A year ago, one of the greatest turnaround stories in recent Stanford recruiting history unfolded in Los Angeles. As December heated up and WR Mark Bradford settled in on his top list of schools, the Cardinal had faded completely into oblivion. But then linebackers coach and co-defensive coordinator Tom Williams worked a miracle that changed the mindset of the elite wideout. An official visit was schedule. An admissions application was filled out. Stanford made a surprising run into his final three. And a final few hours of drama on Signing Day ended with his signature on a Letter of Intent for Stanford.
Bradford led the team in receiving this fall as a true freshman and smashed the school's freshman single-season records.
Fast forward to today and you see another elite talent who has been a high Stanford target for more than a year now, but faded into nothing over the last few months. His view of the Card dimmed so much that Stanford was wiped off his recruiting profile in the Scout™ Database, and that remains true as I author this story this evening.
But somewhere in the dark of night, deep in the heart of Texas, defensive tackle Franklin Okam has pulled one of the more shocking about-faces in his recruiting year and scheduled an official visit to Stanford for the weekend of January 30. Okam is the #2 DT in the nation and #21 overall player. He is a five-star talent with otherworldly abilities to stuff any gap and push through double teams deep into an offensive backfield.
Like the Bradford case last year, Williams is the lead recruiter who is managing this improbable turnaround. The Cardinal co-defensive coordinator was at his school (Lake Highlands) in Dallas just yesterday, talking about Stanford, the admissions application and that late-January visit.
"He talks about the unique advantages they can give me academically," Okam reports. "How much they need me in their defense, and that they are bringing in one of the best [recruiting] classes in the country."
There has been another factor at work which Okam says was equally important in reversing his direction with Stanford, and it fittingly came in the Lone State State. Two weeks ago Okam spent several days in San Antonio for the U.S. Army All-American Game, where he practiced and played primarily at defensive end for the West team. On the East squad was Stanford commit Alex Fletcher, and they faced off for some very heated battles in the January 3 game. Outside of game action, though, the two also had some impactful talks.
"I think my mind started to change about Stanford when I talked with some guys at the All-American Bowl," Okam says of Fletcher. "That's when I began to think again about taking a visit."
This surge is a positive development for the Cardinal, but make no mistake at how difficult the remaining fight will be. Okam has held Texas and Oklahoma to be his two overwhelming favorites for the last several months, and the heavyweight battle intensified recently with Florida. The blue chip DT visited the Longhorns officially on December 12, and this weekend (1/16) he will head to Gainesville. Next weekend takes him to land of the Sooners. Incidentally, Oklahoma head coach Bob Stoops was in the home tonight for his visit with Okam.
That is some heady company with which Stanford is competiting, and Okam further adds that Oklahoma State still sits in his top five and could get an official visit. These favorites have been in close contact with the recruit for an eternity now, and that has burned their impressions upon his mind. UT and OU additionally have tremendous geographical advantages of proximity.
So you hopefully won't be insulted when I hand Stanford the "longshot" label in this battle, though Okam says that he is open-minded and trying to be prudent in his approach.
"I didn't want to rule out a school like Stanford before giving them a chance," he explains. "I need to make sure I look at all the angles and possibilities before making my college decision. I honestly can't say I have a favorite out of this group yet - I haven't been to all the places yet and can't compare them."
An additional note is that Okam is now filling out the Stanford admissions application. Though the late timing is unusual and could appear problematic, his visit date is also well later than any other recruit in this Cardinal target class. There is no reason to believe he could not get an answer before 1/30, and with his skyscraping class rank at Lake Highlands, he should be in an advantageous position on the admissions outcome.
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