The Ball Is Rolling

For many Stanford Football fans, it has been a long wait for the business of the Walt Harris Era to get underway. The Fiesta Bowl is now in the rearview mirror, and Harris is on campus - three hires away from a full coaching staff. Today also marks the beginning of a critical recruiting visit weekend with all-star athletes examining The Farm.

Creating a Coaching Staff

Before we look at the recruits on campus for this recruiting weekend, there has been the ongoing question of just who will stand shoulder to shoulder with Walt Harris in presentation of Stanford to these recruits.  Before the man took the job, Harris had two holdovers from the Buddy Teevens regime.  Tom Quinn (outside linebackers and special teams) and A.J. Christoff (defensive backs) were retained by the guidance of Athletic Director Ted Leland and handed to Harris the moment he accepted the job.  Leland stated publicly when he announced Teevens' firing that he would find a head coach with an offensive background and ability, so it is not a great surprise that Leland preselected two defensive coaches to maintain the success that Stanford's defense enjoyed in 2004.  Quinn was also the special teams coordinator, and his retention promises continued success in that area of the game.

Over on offense, there is a complete overhaul.  Bill Cubit and George McDonald moved to Western Michigan, while Steve Morton, Ken Margerum and Jay Boulware have all packed up their offices and moved out.  Harris said when he was hired that he would be the quarterbacks coach for the Cardinal, which filled that coaching spot first on the offensive side of the ball.  It was surmised that more offensive coaching personnel could come with Harris from Pittsburgh after the Fiesta Bowl, and indeed, two assistants came this week and immediately hit the road for recruiting in-home visits.  Wayne Moses coached the running backs in 2004 for Pitt, and for two years before that was the running backs coach at Stanford under Teevens.  Tom Freeman coached the interior of the offensive line and was the running game coordinator for all eight years at Pitt with Harris, and he comes with Moses to fill two of the offensive spots on the new Stanford staff.

The other offensive hire concluded this week brings Ben McAdoo from the New Orleans Saints to coach the offensive tackles and tight ends at Stanford.  McAdoo was a graduate assistant at Pitt under Harris in 2003 before being hired to coach the defensive backs at Akron in January 2004.  Before he officially took that job, though, McAdoo was offered a job with the Saints and took on the responsibility of offensive quality control coach this past year.  He now reunites with Harris at Stanford.

That leaves three positions still to fill: wide receivers, inside linebackers and defensive line.  It is ironic that those three position groups were coached at Stanford in 2004 by the three Cardinal alumni on the staff: Margerum, Tom Williams and Dave Tipton.  Margerum and Williams are not coming back, and that leaves just Tipton as the last member of the 2004 staff who might still be retained for '05.  Tipton has coached the last 16 seasons at Stanford, spanning four coaching regimes.  He is an institution, and a popular one at that.  Many current and former players, as well as recruits, are anxiously waiting to see if Harris will bring Tipton on board.

If you have done the math, there is room for one more assistant under NCAA rules.  By Harris taking control of the quarterbacks, as well as his head coaching duties, there should be a new assistant position that can be created beyond the division of responsibilities we knew in 2004.  The new position will be a specialists coach, looking after the kickers, punters and snappers.  Quinn was (and presumably will be) the special teams coordinator, but no assistant coach had direct responsibility for these specialists during practices and games.  Nate Hackett is the new hire for that job, and we are hearing that he will also carry the recruiting coordinator role, as well.  Hackett was a quality control assistant - not an assistant coach - the past two years for Stanford and was announced last month as a the linebackers coach for Cubit at Western Michigan, but he has made a quick U-turn to return to The Farm this week.

As we best know, this is the layout of the 2005 Stanford coaching staff:

Walt Harris - head coach and quarterbacks
TBA - wide receivers and offensive coordinator
Wayne Moses - running backs
Tom Freeman - interior OL and run game coordinator
Ben McAdoo - offensive tackles and tight ends
TBA - defensive line
Tom Quinn - outside linebackers and special teams coordinator
TBA - inside linebackers
A.J. Christoff - defensive backs and defensive coordinator
Nate Hackett - specialists and recruiting


All-Star Recruiting Weekend

While most schools in college football host a great many recruiting weekends, it has been Stanford's philosophy in recent years to concentrate the recruits they bring onto campus into a few weekends.  Because of their admissions requirements, the Cardinal cannot bring in anywhere near the number of prospects as other schools, so it is strategically sound to host fewer weekends with good numbers of attendees.  Stanford brought Ekom Udofia by himself in September, as a special circumstance.  They hosted four recruits the first weekend of December, including three commits, but Stanford did not host any other December weekends.  Today marks the first of four weekends when official visits may visit college campuses before National Letter of Intent Day (aka "Signing Day") on February 2.  From what we have best gathered by talking with recruits, the concentration of the remaining prospects will come this weekend and the weekend of January 21.  Here is a brief rundown of the dandy dozen recruits we believe are on campus this weekend:

Commits

  • DE Matt Kopa - Amazing physical specimen who projects as a defensive end in Stanford's 3-4 scheme.  Some fans have hoped to put Kopa on the other side of the ball at offensive tackle, but Kopa has an overwhelming desire to play defense and has received assurances from the Stanford coaches that he will start his Cardinal career on defense.  He has the speed and the power to be a tremendous pass rusher.  Just played in the famed CaliFlorida Bowl in Miami this week.  California, Nebraska, Oregon State and Colorado are a few of the schools who have been hot on his case since Teevens was fired.
  • QB Tavita Pritchard - Stanford needed a quarterback badly in this class after failing to land one on scholarship last February, and with just one signal caller in each of the two previous classes.  Pritchard impressed at Stanford's overnight camp last June with his footwork and mechanics, and his commitment this fall was a celebrated event for this Cardinal class.  However, the 6'3" slinger was understandably spooked when Teevens was fired and a new offensively-minded head coach was hired in Harris.  Pritchard took an official visit to Hawaii in December and listened to other suitors.  He should be solid with Stanford but is looking to this
  • OLB Clinton Snyder - The one new commitment Stanford has garnered since Walt Harris took the job, Snyder fills a huge need at outside linebacker.  The Cardinal may be stocked this next fall at the linebacker positions, but if they continue forward in the 3-4 defense, they need to bring in a wealth of talent at all four linebacker spots after sparse LB recruiting the past few years.  He's a "tweener" OLB/DE for most schools, but his size and speed fit perfectly as an OLB in Stanford's 3-4.

Uncommitted

  • ILB Josh Catron - We know only a little about this standout running back from Torrance (Calif.).  He put up big numbers on offense, running and receiving for 2200+ yards and 20 touchdowns this fall.  He could possibly fit the ball as a fullback for the Cardinal, but the odds weigh more heavily that he would play linebacker.  He could probably play either the "Will" inside linebacker position or the "Rush" outside linebacker position.  Good athlete with very good academic numbers.
  • TE James Dray - You know all about Dray, who has rave attention from top schools in all corners of the country.  He has for a long time cited academics as his #1 criteria for a college decision, but offers from the likes of Florida State and Tennessee have changed the game somewhat for this 6'5" athlete with pro potential.  He took one official visit already to Boston College in December, and Stanford this weekend marks the first of two trips he has scheduled in January (Dray will see Notre Dame on 1/28).  Tennessee, Iowa and Florida State are in contention for his remaining two allowed official visits.
  • WR Kris Evans - Evans has been high on the Cardinal for nearly a full calendar year, and we have waited that entire time to see him shore up his admissions profile.  We do not know the result of his December ACT retake, which is the key to his admissions chances.  Stanford should land the Michigan receiver/cornerback if he can get admitted, but it's hard to probe much else with his recruitment until that is resolved.
  • CB Chris Hobbs, Jr. - Great athlete with speed and bloodlines.  The only thing missing is size, but we believe Hobbs could be the "next T.J. Rushing" - which would draw tears of joy from the breadth of the Cardinal Nation.  The Georgia cornerback was admitted recently, and it is not only possible but also likely that this official visit could seal the deal on a commitment.  It goes without saying how much difficulty Stanford has historically had finding talented and speedy corners.
  • DE Erik Lorig - Ever since he took an unofficial visit in September and watched Stanford come within minutes of finishing an upset win over #1-ranked (and eventual national champion) USC, this SoCal stud has kept the Cardinal as one of his top three or four schools.  The problem is that reports continually tell us that that Cal and USC have at least a small advantage over the rest of the field.  Lorig is a beast and would make a dreamy bookend opposite Kopa on the defensive line.
  • NT James McGillicuddy - The 6'3" 300-pounder made something akin to a commitment to Harvard last month, but he has left it clear that if the new Stanford staff wanted him and if he had a good official visit, he could very easily commit to the Cardinal.  Though some cross-country recruits need the official visit weekend to get a good picture of the campus and people at Stanford, McGillicuddy did take an unofficial trip to The Farm last summer with his parents, brother and sister.
  • DB Bo McNally - The Salt Lake City standout made waves as an option quarterback this fall, but his future at Stanford would be as a defensive back.  We would not know until he shows up for camp and practices next fall if he would play safety or cornerback - too hard to say right now.  Two-time All-State in Utah.  He camped at Stanford this past June and performed well as a defensive back.  Father is a Stanford alum.
  • OT Matt Pipho - Remember when Pipho was viewed as an underweight offensive lineman who suspiciously held offers from just Iowa State and Stanford?  The field is curiously crowded these days with Nebraska, Oklahoma, Oregon and Miami now jockeying with the Cardinal.  The good news is that the additional offers and interest confirm how talented this athletic offensive tackle is; the bad news is that each new suitor reduces the probability Stanford has in winning the war for his February 2 signature.  Pipho unofficially visited in the summer but has been relatively quiet all fall and remained determined that his official visits would give him his decision.
  • OLB Will Powers - Right in Stanford's backyard, Powers has fielded interest up and down the Pac-10 and beyond, but it looks like the final battle will stay inside the Bay Area.  Stanford and Cal are duking it out, with the Bears holding at least a small edge.  This weekend's visit to The Farm will be his last before he makes a decision.  He has seen the campus plenty of times, so his focus will be mostly on the players and coaches.  Powers has tremendous speed and would be a cornerstone of the Stanford pass rush for years to come.

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