Today is the day where fax machines in football offices across America do their best and busiest work. Top prep talents all over the country have signed and are faxing in their National Letters of Intent to their college choice that binds them for their foreseeable football future. Stanford this morning should be receiving a relatively small number of NLOIs, given the small size of this year's senior graduating class. There have been, however, some individuals with late drama that we have discussed in front page articles and in greater depth on our premium message board and in our premium chat room. Here are my best answers for you on this big day...
- DT Franklin Okam. Every year the Cardinal hope to find that most elusive of targets - the nationally elite monster pass rushing defensive tackle. For some reason, the best of the best DTs seem to have grades well below Stanford's admissions threshold, but Okam was the "great hope." He is one of the top students at one of the Dallas area's best public schools, and indeed he was recently admitted. The uphill battle here was fighting regional powers Texas and Oklahoma, who had been favorites of the five-star recruit for the last 12 months. Stanford dropped out of his picture sometime in the fall, but miraculously reemerged in mid-January. Okam shocked the country when he decided to take one of his prized five official visits to The Farm, and it transpired this past weekend. The 300-pound DT was wowed by the chemistry of the Stanford kids he met, and was walloped with the world-class medical facilities and education that give Stanford such a clear advantage over other schools for his future field of study. But this is a kid whose father passed away while he was elementary school, and for some time he has been the "man of the house." The distance factor all along has been a killer, with Okam very wary of leaving his single mother and two sisters too far away. Last night he announced the decision that I unfortunately had predicted, and he will spend his next four years as a Texas Longhorn.
- Domestic Stealth. This is the tagline that has been used on our premium football message board to covertly describe defensive tackle/end Ted Bentler, who committed back in the beginning of his junior year to his home-state Iowa Hawkeyes. Underneath the radar of the local coaches and pressure, Bentler took an unofficial visit to Stanford last summer and he filled out the lengthy admissions application. He was accepted, which accelerated his relationship with the Cardinal coaches, which peaked with his official visit the first weekend of January. Bentler is a quiet kid who spent the weekend asking some questions but trying to take in as much information as he could about his potential West Coast college home. No recruiting reports were seen on any news service about his Stanford interest and visit, which makes him one of the great all-time stealthy Stanford recruits. This was at the request of his family, who did not want to light a local firestorm as the son explored a potentially very controversial commitment switch. Bentler agonized long and hard over his decision and quietly late last night decided he could not go away from his home state. Though this was never on the public radar, it is a crushing blow for the Cardinal. Bentler has had zero press the past 18 months, but he is one of the most elite talents in the state of Iowa this year and would have been a huge add at defensive tackle. His family was recruited as hard as the kid, and though they were eventually brought around to accept and embrace Stanford, they kept their feelings to themselves. Ted Bentler made his own decision, and it is a disappointing one to many.
- International Stealth. Several well-informed Stanford fans have figured out the identity of "Stealth #1" above, but much more hidden has been a second mysterious recruit who resides overseas. Like the above pair, he is a talented defensive tackle, but unlike those two he is coming to Stanford. 19-year old Gustav Rydstedt of Stockholm, Sweden is the famed footballer who will call The Farm his home, and he has committed the Card after being accepted as an international Stanford student. Rydstedt measures 6'4" 282 pounds and plays at the national level for Sweden, as well as his tour of duty on the elite NFL Europe team that played last year in the NFL Global Junior Championship VII. Even better news is that his family has the financial means that allow him to walk-on at Stanford initially. While that means he will not sign a binding NLOI today, he is completely sold on the Cardinal and is unlikely to be shaken from his commitment this winter/spring. Though he lacks the depth of experience and coaching available to high school kids in the United States, Rydstedt is one of a handful of kids in Europe with the body and ability to play high-level Division I football. He is raw, but he is big, strong and moves awfully well for his size.
Now that you know the answers on these three kids, the surprises should be few-to-none today with the publicly announced 2004 Stanford Signing Class. If you want to track during the day who has signed their NLOI, make sure you check this page: Stanford Commit List. Also stay tuned today to get a full wrap-up on the 12 kids who have officially signed in this class, including quotes and comments from head coach Buddy Teevens.
Many of you have followed recruiting this year in a feverish hour-by-hour madness that has kept pace with the finest Stanford recruiting coverage we have ever offered. You might think today is the end of the excitement, but there are so many more reasons to stick around on The Bootleg the coming weeks and months:
- Three new assistant coaches are being hired in key positions for the Cardinal staff, and two of them are done deals. If you want the scoop on that pair, plus the breaking news on the third when he is hired, you need to stay glued. Also, the offensive coordinator position needs to be filled, and that appointment is as important as any other event for the 2004 future of this program. Only The Bootleg will keep you on top of that decision, including interviews and analysis on where the Stanford offense is headed this year.
- Our recruiting updates have been voluminous, and you may have almost forgotten about the current Stanford student-athletes on campus! Burning questions remain to be answered, and I will be on top of all of them. What is the health status and future for fullback Emeka Nnoli? What did Alex Smith do about his early NFL decision, and how did he arrive at his conclusion? How are the injury rehabilitations faring for QB Trent Edwards, RB Jason Evans, DT Scott Scharff and more? What is happening with the winter strength and conditioning program, which is so crucial to the physical success this team can or cannot enjoy this spring and then in the fall? What schematic changes are coming on offense and defense? What are the position switches and how will they impact the team? What is David Lofton going to do?
- If you ever get over to Maples Pavilion, there is a pretty decent basketball team in the middle of a fair season that has them undefeated and ranked #2 in the nation. Nobody has the inside scoop or detailed analysis of Monty's men like The Bootleg. If you have any passion at all for this exciting and inspirational team, you have to keep a daily (if not hourly) tab on events, news and prognostications here.
- Another season is gearing up as the top-ranked Stanford Baseball team is already 3-0 and dazzling the nation with its hitting power and pitching depth. Even if you have not been a big fan of college baseball in the past, you have to give a read of the blanket coverage we offer from Joe Ritzo. This star baseball writer is already getting announcing jobs in the minor leagues and will have a long and prestigious career ahead of him in baseball journalism/broadcasting. We are blessed like nobody's business to have him as the world's foremost authority on Cardinal baseball. He not only knows every nook and cranny of this program, but he also has a masterful grasp of the West Coast and national baseball scenes. We have countless testimonials of how Joe has turned very middling Stanford fans into surprised rabid Cardinal longball lovers, and you too will get hooked with his exciting and insightful coverage. Get on the bandwagon for the coverage of a program that is unquestionably in its Golden Years.
- Oh, and we don't stop with our recruiting coverage. I am already building reports on top high school juniors for both football and basketball, including some exciting kids with nationally elite reputations. You have seen the tip of the iceberg of my 2005 hoops recruiting coverage, but get ready for the onslaught of football finds as well. You will be surprised at the number and national coverage of Cardinal hard targets who already have offers, and who are committed to coming out for unofficial visits this spring or this summer for camp at Stanford. I promise you will be blown away by the early scoop I will bring you on these juniors, which will amazingly top what we just completed this past year.
- You also want to stay tuned for the fantastic finish still to come in this 2004 class. An OL/DL with elite national credentials is applying to transfer to Stanford from a BCS power program, and only The Bootleg has the latest breaking scoop on his transfer progress. The most amazing part of it all is that his situation should still give him five years to play four at Stanford, though Jeff Zuttah will enter as a physically mature and freakish 20-year old.
The Bootleg is no longer a seasonal fancy - we serve your unquenchable Cardinalmania thirst 365 days a year (366 in this leap year). Not a day goes by without some insightful news flash or insight in one of these major sports, and our message board community is the most amazing collection of Cardinal diehards you will ever meet in this world. If you currently have a monthly subscription to this web publication, now is the time to upgrade to an annual package. Act today if you want to get a year of the website plus a year of our magnificent magazine, plus some pretty remarkable cost savings. Separately, 12 months of the website plus a year of the magazine will cost you $148. But for just $99.95 today you can get it all... PLUS the vaunted 2004 Cardinal Recruiting Yearbook. This prized keepsake is available in a limited printing, and you can only get it with this annual package. The Yearbook profiles in depth all the signees coming to Stanford next year, plus some hidden gems who are on board to walk-on. This is the authoritative treatment of the 2004 freshman class, and you will want to keep it by your side for years to come as an encyclopedia reference tool. This is the only place you will get ridiculously in-depth scouting reports and bios on these kids, replete with quotes and projections from the Cardinal coaching staff. Plus get insightful feature stories about these fantastic student-athletes, looking back at their past and projecting their future.
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