a chance to take reps in pads with the rest of the team. Until then, it’s all just speculation.
That said, one thing about last season that must have been promising to the newest batch of Cardinal recruits was the fact that Shaw seemed more willing to burn redshirts across all positions, so long as the talents of the freshmen were suited to the system and ready to be utilized in a productive manner immediately.
We all know that Nate Herbig ended the season as a starter at guard, leapfrogging other candidates like Nick Wilson and Austin Maihen in the process. Curtis Robinson similarly played himself into a rotational role at outside linebacker by the end of the season, and even Donald Stewart got in a few snaps at wide receiver after Shaw deemed his package game-ready.
That bodes well for the stud recruits on offense in this year’s class.
Francis Owusu, Michael Rector and Christian McCaffrey are all gone, leaving openings at the skill positions all over the field. Shaw specifically said that tight end and receiver might be positions where freshmen might get a look – with No. 1 overall tight end Colby Parkinson looking to get a shot in a competition with Dalton Schultz, Kaden Smith and Greg Taboada.
Meanwhile, the vacancies at wide receiver are an enticing opportunity for Wedington and Osiris St. Brown – who were specifically named by Shaw as part of this discussion. The latter comes in rated at four stars but Shaw believes him to be underrated by the scouting services – and with home run threat Rector gone, St. Brown might be the guy to fill that void barring a quantum leap forward from Isaiah Brandt-Sims.
“[St. Brown and Wedington] are going to have ample opportunity to come in and contribute,” Shaw said.
I would honestly be surprised if Wedington didn’t play as a freshman. Shaw has said that Wedington should get the same treatment as Ty Montgomery, Christian McCaffrey and Bryce Love (no pressure, kid), where they’re going to use his versatility to his advantage and look to give him situational packages to execute in games from early on.
“Connor, for me, I don’t care what letters you put behind him,” Shaw said. “We have a program for guys like him.
“Learning this offense by that position and being as versatile as he is, being able to play some running back, play some receiver and compete as a returner – that’s what he’s built for.”
On Connor Wedington’s commitment video: “It was outstanding. I thought it was original, I thought it was funny, especially since I had an idea of which school was going to be on the bottom of the board. That was key for me. Hopefully, we put that board away for the next four or five years.”
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