The signs we watch often for recruits considering the Cardinal are how much they value a college education and the type of teammates and students with which they want to surround themselves. When you see quotes focused on those "softer" areas of a recruiting decision matrix, Stanford more often than not wins battles for the prospects who are admitted and have visited. But Ekom Udofia has talked all along about a football program that will allow him to win at a high level and develop him as a player. The elite Arizona defensive lineman has the NFL and National Championship rings on his mind, so when Stanford assistant coaches Dave Tipton and Tom Quinn came into his home Saturday for a visit, the presentation was heavy on the football side of things.
"The meetings went well," Udofia describes of his day with the pair of Cardinal defensive coaches. "They showed me film and I got to see schemes of the defense. I saw where I would be playing and how I would be utilized."
"Stanford runs a 3-4 defense," the 6'1" 335-pound defensive tackle continues. "There were saying they want to use my strength and size. I have the strength to stop the run inside but also the speed to rush the passer."
The Stanford coaches presented to the Scottsdale (Ariz.) standout that they would start him at least initially as a four-technique in their three-man front, which lines him up over the offensive tackle.
"I like that spot and how they use it," Udofia comments. "At the nose, I may not be able to use my pass rushing skills. But I feel like I can play any position on the defensive line."
One of the big focuses for the Chaparral High School senior throughout this recruiting process has been not just the position he would play, but also the position coach who would mold and improve him. Tipton was recently rehired by Walt Harris and Stanford to the new coaching staff, which makes this the fifth different regime where the former Thunderchicken and 1971 Rose Bowl standout has coached at his alma mater. Udofia has been familiar with Stanford Football and with Tipton for years, dating back to when his older sister started her college experience as a freshman on The Farm five years ago. But the All-American recruit was looking to see something from his prospective position coach in this in-home presentation.
"We have talked a lot before about a lot of things, but we really got down to football this time," Udofia explains. "I got a real good feel for him. I like what he does and see better now."
Tipton and Quinn also showcased their defensive acumen on Saturday when the defensive tackle recruit pulled out his recently compiled highlight film from his injury-shortened senior season.
"We were just watching my highlight film, and they were commenting right there on what they saw for the first time," the recruit relates. "They said I'm remarkably quick and have good speed for my size. They saw how I would sometimes pop up after a few plays, though. I had an abdominal strain in the summer that kept me from doing conditioning until just two weeks before two-a-days. I was never in good condition during the season, so sometimes I had to rely on my strength because I didn't have the endurance. The biggest thing for me is to get in good enough shape. I know at Stanford they like to use a rotation to keep fresh legs, but my goal is to be in condition where I could play every snap in college."
Cardinal fans have been justifiably pessimistic about their chances at landing Udofia ever since he made a sudden change and delay in his announcement plans more than two weeks ago at the U.S. Army All-American Game in San Antonio. Most logic has said that the timing and conditions were such that Udofia may have felt a great pull to USC or Miami in that environment, and Stanford's chances took a dive. Some have speculated that the recruit went home to Arizona to work on his family toward a non-Stanford decision. Udofia has been open all along that his parents and siblings favor the Cardinal.
Saturday's in-home visit appears to have been a positive for Stanford. But was it enough to pull the Cardinal back even or into the lead ahead of the bicoastal football powerhouses? Udofia isn't saying, and asks us all to tune in tomorrow when he announces his college decision on ESPNews at 2:50 PM Arizona (Mountain) time. That is 1:50 PM Pacific time in Palo Alto. Stanford, USC and Miami are the three final schools he is considering.
"It was a fun process," Udofia says of the extended recruitment he has enjoyed. "I appreciate all the schools who have shown all the interest in me. It's going to be a tough decision, but hopefully I will make the right one."
Udofia says he hopes to have his final college decision made by tonight. He is not naming any favorite right now, nor does he want to give out any percentages or odds. He will only share the criteria upon which he is concentrating in his final hours of introspection.
"The final factors will be how well I get along with the defensive line coach and how they will use me," he allows. "Also the ability for me to go in and be a huge impact player. The potential to play for championships and make a team great. I also have to get a good education at the same time."
Ekom Udofia is ranked by Scout.com as the #65 player in the nation and the #1 prospect in Arizona this year and has been named already to five All-American teams by Parade, School Sports, Student Sports, EA Sports and the U.S. Army. The standout student-athlete is also one of the five finalists for the prestigious Watkins Award, which is given out each year to the "Premier African-American Male Scholar Athlete." Stanford has dominated the award in the past, with an overwhelming number of finalists, as well as two winners (Chris Lewis and Marcus McCutcheon). This year's Watkins Award winner will be announced on February 19 in Charlotte, North Carolina.
Tuesday is the big day for Udofia's announcement. Tune in to ESPNews at 4:50 PM Eastern/1:50 PM Pacific to see the elite defensive tackle's college commitment announced live. And then turn your browser to The Bootleg for news and reactions to this highly anticipated decision.
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