Stone Mountain (Ga.) Stephenson High School running back Andre Anderson had two goals this fall for his senior season. He wanted to help bring home a AAAAA state championship, hoisting hardware on the state's biggest stage in the Georgia Dome. Anderson also wanted to break the Stephenson single-season rushing record, set by former Parade All-American Kregg Lumpkin as a junior in 2000 with 2,080 yards.
The 5'11.5" 197-pound runner came up short on both counts in late November, when the Jaguars were jumped by 2004 and now 2005 AAAAA state champions Lowndes, 14-0, in the semifinals of the state championship. Anderson finished the year with 1,800 yards and 16 touchdowns. Those are gaudy numbers examined by themselves, but they are more impressive upon considering that Anderson shared carries with Marcus Ball, the younger brother of Georgia Tech quarterback Reggie Ball and a four-star athlete ranked by Scout.com as the #8 linebacker in the nation.
Anderson ran for 1,042 yards as a junior at Stephenson but broke out this year with improvements in all facets of his game, totaling a handful of 200-plus yard performances that grabbed the headlines.
"One difference is that I've been healthy this year," the Stone Mountain standout says. "My strength and durability improved, and my feet are better. This year I've learned how to make the big play."
If you are looking for jaw-dropping cutbacks, and whirling dervish moves in the open field, Anderson will not set your hair on fire. But if you want a running back who powers through would-be tacklers to turn modest gains into chunk yardage, this is your guy.
"Andre is not flashy, just steady," assesses Scott Kennedy, the South recruiting expert for Scout.com. "He's a work horse back that breaks a lot of tackles to achieve his big runs. He is dependable, tough, and protects the football."
Anderson some quickness to him, mind you. He ran a 4.43 in the 40 as a smaller sophomore, and last summer he was clocked by the Georgia coaches at their camp with a 4.56. Two schools felt secure in the combination of power, speed and size Anderson offers, extending scholarship bids to the running back months ago: Stanford and Georgia Tech. The Cardinal and Yellow Jackets have maintained the intensity of their recruitment, above all other suitors, according to Anderson. He reports seeing those bicoastal coaches the most in Stone Mountain the last few weeks. Central Florida, Wake Forest and Tulane also dropped by last week. The one school who used to rank among his favorites but who has yet to make an in-home or in-school visit in December is Boston College.
"They have said all along that they are taking only one back this year, and they want to be careful about it," Anderson comments on the Eagles. "If they decide to offer me, then I'll go take a look for a visit. But I'm not going to sweat it."
The two visits Anderson has had on his schedule for some time will take him to nearby Atlanta and across the country to The Farm. A third visit has now been added, which will kick off Anderson's January itinerary - to see UCF in Orlando on January 6.
The Cardinal coaches have been working to pique Anderson's interest in advance of his January 13 trip out West, with tales and photos of the Stanford campus.
"They have told me a lot about the school and showed me pictures," the recruit reports. "And they talk about what the education and teachers offer you academically. It's made me really want to take that visit in January. I've heard all about it, and I want to see what life is like out there for myself."
"I asked the coaches about the offense," Anderson says of a recent visit from the Stanford staff. "They said they want to run the ball. They want to bring in a new back and five new linemen. They want to have the group grow together and rebuild Stanford into a power in the Pac-10."
The Jackets have had their own pitch to deliver to the running back recruit.
"It's the same message they've had since they started recruiting me," Anderson articulates. "They're trying to get a back for next year and want me to be the guy. I would play early. Tech is situated close to home, and my family would be able to come and watch me play. I know the offense and some of the players there. Reggie Ball went to my high school. Also it's the academics and what that could do for me off the field."
Another item on the Stone Mountain man's mind is the oldest of issues for recruits.
"I'm looking at playing time," Anderson notes. "That's a big thing for me. I don't want to have to sit for three or four years behind some big running back."
Both schools are pitching a golden opportunity to the Stephenson standout, but they are also pitching it to other prospects. Stanford has an offer on the table to new California career rushing record-holder Toby Gerhart. Georgia Tech just this week had two of their offer tailbacks commit to the Yellow Jackets in Jamaal Evans and Quincy Kelly. The competitive landscape is certainly on Anderson's mind.
"Georgia Tech has said that they're taking two running backs this year, so I'm not too sure how that situation is working out right now," Anderson allows. "I want to take my time, but with people committing to Tech, it's hard to say. I'm not admitted to Stanford yet, so that might put me in a bind. I might be left out in the cold with no offers."
Andre Anderson is not standing by while events happen around him, however. He has been hard at work on his Stanford admissions application, with all of his portions complete. His last task this week is to gather his remaining teacher recommendations. Meanwhile, the Stephenson senior clamped down in the classroom and retook the SAT. A 3.6 and 1080 might satisfy some, but Anderson has strived for higher marks.
"I have all A's right now, and all my scores came up. I now have a 580 math and a 540 verbal," he shares.
While he awaits his official visit and his admissions fate, the Peach State product might be watching what his Southern California counterpart does in the coming weeks with his Stanford offer, but Anderson is secure in his standing with the Cardinal coaches.
"They have told me if I get admitted, I am guaranteed a spot no matter what," Anderson says.
Are you fully subscribed to The Bootleg? If not, then you are missing out on all the top Cardinal coverage we provide daily on our website, as well as our full-length feature articles in our glossy magazine. Sign up today for the biggest and best in Stanford sports coverage with TheBootleg.com (sign-up) and The Bootleg Magazine (sign-up)!