It Ain't Over 'Till...

As we have learned through the years of recruiting wars, the earliest commitments are often the least sound. Each cycle we see young student-athletes who take the quick plunge with one school, only later to realize attractive options they had closed off. We did not expect to see a May commitment go soft in the first week of June, though that is what we have found with a recent visitor to The Farm...

Deep down in your recruitnik soul - in dark nether-reaches of your psyche you don't like to talk about in public - you thirst for one type of story like nothing else: decommitments.

While this story does not reveal a complete switch of a recruit from his prior commitment to a Stanford verbal, we do have a measured reopening of a previously closed elite prospect's options to now suddenly include the Cardinal. The first hints came two weeks ago when Los Angeles offensive tackle Aleksey Lanis was spotted on campus the weekend of the Palo Alto Nike Camp and Stanford's Junior Day. Lanis, who committed to UCLA just one week earlier, was not working out at the combine. He had been previously invited to Stanford's Junior Day and reported to The Bootleg that he would attend; however, nobody outside the Cardinal program expected him to show that Sunday. His presence on campus was the clue that he was allowing Stanford to give their best shot.

It looks like it paid off.

"In the back of my mind, Stanford is probably the only school that I am considering with UCLA right now," Lanis reveals.

This is the first report anywhere that the Crenshaw Senior High School rising senior was soft in his verbal commitment to the Bruins, and his words indicate that the Card are the only school he is allowing into the mix. UCLA and Stanford were also the first two schools to offer the Russian-born athlete. He has since added offers from Arizona State, Oregon and Washington.

Buddy Teevens and the Stanford staff are not quite completely even with the Bru-crew in this race, however. The Russian road grader is very explicit in describing one dimension where he perceives a significant gap between the two schools. That difference is a critical one in his evaluation process.

"There are some doubts about Stanford, though. They have a lot of young guys on the O-line. They have almost all freshmen and sophomores. Those guys will be there three or four more years," Lanis explains. "At UCLA they have maybe eight linemen, and when I come in there will be just one offensive tackle. That's an automatic chance to get PT right away."

While Cardinal fans will be excited to hear that Lanis back in play, they will be surprised to hear that the depth chart is now his gravest concern. Everything he had said previously in this recruiting year had focused on his demand to start college one term early so that he could participate in the 2005 spring football practices. Stanford has a strict policy against allowing incoming freshman to start at any time other than autumn quarter. Numerous times through more than one coaching regime has the football program tried to gain an exception to that rule - without success. This was thought to be the death knell for the Card's recruitment of the Siberian-born offensive tackle, who was named a Junior All-American last fall.

"They've really cleared up for me the issue of early graduation and spring football," Lanis explains of Stanford's surprising progress in that area. "They explained to me that I can be there to take part in everything they do in spring ball except for the 15 practices - I can do everything else, including all the meetings. I'm OK with that now and don't really worry about it."

As for the day he spent with the Cardinal coaches and other top Stanford junior recruits, the SoCal standout tackle enjoyed himself.

"It was a nice Junior Day - like other Junior Days. Stanford really has a great campus that's huge. The guys were great that I met. I liked them a lot," Lanis allows. "The coaches said I have the opportunity to play, but the chances aren't as good I think as at UCLA."

The primary recruiter for Lanis at Stanford is co-defensive coordinator Tom Williams, who two years ago pulled out another miracle from the Los Angeles Unified School District when he led the Cardinal charge for Fremont wide receiver Mark Bradford. Lanis has a good rapport with Williams and said he will be giving the Stanford coach a call in the next week.

"I will apply to the school and see if it goes through," the 6'6" 310-pound tackle tells us about his upcoming Stanford plans. "Stanford is a great, great school. It would be real difficult to say no. They are one of the top schools in the country."

Aleksey Lanis has scored a 1210 on the SAT and carries a 3.8 weighted GPA at Crenshaw Senior High. His unweighted GPA is a strong 3.5.

It sounds like we will next see movement on this recruitment once he dives into the admissions application process, but for the time being, how does Lanis describe his current status with UCLA and that commitment?

"If I went somewhere today, it would be UCLA," he carefully answers. "I like the coaches and I definitely like the depth chart. I'm pretty sure if I went to Stanford I would earn a spot to play as a freshman, but I want more of a guarantee. I really don't want to redshirt - that would be the worst possible thing that could happen to me."

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