Stanford has enough on its plate each year scouring the far corners of this country (and on occasion across the ocean) to find top student-athletes, who have concerns about going away for college and may opt against the Card. Pulling in players from the East Coast and Midwest is a heartbreaking challenge that hammers the Cardinal coaches every year, as they put in hundreds of hours on kids who in the end calmly proclaim the need to stay nearby where Mom and Dad can watch them play on Saturdays.
National recruiting is a tough row to hoe, so if you are Buddy Teevens you have to fully embrace any local talents that pop up in your back yard. The problem is that Bay Area football does not have the talent depth that approaches the fertile fields of football phenoms in Southern California. The Peninsula does not have the numbers or demographics that support the development you find all over Los Angeles. East Bay athletes can be eye-catching, but they rarely have the academics for Stanford admission.
The diamonds do emerge every once in a while, including Tommy Hanson (Benicia), Mike McLaughlin (San Jose), Willie Howard (Mountain View), Donnie Spragan (Union City), Greg Schindler (Morgan Hill), Travis Pfeifer (Concord) and Eric Johnson (Antioch) in the last decade. The current roster has several locals at impact positions, including Greg Camarillo at WR, Timi Wusu at OLB and Trevor Hooper at SS. Cornerback Wopamo Osaisai should make noise early in his career, possibly as soon as his freshman season this fall. But not since quarterbacks T.C. Ostrander and Trent Edwards has Stanford pulled in premier players against a sea of competiting scholarship offers. Not since 1996 and Willie Howard has the Cardinal landed a prep All-American on defense from the surrounding community.
The point of this brief dissertation in history and geography is that much attention is due to that rare All-American talent who emerges in Stanford's backyard. For all the glitzy battles you fight in Pennsylvania, Georgia, Wisconsin and Texas to pull players away from home, you simply must defend your home turf when the planets align for an available Peninsula prize.
The 2005 class indeed has Jupiter, Saturn, Venus, Mercury and Mars all sitting on the Western horizon for the Stanford Cardinal. The gravitational force that has brought these heavenly bodies into a synchronous orbit is 6'4" 220-pound defensive end Will Powers from Junipero Serra High School in nearby San Mateo. Powers already has offers from more than half the Pac-10, plus Notre Dame and Nebraska. Stanford offered last month and have been the recipient of two unofficial visits from the pass rusher. Powers took in the Oregon State basketball game at Maples Pavilion in late February and has been out to one football practice already this spring.
"It reemphasized what I had thought about Stanford," the San Mateo standout says of his April visit. "It's a great school academically with a great campus. I want to try to make another trip next week with my coach - to help me decide what to think about them football-wise."
Powers carries a 3.6 GPA and recently bumped his SAT score up from a 1240 (January) to a 1380 (March). With that kind of academic profile, the proximal advantage of living just 30 minutes up Highway 101 and his athletic prowess, there is little question what kind of recruiting value the 6'4" DL terror brings to the table for Stanford. But what does the Serra star think of the Cardinal right now?
"I really like Stanford's academics, obviously. They are definitely top five in the nation - of all universities," the First Team All-League and All-County junior allows. "If you get a Stanford degree, it has a lot of street value when it's time to get a job. The campus is nearby and the weather is great."
But Powers has nine schools on his list right now, with offers from all but USC. He shuns any talk of who leads within that nonet until he has a chance to examine them all in person. He has checked out Stanford and Cal for spring practices already, and a trip to the Grand Canyon State for some golf with his father earlier this month gave him good looks at Arizona and Arizona State. He attended UCLA's Junior Day yesterday and will be at USC next Saturday for their one-day lineman camp.
"I hope to impress them enough that they will make an offer," Powers says of his April 24 workout upcoming with the Trojans.
The 6'4" two-way lineman will make trips to see Oregon, Notre Dame and Nebraska in June and then should be prepared to narrow his list to five schools by mid-June.
"After a couple weeks I should then have it down to three, and then later to one," he projects for his decision timeline. "I will probably make one official visit during the season and the other two after the season."
OK. But where does Stanford stand in his early thinking as he contemplates his list at this point? Will the Card make that cut to five coming in a couple months?
"The chances are pretty high," Powers replies. "But I've only seen [five] schools. I need to see the others to really make an informed judgement. It's anyone's game right now."
One other factor to consider in this equation is distance. That typically is a dimension we explore for more distant recruits, but for once it could work in Stanford's favor. That is, unless Powers is like many 17-year olds and fancies the idea of traveling at least outside his home area code for the college experience.
"If you live on campus, you get your own lifestyle," this prospective Cardinal says about the thought of a college experience so close to home. "My parents don't have to pop by all the time, and I would have my own life. But I would be close enough that I could come home really easily when I want to."
"I do love the state of California - it's got some great weather," Powers continues on the topic of geography and his school choice. "But I'm willing to travel. I won't just travel to anywhere, though. It needs to be a place worth going away. I don't think distance will be the most important thing in my decision."
Powers does have a three-pronged approach, though, for other factors that weigh heavily on his mind as he contemplates a difficult college selection.
"My number one criterion is academics. You don't go to college for just the heck of it - the school is the reason to be there," the student-athlete starts off. "Number two is the athletics. Third is the overall environment, with the facilities and the people."
As a junior at Serra High School, Will Powers totaled 49 tackles (including 19 solo), three sacks, eight tackles for loss, three forced fumbles, two pass deflections and one fumble recovery in his junior season. In addition to area honors, he was named Second Team Underclass All-State, though interestingly he earned these awards for his play as an offensive tackle. He only gave up one sack all year, and that came late in the 4th quarter of the game against Valley Christian's consensus All-American Jeff Schweiger.
Powers says that all schools are recruiting him strictly for defense, which makes sense given his size. At 6'4" and 220 pounds, he does not have a body quite suited to play OT at the college level. He does have the love and talent to be a bigtime DE.
"Where did I give more value to my team last year? That depends on which game you look at. But I'm further ahead on defense and I enjoy doing it," the 2005 premier Peninsula prep proclaims. "I play hard and I play fast. I play physical. There is not one technique I do best - I just play well all around."
Powers is best against the run right now, with an uncanny ability to read plays as they are developing. Pass rushing is the area where he has more room to improve as he gears up for a big senior season.
"I need quicker identification of the pass," he explains. "I'll be a more proficient pass rusher next year - just need to work on my technique. That only omes through repetition."
Returning to that sole sack he gave up on the offensive line, there is the lingering question of whether he can be the Bay Area's 2005 dynamo defensive end to live up to the Schweiger legacy. The Valley Christian DE/TE was ranked by TheInsiders as the #1 player in the West last year and the #4 defensive end in the nation. Could Powers carry those kinds of numbers when Signing Day next rolls around in February?
"College coaches have been saying I'm one of the top [defensive ends] in the nation," the elite but humble recruit admits. "But you've got to keep a straight head. As soon as you think about that kind of stuff, you lose sight of what you are trying to achieve. Jeff was obviously the top defensive end in the nation last year, at least in my mind."
Will Powers ran a 4.62 40 last May at the Stanford Nike Camp and just recently ran a 4.66 with his high school coaches. We'll be watching him at Stanford for this year's Nike Camp, where his times, numbers and performances will measure how he stacks against his contemporaries. Though he weighs 220 pounds right now, look for that to increase over the next few months. Powers played at 225 in the fall but dropped weight during the recently concluded basketball season. He aims to play between 235 and 240 this coming fall for his senior season.
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