Roche Revival

Hard work goes a long way in recruiting, but everyone can use a little luck. The Cardinal and many programs around the nation have found fortune recently in the news that New Jersey offensive lineman <b>Brian Roche</b> has reopened his recruitment. Stanford was one of the finalists when the four-star tackle first committed in June, but how do they stand today?

Some recruitments drag from the early spring all the way to Signing Day, and those are the battles that recruitniks best remember.  However, plenty of blue chip recruits are won and lost in shorter sprints.  We tend to forget about those stories at this time of year, especially in Stanford recruiting, where it takes time to develop a solid test score and sixth semester grades for an admissions application.

But once in a blue moon, an old story shakes off its dust and comes to life again.  The last time we reported to you on Brian Roche, the highly acclaimed offensive tackle from renowned Don Bosco Prep in New Jersey, he pulled the trigger on a surprising Rutgers commitment just before he was scheduled to visit Stanford.  It was late June, and the 6'5" athlete had held the Cardinal as one of his favorite schools, until Rutgers head coach Greg Schiano put in 10 hours of personal time with Roche on an unofficial visit.  After that one day, the dynamics of Roche's recruitment changed radically.  He took one more hurried trip to Miami; Roche came back to North Jersey relatively underwhelmed and pulled the trigger on a commitment to the in-state school.

One of the pitches Schiano made to the coveted lineman was that the rising talent at Rutgers would fast win ballgames.  It was an effective sales job, but Rutgers' star faded throughout the fall as they amassed a 4-7 record in a depleted Big East.  Convinced that he had made a commitment to an ideal different than the reality he saw on the field in the 2004 season, Roche recently made a public decommitment from Rutgers and reopened his recruitment.

A flood of schools have jumped back into his suddenly reopened recruitment, and we had to wonder if Stanford would take a stab.  They have netted just one offensive lineman commitment in this class, with a goal of hauling in at least two offensive tackles.  You can count the number of blue chip recruits remaining on the board at offensive tackle on one hand - truthfully, you can count that number on your thumb.  It would seem a worthy gamble for the Cardinal to take a run at Roche.

The argument against that play goes as follows: Brian Roche is now in late December getting to know schools again, and it would be a harder sales job for Stanford - as a school 3,000 miles away - than anyone else East of the Mississippi.  Moreover, the Card have been out of touch with the tackle recruit for a full six months.  That necessarily means that he has not put forth any work or thought toward the Stanford admissions application.  With just a few weeks until the last bout of official visits, it may not be easy to get an application submitted and accepted in time.  With all these factors making a successful Stanford recruitment of Roche a slim probability, it would be understandable if the skeleton staff were to concentrate their efforts elsewhere.  If you had only two assistant coaches working on your staff, and you had recruits on the board from almost every state in the, would you spend a chunk of those man hours on such a longshot?

But Cardinal coach Tom Quinn was in the neighborhood this past Thursday, visiting Bergen Catholic tight end James Dray.  It was a short 10-minute drive to double down on a second North Jersey recruit, so he popped into Don Bosco Prep to visit with Roche.  What kind of pitch did Quinn make to drive home an effective message for Stanford to the #37 offensive lineman in the nation?

"The thing I like so far is that there hasn't been a pitch.  I respect that," the recruit replies.  "He said Stanford was a great school with great opportunities if football doesn't work out.  That was it."

Roche says that he talked with Stanford head coach Walt Harris over the weekend, and the approach seems consistent with Quinn's conversation.

"He just encouraged me to fill out the application, and he just wanted me to see what Stanford had to offer," the Don Bosco senior recalls.  "He actually sounded surprised when I said I would be interested."

"I'm going to look into getting [the application] done," Roche continues.  "I have to go through the guidance department at my school, and I'll have to fight a little with this timing.  But hopefully they'll be able to get it done for me.  I've already filled out my part of the application I just received.  I just have to do two more essay questions."

Securing teacher recommendations during the holiday break will be a challenge and burden for the four-star recruit, so Roche (3.5 GPA, 1280 SAT) understandably had some queries to pose to Harris before taking this plunge.

"I asked if he thought he could turn Stanford around after last year, and if he felt they could win the Pac-10," the tackle target recounts.  "He talked about how he and his staff turned Pitt around and how there already is better talent at Stanford.  They can recruit better players because the kid with good grades will always be interested."

Roche has already taken two official visits, to Louisville and Michigan State this month.  He has scheduled North Carolina State for January 14.  That leaves exactly two more trips he can schedule.  The recruit tells The Bootleg that four schools are competing for those slots: Stanford, Notre Dame, Virginia Tech and Connecticut.

"No one is ahead," he comments on the competition within that quartet.

We are less than one week into the renewed recruitment of Roche by Stanford, so it is too soon to know what kind of legs the Cardinal have in this race.  Distance is the most obvious issue, though one of several that he has to explore in the coming days and weeks.

"I would say it's a question of [distance] and the fact that Stanford is unproven, as far as winning is concerned," Roche allows.  "But I also think official visits tell you a lot more about the school.  If I fell in love with the place, I could go that far."

Brian Roche and his fellow recruits in the 2005 class have just entered a dead period, which keeps schools from visiting or calling until after the New Year.  These next two weeks of relative silence will be a time of introspection for Roche as he works toward scheduling his last two visits.  A key event for Stanford's chances will be the submission and then decision on his admissions application.  This story has just begun, and we will bring you all of the latest as it develops.


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