The story of this Stanford recruiting season, and certainly this weekend, is the number of offensive linemen coming on board. Three OL recruits gave verbal commitments to the Cardinal Saturday. The shortcomings in the last few years of recruiting on the line have been well told, and the precarious situation that has created for Stanford's offense in the coming years has been bemoaned. Just one lineman has signed a letter of intent to play at Stanford in each of the past two years, with a toal of just five recruits in the past three years. With the departure of Mike Holman, that takes one away. The depth chart has been moderately augmented by the walk-on contribution of Andy Clavin at center, and the switch of Dustin Stimson from DT to guard and Drew Caylor from DE to various spots on the O-line. Still, the need for numbers and quality on the line in this class is nothing short of huge.
Previous commitments have rolled in this past 7 days from David Beall (recruiting profile) and Jon Cochran (recruiting profile), two highly rated and talented recruits. Now you can add Jeff Edwards (recruiting profile), Matt McClernan (recruiting profile) and Ismail Simpson (profile pending) to that list. Your arithmetic is not rusty: Stanford's new staff has added as many OL commitments in the past 8 days as the former regime had mustered in the previous 3 years. And Stanford doesn't even have an OL coach hired yet!
OL Jeff Edwards comes to Stanford from the state of Georgia, and has been a very highly rated recruit who has received little discussion on the BootBoard. His rating by The Insiders recruiting gurus has him as the #44 lineman in the country, right there with Beall (#38) and Josiah Vinson (#48). Vinson is perhaps the last great head-to-head battle between Stanford and Notre Dame, and thus has received more attention from Booties. But Edwards has reported offers from Ohio State, Clemson, North Carolina, Georgia Tech, Maryland, Vandy and Arkansas. That's a very solid list of teams from the East, which speaks to how the local and regional coaches thought of him. Jeff has the height (6'7") and prospective build (currently 250#, but room for a lot more) to be an excellent tackle. He spoke very well of Buddy Teevens when I talked to him Saturday night, and already knew the coaches from Georgia Tech (David Kelly, Peter McCarty). Even without an OL coach on board, he felt very comfortable with this verbal commitment. Very personnable and well-spoken young man. A great Stanford fit.
OL Matt McClernan didn't ever play against Jeff Edwards, but also hails from Georgia and knew of Jeff locally. Matt has been outspoken about his love for Stanford, as a program on the rise at a beautiful campus with elite academics to offer him. He said he had never been to the area before, and was happy to see all that he expected and more from the campus and people. Matt is a very thoughtful and serious guy, but has really enjoyed this weekend. He likes Buddy Teevens a lot, and noted that the departure of Tyrone Willingham really took him by surprise. Said that he talked to TW just three days before his Notre Dame hire, and was told very clearly that he wasn't going anywhere. Despite this disappointment, Matt is high on Buddy and Mike Sanford. Like Jeff, he could project to play offensive tackle for Stanford. Matt chose Stanford over North Carolina, Northwestern and Clemson. He doesn't currently have the ratings of Jeff Edwards, but has seen his stock really rise of late.
OL Ismail Simpson is the guy who best fits the "dark horse" label of the current five OL commits. Simpson comes from a very talented and successful Eisenhower program in Oklahoma, and was primarily looking at schools in the Red River area. Oklahoma State, Rice and Kansas were his primary considerations in addition to the Cardinal. The one notable offer that didn't come his way was Oklahoma, with the reported problem being that he doesn't have the size they want in an offensive tackle. His width sure isn't the problem, as he surprised me with how big around he was. This is a huge kid. He goes about 300 pounds at 6'5", and told me he is a tackle. A polite young man who sees a unique opportunity at Stanford. One he couldn't pass up, despite the distance from home. In fact, it is notable that all five of Stanford's commits on the line come from outside of California currently (Oklahoma, Washington, Iowa and Georgia*2).
CB Marcus McCutcheon has been, for lack of a better word, the most controversial of the recruits to visit this weekend. His bloodlines grab your attention alone, with brother Daylon having been a superstar at USC and now playing in the NFL. He is rated the #34 cornerback in the nation by The Insiders, and the #13 corner by Rivals! By recruiting ratings alone, Marcus looks to be the most heralded talent to come to Stanford at this position in a long time. The "offer theory" of evaluation passes with flying colors as well, as this California talent drew some impressive national offers: Michigan, Colorado, Oregon, Arizona State and Oregon State. So what's the deal, right? Well, the previous staff at Stanford did not evaluate Marcus well enough to rate an offer, which contributed to this academically-minded young man leaning away from summer and fall preference for the Card. Booties feared that a rare elite CB might slip away, but the story turned in the past couple weeks. The confluence of a very strong showing in the CaliFlorida all-star game and a new Stanford staff presented newfound interest from the Farm. Marcus responded and cancelled his visit for Colorado this weekend to come to Stanford, where he accepted his offer. Marcus felt that the academic opportunity presented by Stanford, combined with the rising success on the field, was a package he just could not pass up. He really talked up the incredible academics that set Stanford apart from his other choices. I asked him about any brewing family feud, given the serious rivalry and history between Stanford and USC, but he wouldn't bite. He said that there might be a little talk, but Daylon supported Stanford as a great choice.
LB Taualai Fonoti represents the first Hawaiian to come to the Farm since Tafiti Uso six years ago, a fact which I brought up with the young man. His grinning response: "I won't be the last." Taualai (pronounced like "towel lay") brings great family credentials, just like Marcus, as his older brother Tonui has starred as a center for Nebraska and is leaving early this spring for the NFL. Taualai has a big frame and is known as a brutally punishing hitter, though it is possible he might move up to the DL if he gets bigger close to his brother's weight and build. Fonoti has only emerged in the past month or two in recruiting circles, as he was an unknown behind some great talent at St. Louis HS in Honolulu until this year. He came on as an outstanding player in his senior year, known more for his hitting and smarts than speed. I pried for details about his play - why he was an excellent linebacker, but Taualai was far too humble to say anything in praise of himself. This kid is a big and powerful Samoan, yet as kind and polite as you could possibly imagine when talking to him. Almost Mark Madsen-esque. A really well-spoken kid, as well. The fit with Stanford is perfect, honestly. I just hope he has a mean streak on the field. Fonoti just visited UCLA last weekend, and was also highly coveted by the Fighting Rainbows. I've heard that Stanford is very high on this kid and excited about him.
TE Matt Traverso was the second commit in this entire class, coming back in November, but he was excited to take this official visit. He is picture above with his parents, who are both avid Booties! Matt spoke very openly to me about how Stanford was his strong favorite a long time ago, and that he never wavered in his commitment through the TW departure. As a player and recruit, Matt hasn't gotten much publicity on the BootBoard, largely because he was locked up so early. His strong Stanford lean so early may have dissuaded a few schools, but he still garnered offers from UCLA, Illinois, Arizona, Fresno State, Washington State and others. He is rated as a superb defensive end by The Insiders (#28), but is coming to Stanford currently as a tight end. Rivals ranks him the #5 TE in the country, and a four star prospect. That's a truly elite ranking, up there with Julian Jenkins and Trent Edwards. He is a dominating blocker with the ability to produce as a receiving tight end as well. Think Brett Pierce.
In other recruiting news, Trent Edwards is on campus today (Sunday) to meet with the staff and possibly some of the recruits. Expect an update very soon from Greg Biggins or Allan Wallace. Though I don't think a verbal commitment is coming today, I do think Stanford has now taken a substantial lead. We'll know soon when he talks to the gurus.
Also, WR Ben Obomanu, who is the greatest longshot of the remaining known Stanford recruits, was ill and did not take his official visit to Florida this weekend. The most immediate problem for Stanford's recruitment of Obomanu, other than the deep pool of young receiving talent on the Farm, is getting Ben to take an official visit. It looks like his five officials are spoken for, but it is conceivable that this event could leave the door open for one last push by Buddy Teevens. Though the opening is honestly just a crack...
Stanford currently has 13 verbal commitments in this class, and I believe that there are at most just 18 or 19 scholarships free to be offered. Four are from California, three from Georgia
TE Matt Traverso (CA)
ATH/WR David Lofton (TX)
OL David Beall (WA)
OL Jon Cochran (IA)
OL Jeff Edwards (GA)
OL Matt McClernan (GA)
OL Ismail Simpson (OK)
DE Julian Jenkins (GA)
LB Taualai Fonoti (HI)
LB Mike Silva (CA)
SS Gerald Commissiong (Canada)
FS/CB Trever Hooper (CA)
CB Marcus McCutcheon (CA)
The known recruits still out there are, few in number, but all important.
QB Trent Edwards(CA)
WR Ben Obomanu (FL)
OL Josiah Vinson (TX)
DE Travis Leitko (TX)
LB Wesley Walker (CA)
CB TJ Rushing (OK)
Ben Obomanu, as mentioned, is a heck of a longshot. Wesley Walker has a heavy preference for the social fit at UCLA, in part due to his visit to Stanford in December during Dead Week. He is reported to be a lock for UCLA for days, if not weeks, now, but no announcement has come yet. Buddy Teevens had an oustanding in-home visit this past Tuesday with the Walkers, so don't count this one out until you hear any announcement. All of these undecided recruits have taken their official visits to Stanford except Obomanu.
Finally, major league kudos go out to the bare-bones staff right now that is pulling off these recruiting miracles. Buddy Teevens is burning the very vapors of the midnight oil in his first couple weeks, including several in-home visits. The two hold-overs that have been the glue to keep recruiting continuity during an untimely and unceremonious departure by Tyrone Willingham and his staff: Dave Tipton and Matt Doyle. Tipton as the recruiting coordinator and only returning coach, and Doyle as the associate recruiting coordinator. Pretty incredible stuff, which has several recruiting gurus telling me in private that Stanford is really rolling right now at a level they did not imagine feasible.