A year ago, one of the top recruiting priorities in the spring for Stanford was Mission Viejo (Calif.) High School quarterback Mark Sanchez. The uberelite signal caller was an exemplary student-athlete, so it surprised us little when he scheduled a June unofficial visit to come take a look at The Farm. Sanchez never made the trip from Orange County, however, and instead pledged his oral commitment to rival USC in July.
The Cardinal are calling upon the Diablos once again, this time with their sights set on Mission Viejo's five-star tight end, Konrad Reuland. Ranked by Scout.com #2 in the nation at his position and #33 overall, as well as #5 overall in California, the 6'6" 242-pound athlete has a list of suitors that reads like a "Who's Who" of college football. While he told The Bootleg in the winter that Stanford was a school of serious interest, the Sanchez story teaches us that recruiting can change in the blink of an eye. Moreover, actions speak louder than words.
When Reuland showed up on The Farm during an April afternoon for a spring practice, we acknowledged that the tight end may have some sincere interest in the Cardinal. But it was a return trip during the summer that made us true believers.
"I was pleasantly surprised," Reuland reports of his first trip. "But I got the feeling that I didn't see all that Stanford had to offer. I told my dad that I wanted to go up again. It wasn't originally planned, but we were in and out so quickly the first time that I just didn't think I got a good look. I wanted to get to know the coaches better and to see all it had to offer."
The first trip was a truly whirlwind affair for Reuland. He flew up in the afternoon, attended a spring practice and immediately burned rubber to catch a return flight home. His second unofficial visit to The Farm gave him the more personal look he desired.
"I got to know the coaches a lot better, and I got to talk with a couple players," Reuland recalls of his second sojourn. "I hung out the most with Patrick Danahy. I asked him what was different from past years. He said the mentality was totally different. They feel like Coach [Walt] Harris already has them better prepared."
With what Reuland saw on the field during his April visit, and what he heard from the players and coaches during his during his second stop in the summer, the tight end recruit is plenty intrigued. But everybody is undefeated in the preseason. Reuland will be watching Cardinal Football with a keen eye this fall to find follow-through on the improvements in place.
"I definitely don't want to come to a place where you cannot compete for a championship," the Mission Viejo senior charges. "This season is going to be really important for me to watch. Stanford was so close last year. They were not as bad as their record indicated. A few more scores and they would have been 7-4 or 8-3."
The fact that Reuland, who holds a 3.87 GPA and has submitted his Stanford admissions application, says he wants to watch the Cardinal closely this fall is an indicator by itself. Many schools should soon learn the bad news that they are trimmed from the talented tight end's list, but Stanford ought to survive.
"I don't want to have 40 or 50 schools calling me," Reuland explains. "I want to sit down and look at all the positives of each school and figure out which ones, deep down, I know I don't want to be at."
"I really like Stanford," he comments on the Cardinal's chances. "I like the coaches. I love the campus. It's awesome. You can't get better than that. And they look like they are going to turn things around the next few years."
"Stanford is definitely setting themselves apart from part of the pack," Reuland reveals. "They're up there on my list - in my top five or 10."
Another Pac-10 school is high on the Mission Viejo man's mind, though this one comes as no surprise. For more than half a year, observers have been predicting that Konrad Reuland will sign in February 2006 with USC, where he would be reunited with his former quarterback in Sanchez and stay close to home. The Trojans might have a National Championship three-peat by the time Signing Day rolls around, as well.
"I definitely like USC. I'm not going to deny that," Reuland admits. "Honestly, though, it's not a done deal. I've heard the rumors, but it's definitely not true. There are a lot of positives at USC, but I'm trying to see a lot of schools."
"I don't have a single leader right now," he continues. "There are three to five schools I know that I'll keep - they are one, and Stanford is, too."
As part of Reuland's recruiting journey, there are schools outside the West Coast for him to explore as well. It has been well documented that he took a trip in July to see four schools back east, and he shares with us one of the quartet who should be safe when he reveals his trimmed list.
"I really liked Notre Dame. I'm going to keep them," Reuland allows.
There will undoubtedly be a western flavor to several of the schools that make Reuland's cut. He says the number will probably be more than five, but less than 10. Though two schools in the Golden State are slated to survive the cut, he cautions against assumptions that he will attend a school in state.
"Location just isn't a big deal," he professes. "Staying on the West Coast would be great - no doubt. Orange County in Southern California has the best climate in the country. But I'm not choosing a school based on weather. I'm looking for the best academics and athletics I can get."
Konrad Reuland knows what he wants in his college choice, but that does not make it an easy task of getting there. Besieged by mail and messages from schools, greeted by the full force of each coaching staff at any school he visits, this recruit is inundated with information. As we all well know, much (if not most) of the verbiage is noise. Reuland has come to understand as much.
"At first, I had a problem looking at schools in the early going," he admits. "Now I ask a lot of questions. I'm not shy about it. I can tell when people are being honest. I'm pretty savvy. It's getting easier to distinguish."
After a summer filled with plenty of recruiting ruminations, however, Reuland is ready to narrow his list and put things on hold for a while. He says that he will have a second smaller cut at the end of his senior season. Then he will take his official visits in the winter. Ideally he would take all five allowed official trips, but he acknowledges that the U.S. Army All-American Game plus his basketball schedule could shrink that number. But these are decisions to be made in two or three months. Right now he has the task of helping the Diablos defend their CIF Southern Section Division II championship.
"I'm focused on my high school team," Reuland maintains. "They have my priority. Official visits and all that can wait until after the season. I don't want to miss anything. We have a title to win."
The first step for Mission Viejo comes today, though not in Orange County. The SoCal powerhouse is opening their season on the road in a special Labor Day matchup at Qwest Field in Seattle (Wash.) against Issaquah High School as part of the Emerald City Kickoff Classic.
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