Every year, Cretin-Derham Hall churns out some of the best student-athletes in the Midwest, and that makes the Raiders one of the top teams Stanford scouts each year as they scour the best recruiting talent in the North Star State. With four alums at Minnesota and three at Notre Dame, the St. Paul (MN) school is a regular stop for the Irish and Big 10 each year as well. The top talent from the private school this year is 6'3" OL/DL Rafael Eubanks, and sure enough he has these schools and more hot on his trail.
His first offer came from Iowa, soon followed by Minnesota and Kansas State. Then Wisconsin and Arizona State threw their hat in the ring. Stanford became the second school from the Pac-10 to offer a scholarship to the athletic lineman, and the official word from The Farm came as one of the nicer surprises Eubanks could have conceived on April Fool's Day.
"Stanford had been talking to my coaches and I was getting notes from them a lot," the 6'3" offensive guard reported to The Bootleg the evening of April 1. "I just talked with the coach today, and the offer is there. Just what I do scoring-wise determines if I can go. My grades are there; I just don't have a test score yet. I'm taking the ACT tomorrow. I'm excited about that and will try to get the best score I can. I just started a prep class two weeks ago and have been working with my teachers. The practice tests project a score between 24 and 28 for me."
Eubanks was All-Conference, Second Team All-Metro and Honorable Mention All-State this past fall as a standout guard for a 10-2 Cretin-Derham Hall team that rolled in the regular season before an unexpected quick out in the first round of the playoffs.
"That was disappointing," the top-rated junior laments of the loss. "We had a very solid team. I thought we should have won - well, could have definitely - won state. It was especially sad for the seniors, who put in so much work."
As the number one player in the 2005 Minnesota crop, the pressure is on Eubanks to step up in his roll as a leading senior this coming season. That means not only a jump forward in leadership, but also some changes in his positional roles on the football field. He played only sparingly on the defensive line in 2003 but could very well be a two-way starter in '04 at defensive tackle and center. There will be an additional adjustment for him on the offensive line as he moves over one spot from the guard position and will now play over the ball.
"I've been doing a lot of snapping work to get more comfortable with that," the interior lineman explains. "My strength right now is my pulling - using my quick feet and good agility for my size. I could stand to work a little on my balance and my pass-blocking, though I didn't allow a sack all [junior] season. I could also finish a little better - put guys on the ground. I don't take plays off, but I am making it my goal to drive guys back 10 yards on every play - to make sure my guy can't make a tackle on the play"
Eubanks played last fall between 275 and 280 pounds, and it's his mobility and agility at that size that have wowed college coaches. He is now trying to add the size and strength to round out his profile as a blocker, and hopefully develop into a disruptive pass rusher on defense.
"I'm trying to build muscle, but trim up at the same time. I weight 290 right now, but I want to get to 280 or 285," the maturing Minnesotan maintains. "I've been power lifting every morning before school, but I am also running cone drills to keep my quickness at its best. One of the best parts of my game is how well I cut, get upfield and pull."
Like some of the famous multi-sport athletes to precede him at Cretin-Derham Hall, like Chris Weinke and Joe Mauer, Eubanks has been a proficient performer in other athletic arenas. He did give up basketball for the first time this year, but the St. Paul standout is still playing competitive golf for his school. Give that a moment to form a mental picture: 6'3" 290 pounds and swinging the sticks.
That's a path less traveled for the top Gopher State gridder, which reminds of Mahtomedi High School 2004 fullback Jerod Arlich. Both have gripping character, intelligence and independent-minding thinking, which is cause for optimisim for Cardinalmaniacs™. Arlich stunned the home-state hopefuls this past winter when he signed with Stanford over the maroon and gold. Eubanks cites Notre Dame and Northwestern as two more schools high on his mind, which gives him an eerily similar favorites list to Arlich. But there is one important difference between these two student-athletes: Eubanks is a rabid fan of all the state's local teams.
"The Gophers, the Twins, the Vikings - I've been a lifelong fan of all of them," Eubanks admits. If you call up his home phone number and get the family's answering machine, you will hear a message recorded by a then nine-yearold Rafael that ends with "Go Vikings!" Arlich, by contrast, was never so emotionally invested in the in-state school, and that will make this an even tougher battle for Stanford against Minnesota.
"There are a lot of schools on my list. It's so early," the junior lineman opines. "I haven't had time to go through each school and look at their academics, and how they develop their players. I just can't give any top favorites right now."
"Stanford would be in my top five right now, though," he adds. "The other team I can safely say to be in my top five is Minnesota."
We have seen through the years how distance is a crucial factor that makes or break the recruitment of kids from the Land of 10,000 Lakes, so how will that play into Eubanks' thinking, as well as that of his family?
"If I stay close, it would be easier for my family to come to games - especially for my mom," the St. Paul standout answers. "But if I like Stanford, even if it's further away, it will not affect my decision because Stanford is such a great school."
Though they have yet to make an offer, the Irish are another opponent to watch carefully in this battle. Notre Dame successfully signed Ryan Harris (2003) and Rashon Powers-Neal (2001), both targets the Cardinal craved but came up empty in their recruiting endeavors. Harris is the only one of the three Cretin-Derham Hall alums in South Bend with whom Eubanks played, and that familiarity could be a factor in Notre Dame's favor.
"I learned a lot from him when he was a senior and I was a sophomore," Eubanks says of Harris. "He's a great player and may have a little influence in my decision. You like to go somewhere you know people you trust and respect. There are others there, but I don't know them as well."
"Stanford and Notre Dame are both great football programs, but also both are great academic schools," the junior lineman continues. "That's the combination I want from a school."
Northwestern is another school to watch for this academically-minded Minnesotan. "They are a great academic school," Eubanks declares. "The football is not the best, but they are a good school and seem interested."
With six offers in hand and unofficial visits already to see most of them, this would appear to be a mature recruitment that could be headed for an early conclusion. Eubanks has no such impending plans, though.
"There is no deadline," he proclaims. "I want to make sure I make the right choice, for football and academics. That could take time."
Eubanks has yet to firm up his summer camp plans but says that Stanford and Notre Dame the "two highest possibilities at this point." He also adds that while he is a two-way recruit, he would prefer to play on the offensive line if he has his choice.
"I'm open to anything, but the offensive line is where I played this year," he explains. "I'm not going to not consider a school because of that stuff, though."
The Cardinal coaches offered Eubanks after reviewing his film, and he reports that both Steve Morton (OL) and Dave Tipton (DTs) liked what they saw. Stanford is recruiting him for both sides of the line.
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