A lot can happen in four years. That has certainly been true for all of us who have been living in this country for the past four years, but this is especially true when it comes to college kids. There is a tremendous difference between an 18-year old kid and a 22-year old, and so much can happen during the course of a kid's collegiate career.
Think about how you were when you first stepped foot on your college campus, and then compare it to what you were by the time you graduated. Were you the exact same person when you did the Wacky Walk?
That's why I really don't pay as much attention to recruiting as I probably should, mostly because it's such a crapshoot. It's great to recruit a kid who's a great football player at age 18, but it's much more important to recruit the kid who will be a great football player by age 21. Those kids are few and far between.
Plus, the talent level gap is so wide on the high school level, wider even than the gap is in college. A kid who puts together an All-World varsity career might not even be able to find the playing field in college. There are so many stories of kids who are so highly recruited that they need to hold press conferences when they sign their letters of intent, then once they step on campus, they either don't come close to living up to the hype or they disappear entirely from view.
On the flip side, some kids come from out of nowhere and make a major impact on their program. The first time I saw Troy Walters was at a walk-through the day before Stanford played at Utah in 1995. I remember seeing some true freshman out there taking punts and thinking to myself, "Who's that wearing number 89? Man, he's tiny!" At that moment, no one knew that #89 would soon become Number 5 and rewrite the Stanford receiving record books.
But the road to college football stardom is littered with can't-miss recruits who, for whatever reason, missed. Some get injured. Some don't go to class. Some don't get the playing time they think they're entitled to and transfer away. Some run afoul of the law. Some just don't handle all the things it takes to be a college football player.
One of those kids is on the front page of most sports sections around the country this morning. Maurice Clarett was destined for Buckeye stardom even before he finally stepped on the field. Months later, he was clutching the National Championship trophy. Obviously, things have gone sour since, from his failed NFL bid to his vindictive allegations against his former program.
Who would have guessed that Clarett's career would have gone south so quickly? He was the man in high school. Now he's a pariah in Columbus. Again, recruiting is a crapshoot, and for some programs, the stakes can be far, far higher.
Fortunately, for every Maurice Clarett, there are far more players out there like Greg Camarillo. A walk-on who worked hard, paid his dues, earned a scholarship, and became a valuable player. That is what college football should be about. It shouldn't be about free cars, phony jobs, shady sidemen, and perks galore… that's what being a politician is all about!
Camarillo perhaps is the embodiment of this year's senior Cardinal class, the guys who this weekend will be making their final Walk and playing at The Farm for the final time. Joining Camarillo will be names we've all come to appreciate, including Alex Smith, Kenneth Tolon, and Ryan Eklund.
In the Stanford football 2000 media guide, eight true freshmen are listed on the defensive roster. Seven of those guys — Oshiomogho Atogwe, David Bergeron, Jared Newberry, Scott Scharff, Will Svitek, Leigh Torrence, and Stanley Wilson — are not only still with the program, they're all either starters or valuable players on this year's squad. The eighth member of that defensive Class of 2000 was Amon Gordon, who would be a star on this team if he hadn't headed for the pros. How many big plays have those guys given the Card?
A lot can happen in four years. And a lot has happened in the last four years for the 11 seniors who will be making their final Stanford Stadium appearance. Each of these young men have experienced highlights, lowlights, close shaves, and near-misses, both on and off the field.
While football Senior Days aren't as intimate as they are in basketball (anyone else get goose bumps when the band launches into "Swingtown"?), they're still every bit as emotional and every bit as special. Hopefully this year's Senior Day will be even more special, as they can lead the Cardinal's quest to go out by shocking everyone and ending the season with two big wins.
RANDOM PAC-10 THOUGHTS
Between the heart-stopping finishes in Tempe, Pasadena, and Berkeley, and the Fog Bowl in Corvallis, last weekend's Pac-10 action had more drama than a Stravinsky piece…
I think Adrian Peterson is Heisman-worthy, but there is no more dangerous player in college football right now than Reggie Bush. Period. He might be the most electrifying college football player since Rocket Ismail…
That said, Udeme Udofia got jobbed out of Pac-10 Special Teams Player of the Week honors…
Folks, I haven't slept very well this week, and Oregon State's Bill Swancutt is the main reason why. That's a bad, bad man…
Even though Big Game is ten days away, I'll give you Stanford's key to victory right now: force the Bears to kick field goals. Have you seen the Bears' kicking game? Yikes…
Just so I have all this straight… against the fraudulent UCLA defense, Stanford's main running backs combined for 42 yards on 18 carries. Then the next week, against that same, pitiful Bruin defense, Washington State running backs combine for 51 rushing attempts and 296 yards? What? Someone explain that to me…
Not a Pac-10 thought, but… I saw where Kenny Wheaton of the Toronto Argonauts returned an interception 116 yards for a touchdown in the Argos' playoff game last week. I'm sure our friends up in Oregon have seen such things before…
Not a Pac-10 thought, but… if you're San Jose State and you desperately need to boost your attendance, nothing will pack 'em in the stands like setting the kickoff for 9:00 AM, right? Right?
Not a Pac-10 thought, but… how cool would a BCS playoff be this year? How cool would it be to take the top eight teams and just let them go at it? Right now the first-round matchups would be U$C-Georgia, Oklahoma-Utah (could the sagging Sooner defense hold up?), Auburn-Texas, and cal-Wisconsin. I'm not a fan of a full-fledged college football playoff (then again, I didn't like it when Major League Baseball started letting wild-card teams into the postseason… and that's turned out very well), but I'd be lying to you if I told you that I wouldn't tune in for every one of those BCS playoff games…
TV programming note: we're back to double dip airings of the Farm Report this week… Friday at 7:30 PM and Saturday at 8:30 AM on FOX Sports Net Bay Area!
I put the $ in U$C, and some folks still aren't happy about it. Ken from parts unknown chimed in: "Troy? Hmmmm? With a name like Troy, it's surprising that you would take such a cheap shot at U$C. By the way, $tanford costs more than U$C. Therefore $tanford probably deserves to be spelled $$$tanford. But that would be a cheap shot, too. So let's be fair and reasonable. $tanford should be spelled $$tanford. Yeah, that's it! . That's fair and balanced. Don't want to appear too biased and sarcastic, you know?
By the way, in spite of your juvenile and sophomoric antics, I like your column. It's entertaining and informative. Keep up the $nide work. You're really good at it."
Reading that made me $mile. Cheap $hot? I don't think $o, but maybe. $ophomoric? Probably. But U$C ha$ done $o well (and they $eem to be doing it the right way), that I have to take $hot$ when I can!
As usual, there's some Duck representation in the E-Mailbag. Here's Scott from Los Angeles, who wrote before last week's game: "I think that Trent Edwards was still a bit shaky from the Oregon game. I have watched him several times on TV this year and he just did not look the same as in other games. Maybe playing behind a line that gave up 10 sacks the week before was on his mind... or maybe he was still hurt from the Oregon game... I don't know. I will say that I do not think that he should be dumped in favor of Ostrander unless he is hurt. Edwards is a good QB and deserves his spot."
Can't argue with any of that. I tell you, the Oregon fans who have been e-mailing in have, for the most part, been very intelligent and made a lot of sense. Who knew?
More on the Stanford QB controversy that isn't. Here's Rob from Redwood City: "I can't understand why a coaching staff would keep an obviously gifted QB on the bench week after week, unless injuries force the starter off the field. Routine substitutions are made at all the other positions with no disruption of team morale, so why is a QB change such a big deal. You cited team chemistry as a reason to stick with one guy, even if he's having a bad game (Stanford-UCLA comes to mind), unless injury is involved. I don't think you are giving the football players enough credit by assuming a two QB system, where both guys can be productive, will tear the team apart. These guys are all very competitive and want to win games. I'll bet every one of them would be supportive of both Edwards & T.C. Ostrander if both QBs were given fair opportunities to contribute to the team's success."
Well, now that injuries might force Trent Edwards from this week's game, this is kind of a moot point. But changing the QB is almost always a big deal because the QB is almost always the most important position on the team. To say that quarterbacks are as interchangeable as, say, linebackers is erroneous. That's why the handling of quarterbacks is potentially one of the most difficult tasks a coaching staff faces.
Now, if a team goes into a season knowing that it will be a two-quarterback system (like U$C did in 1995 with Brad Otton and Kyle Wachholtz and the Washington Huskies did back when they were a title contender), then that's a different story! And maybe the coaching staff opens up the competition for next year. Who knows? But right now, a healthy Trent Edwards is your starter.
Arizona @ U$C. This won't take long. I like U$C by 37.
cal @ Washington. This won't take long, either! I like cal by 45.
Washington State @ Arizona State. Did anyone else walk away from that game last week totally impressed by the Sun Devils? No? Neither did I. They'll make this game more interesting than it needs to be, but I like Arizona State by 10.
UCLA @ Oregon. Normally, I'd expect the scoreboard to blow up when these two teams are involved, but something tells me this will be a low-scoring game. I'm not convinced the Ducks' offense will be able to gash the UCLA defense like almost everyone else has, but I do think the Oregon defense will be the best unit on the field. That's why I like Oregon by 6.
Last week: 3-1 (straight up), 2-2 (ATS).
This year: 19-5 (straight up), 13-11 (ATS).
-- Got a thought on this column or on Stanford sports? E-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org! The ones I like best will end up in next week's E-Mailbag.
Troy Clardy is a reporter for the Stanford Cardinal Farm Report, which airs Saturday mornings on Fox Sports Net Bay Area. Clardy hosts "Stanford Sports Weekly", which airs Wednesday evenings at 8:00 pm on KNTS (1220 AM) in San Francisco. He also hosts Cardinal men's basketball pregame shows on Stanford radio network flagship station KNEW in San Francisco, and "College Football Today" on KNBR 1050 in San Francisco.
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