This is a "must" year for Stanford Football to recruit well at the quarterback position, as evidenced by the scant depth chart available to Walt Harris. The Cardinal have corralled only one scholarship quarterback in the past two classes; two in the last three and just three in the last four.
For Harris, a man known first and foremost as a quarterbacks guru, and who is serving as his own quarterbacks coach, there is an obvious and pressing need in the 2006 Class. As such, we are following a strong set of high school junior signal callers in all corners of the country. But it would be pure folly to look around the nation without a hard look in-state. The vast majority of Stanford's quarterbacking legacy has been built by Golden State preps: Frank Albert, Jim Plunkett, Guy Benjamin, John Elway, Steve Stenstrom, Todd Husak... Every one of them came from within California's borders.
In fact, when you look at the string of Stanford quarterbacks who have started games for the Cardinal, every one of them in the last decade came from California. The last time Stanford started a quarterback who came from outside the state's borders was Scott Frost (Nebraska) in 1994.
For these reasons, we are paying close attention to Santa Barbara's Cameron Ely in this '06 class. He might be the top slinger in the state with Stanford's academic qualifications, carrying a 4.33 GPA at San Marcos High School.
Ely threw this past fall for 61.9% (133 of 215) and 13 touchdowns, against just four interceptions, while totaling 1,634 yards in nine games. The Santa Barbara junior earned First Team All-County honors and set school records including single-game passing completion percentage (83.3%), single-game completions (25) and single-game passing yardage (387). At 6'5" and 205 pounds, he has the size and a number of attractive tools.
"I have good arm strength and can throw deep," Ely describes. "I have good feet and can throw on the run. We have half-rollouts built into all of our plays."
"I learned a lot this year on how to read defenses, and that's something I need to do more in the off-season," he continues. "I also need to get stronger, particularly in my upper body."
It was a lower-body ailment, however, that made life difficult at the beginning of Ely's junior season. A knee injury kept him out of San Marcos' first two games in 2004, which were both losses for the Royals. Despite Ely's return, San Marcos continued to slide their next five games, taking a humbling winless record into their final three rivalry-filled games. Up next was Dos Pueblos High School, the Royals' cross-town rivals.
"We had always been close, losing by a late play or by one touchdown," Ely says of the team's tough luck heading into their home game against Dos Pueblos. "But they chanted 'Oh and seven' at us before the game. That got under our skin and we went out and killed them, 37-3."
The Royals roasted their next opponent, Buena High School, by a 35-0 score. Riding a surprising two-game winning streak after losing their first seven, Ely and San Marcos traveled to city rivals Santa Barbara High School. Ely threw for 387 yards on 20-of-24 passing in the city's "Big Game," with three touchdowns and no interceptions in a 51-27 statement game. Though they had started the year 0-7, San Marcos won both games against their rivals and thus was handed the city championship.
"Our coach always says if you work hard, you never know when the payoff will come," Ely comments on the Santa Barbara HS slaughter. "I felt like that's when it came for us."
That improbable finish sent the team (3-7) into the playoffs against Royal High School. San Marcos took an early 14-7 lead in the first quarter, and that score held into the final minute of the fourth quarter, when they were handing the ball off to run out the clock. Tragically, a San Marcos player fumbled the ball and set up a late Royal HS score and two-point conversion that ended their season with a sour 14-15 defeat.
The surge that San Marcos made at the end of the season tracked with Ely's individual progress, and that of the entire offense. The school had run a triple-option veer offense since the 1950s before changing in 2004 to a pro-style offense, and that had obvious growing pains. But the efficiency and mechanics of Ely were apparent even in the transition season, which have college coaches from all over paying attention.
"I had heard a lot from Ed Orgeron at USC before he left for Ole Miss, and Tom Freeman is recruiting me for Stanford," the Santa Barbara standout says. Cal, Notre Dame, Colorado, Arizona State and Duke are some of the other schools who have recruited Ely early.
On USC: "It has to do with where I live, in Southern California. My oldest sister goes there and I rooted for them all season. I was sad to see Norm Chow go, but if Pete Carroll stays at USC, they will still be good."
On Stanford: "I have wanted to go to Stanford since I was five. They are at the top of the class, academically. You can do anything you want after you graduate there. Stanford also got the Pittsburgh coach, Walt Harris. What he did there was awesome, and he is also their quarterbacks coach."
On Notre Dame: "With Notre Dame, it's exciting for them to have Charlie Weis. And their quarterbacks coach [David Cutcliffe] coached Eli Manning and Peyton Manning. You can't ask for anything better than Charlie Weis and Notre Dame."
Ely will be busy this spring and summer with camps and combines, and his name will be one to follow closely. His first big date will be the Nike Camp on USC's campus on April 17. In May he will hit the MLS Combine in Long Beach. Then in the summer he has plans to camp at UCLA, Stanford, Cal and USC. He is additionally considering camping at Nebraska, Notre Dame and Texas.
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