Harris Gets a Christmas Card

New Stanford head coach Walt Harris was hired with less than a week remaining in the all-important contact period. With the overwhelming majority of Cardinal recruits still to take official visits in January, and many still needing to gain admission to the school, we expected a lull through the holidays in commitment news. Then a big San Diego surprise hit.

The Cardinal had gone two months without a commitment in this 2005 recruiting class, but new head coach Walt Harris has found an unexpected present under the Christmas tree to end the drought and give him his first pledge since he took the Stanford job.  Clinton Snyder made the phone call to assistant coach Tom Quinn last week, giving the Cardinal recruiting momentum with the exciting news of his verbal commitment.

"Coach Quinn was really happy, but he wasn't totally surprised," the recruit reveals.  "I had told them I was 80% to Stanford already.  He said it was like getting an early Christmas present, though, and was very excited."

Tom Quinn is not only the regional recruiter for San Diego County but also the position coach for outside linebackers, where Snyder projects.  The 6'4" 210-pound athlete plays defensive end at Monte Vista High School, where he has been one of the top terrors in Southern California the last few years.  At the college level, some coaches may have harbored reservations if Snyder could put on the weight to play on the defensive line at the highest Division I level, but his size and 4.66 speed are an exquisite fit for Stanford's 3-4 defense as an outside linebacker.

However, Snyder was shaken by the news in late November when Buddy Teevens was fired.  That threatened to shred the foundation that had been laid for more than half a year, pitching the unique niche the San Diego standout could fill in the 3-4 defense.  If Quinn and that scheme were not retained, Snyder told Brandon Huffman of BruinReportOnline, "it would really make me sit down and think about it."

Walt Harris was hired, and he kept Quinn as one of two assistant coaches held over from the Teevens regime.  Snyder had a chance soon thereafter to speak with Harris, and fences were quickly mended.

"It was a good talk.  He told me they are not changing the defense," the recruit recalls.  "They maybe will not keep all the position coaches, but the actual concepts will be the same."

"It'll be great," Snyder continues.  "They had an awesome year on defense - just couldn't get it done on the offensive end.  They're going to have a fresh start.  They're just trying to reorchestrate the offense and bring some confidence and success there.  He actually talked to me about team concepts.  He doesn't believe the failures of this last year can always be blamed on the coaches.  Coach Harris wants to change the attitude for the players to be accountable for themselves."

Clinton Snyder had a blowout season at Monte Vista High School as a junior with 18 1/2 sacks, which left him a marked man this fall.  The 6'4" senior recorded 15 sacks and more than 70 tackles this year.  He was today awarded the San Diego Section Defensive Player of the Year by the San Diego Union-Tribune, which is a lofty honor in a talent-rich area.  Though Snyder statistically lagged his junior year performance, he knows he had a better season this fall.

"I think I earned it this year," the honoree says of the Defensive Player of the Year accolade.  "It wasn't as good statistically as my junior year, but offenses drew schemes around me this year.  I had one head coach who told me that I was the only player they double-teamed all year.  Teams would double-team me on the backside and then run sweeps the other way."

"I feel like I improved my strength this year - my ability to take on bigger guys one on one," Snyder adds.  "I also played faster, with all those backside pursuits."

Even as he tentatively settles into the "Sam" outside linebacker position on Stanford's 2005 depth chart, Snyder will still have the challenge ahead of him this off-season to put on some weight.  Lining up over Pac-10 tight ends will require greater mass and strength.  Neither the recruit nor the Cardinal coaches are overly concerned.  Snyder has held at such a low weight primarily because he plays basketball throughout the winter (high school season) and spring (AAU season).  He is in the thick of his senior high school hoops season, starting at center and averaging 20 points per game.  At the end of this winter, Snyder will hang up his high-tops and hit the weight room.

Though he holds offers from Stanford, Cal, UCLA, Arizona, Oregon State and others, Snyder's busy basketball schedule has prevented him from taking any official visits thus far.  He was planning on tripping in January to his stop three favorites, but now he will only officially visit the Cardinal on January 7.  A visit was on the books to take him to Westwood on January 21, and a Cal coach was in his home two weeks ago to push for a trip to Berkeley.  Looking at his calendar and thinking about the necessity of those last two trips, Snyder came to the realization that he should end his recruitment and make his Stanford commitment.

"It would have taken something really big to change my mind [about Stanford]," he describes.  "With basketball and school, I'm already really busy right now, and I'd like to just enjoy my senior year."

"The Pac-10 conference is a great conference to play in, and afterward, if I don't make it to the NFL, I'll have a Stanford degree," the Spring Valley (Calif.) standout says of his Cardinal commitment. "You can't really lose."

Clinton Snyder is currently ranked the #40 defensive end prospect in the nation by Scout.com.  He is the seventh commitment in this 2005 Stanford class, though the first outside linebacker.  The Cardinal have big needs at all defensive positions this year and will be aiming for more success recruiting that side of the ball on the heels of Snyder's commitment.

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