Too often we hitch our recruiting bandwagon to the success or failure of college coaches' efforts wooing the four- and five-star blue chip prep stars that adorn national headlines. In Stanford circles we applauded the acclaimed signings of Kwame Harris and Michael Craven, but we forget the fortuitous findings of talents like Tank Williams and Troy Walters. It is a oft-repeated credo in college football offices that coaches don't make their mark by offering the All-American blue chip recruits, but instead their paychecks are earned when they can search out prospects with non-obvious talents and accurately project a high ceiling for their college future.
These golden nuggets found by the hard-working coaches in the business are commonly labeled as "sleepers," though in the business of recruiting services, that sleeper tag is grossly overused. I myself admit to using it as a crutch. It's the easiest way to explain why a school offers and recruits a kid who almost nobody else acknowledges.
Last night I released the breaking Hot News flash that San Antonio (TX) Roosevelt High School senior Carlos McFall had committed to Stanford. The title I attached to that newsflash included that infamous "sleeper" label. It was a reflex reaction to the fact that McFall was only put into TheInsiders Scout™ Database a week ago and carries as a result a measly one-star rating. The Texas option quarterback has been completely invisible to the major recruiting services this year, but closer inspection reveals that his sleeper label is not quite the appropriate description.
McFall in fact has offers from Stanford, Purdue, Iowa State, Colorado and Houston. The Buffs and Boilermakers thought enough of him to schedule him for official visits later this month, though they are of course now cancelled. This is a kid who held offers from the Pac-10, Big 10 and Big 12, so it's not quite right to call him a "sleeper." Instead, I think we have to chalk this up as one that simply slipped through the cracks.
As an additional data point, Stanford had been recruiting McFall pretty seriously for the last 11 months. He was receiving weekly handwritten letters by his regional recruiting coach, Wayne Moses, then more as spring turned to summer and beyond. Cardinal coaches came out to see him during the observation period in the spring, and the made calls as frequently as the NCAA allows this fall. With his 94% GPA in school and an 1140 SAT, McFall took the all-important step in early December of filling out and submitting his Stanford admissions application, which was just yesterday accepted.
That acceptance prompted Buddy Teevens to call McFall and notify him that his conditional offer was now an unrestricted offer, at which time the 6'1" athlete made a commitment to the Cardinal. That leap came just one day after his impactful official visit to The Farm.
"I pretty much got star-struck at Stanford," the San Antonio standout explains. "I loved Coach Teevens and Coach [A.J.] Christoff. Alex Fletcher, Pannel Egboh and the other recruits were awesome. I think this recruiting class will be pretty special. On top of these guys, I have the chance to get one of the top educations in the world and play in the Pac-10. I didn't need to take any other trips to know I had to take that opportunity."
McFall cites many positive experiences from his visit for his quick commitment, but he heaps particular praise on his host, sophomore cornerback T.J. Rushing.
"T.J. really sold me on the school," the recruit begins. "He told me all about how close the team is, which I saw throughout the visit. He told me how good the coaches are and how they help you get to the next level on the field, and also in the classroom. I really owe a lot to him; he helped me make the toughest decision of my life."
The defensive back recruit also reveals that his positive conversations with the Stanford coaches increased his excitement for what role he could have in the program - and how soon.
"Coach Teevens told me that if I work hard enough, I could play as a true freshman and maybe even make an impact on the field," McFall recalls. "I would probably play free safety in college, but they need to see how good I am in coverage. I could play at corner. They like my speed and athleticism. I'm quick on my feet and strong - broke a lot of tackles this year."
In the Roosevelt option offense, McFall ran for 20 touchdowns and more than 900 yards - breaking a lot of tackles. But he played only very sparingly on defense in emergency situations. It is that fact that returns us my point atop this article. Coaches are paid to be evaluators as much as recruiters, and the projection of a quarterback to a defensive back is not a facile one. Stanford had scarce few plays on film with which to evaluate him at the position where he will play in college. The decision to offer and heavily pursue McFall says they are confident in their projection, and apparently a handful of other schools nationally made a similar assessment.
The fun part is that we'll find out in the next two to three years if they were right or wrong. We like the hints for this 6'1" athlete with his toughness and 4.4 speed, but recruiting is an inexact science. The "stars" for recruits like McFall will be analyzed today, but after February 4 they're thrown out the window. Congratulations to Carlos McFall on becoming Stanford's eighth commitment in this recruiting class, and go make your bright future!
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