Sometime in the last week, it dawned on Stanford fans that there is a serious numbers crunch in this 2004 recruiting class. The Cardinal graduated just 13 seniors this year, plus a 14th in fourth-year defensive tackle Amon Gordon (making the jump to the NFL and bypassing his fifth year). There are some other scholarship gymnastics to calculate, but the bottom line is that this recruiting class will be far smaller than the 25-man haul that Buddy Teevens reeled in last February.
Last weekend was a big event for the Stanford recruiting effort as 10 kids visited officially, and three committed within 48 hours of concluding their trips. It was expected that more would follow, and suddenly the chairs were few in number in the proverbial musical game. Recruits still outstanding have felt the pressure to get one of the remaining scholarship slots, and Wednesday one such prospective student-athlete jumped forward as a result.
"The biggest thing is that Stanford is running out of scholarships in a hurry," explains Red Lion (PA) tight end Austin Gunder. "My original plan was to see Louisville this weekend before making my decision, but with scholarships running out and two more tight ends about to visit Stanford, I felt like I couldn't wait any longer."
The 6'5" 240-pound tight end took the leap and committed to Buddy Teevens officially on Wednesday, and then made the tough call to Louisville to give them bad news and cancel his scheduled 1/16 official visit.
"It's to their benefit to have this information so they can go out and find someone else," Gunder says of the visit cancellation. "Louisville was the first to offer me and has been loyal throughout my recruitment, so this was a hard thing to do."
The Pennsylvania tight end says that a phone call from Cardinal quarterbacks coach Bill Cubit Tuesday informed the recruit that another tight end, Pannel Egboh, had committed Monday. Space was running out.
"Coach Cubit has been really good about not pushing me at any time during my recruitment," Gunder notes. "He just lays out facts for me and doesn't feel like he has to hit me over the head with them repeatedly - he's an easy-going guy. He told me the situation Stanford was in with their scholarship, wished me luck and told me to hang on tight. He didn't try to force me to commit or anything, but I was nervous when I got off the phone. Later that night I got a call from [Stanford verbal commmit] Alex Fletcher. He was telling me how few spots there were left and that he really wanted me to commit and not miss out. Now I was really nervous."
This all paints a picture of a kid who was forced by circumstances and not desire to make his Stanford commitment this week, but Gunder says that he felt 95% sure leaving Stanford last Sunday that he would commit. It was just a matter of time to pull the trigger, and he feels no remorse doing it now rather than next week.
"I overall felt like I was going to end up for Stanford," he declares. "So I'm not at all unexcited about this. I know Stanford is where I should be."
Gunder also is careful to heap praise on Fletcher, who gave him a scare Tuesday night on the phone but has been a constant help throughout the recruiting process.
"Can he be pushy at times? Sure," Gunder laughs. "But he's been a big help. I think it's neat to see someone with the enthusiasm for the school and the program like he does. You feel good knowing you are coming in as his teammate."
One of the negatives that had weighed on the recruit's mind against Stanford before his visit weekend was the concern over distance. Even more nervous about a future three time zones away was Gunder's mother, who was very uncertain about sending her boy to California for four or five years. But both parents and the recruit sang a different tune after 48 hours in Palo Alto last weekend.
"The distance factor was tough for her," the son reveals. "But as we were leaving [Stanford] both my parents told me they wanted me to go there."
Gunder was hosted by freshman tight end Patrick Danahy, who had empathy for the recruit's plight. "He was awesome," Gunder comments on his Floridian host. "Last year he was in the exact same situation: East Coast, 3000 miles away. He really helped me a lot."
More than just Danahy, though, the new Stanford commit says that a multitude of Cardinal players made him feel good about his future home.
"The whole visit was great," Gunder exclaims. "I really loved how the whole team gelled. Black and white; freshmen and seniors. They all hung out and really seemed to like each other. I asked a lot of guys about distance - that was my big question for them. I met a lot of guys from Georgia and Florida, and most seemed to be fine with the distance. They said you come here and hit the ground running; you forget about how far you are from home."
The 6'5" Red Lion athlete was not the only tight end on campus this past weekend, and both he and 6'6" Pannel Egboh have made their commitments in the last three days. As with many programs around the country, Stanford was in search of at least a couple big and athletic bodies like these two. Cardinal fans have to be excited that the program shot two-for-two with their top targets on the board.
"I didn't feel they put enough energy into what they were trying to offer me," the in-state native states. "So I didn't see the need to put my energy or emotions into them."
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