Cardinal Rule: Win in the West

It is one thing to lose an Ohio recruit to the Buckeyes or a Sunshine State standout to the Gators. But it is a Cardinal sin to lose the blue chips close to home when it comes to Stanford Football recruiting. Walt Harris and his staff showed in the Class of 2006 that they are ready to lock up the best student-athletes in California and the West region.

Signing Day 2006 is over, and already the mad dash to 2007 has begun for both college coaches and those of us who cover recruiting.  But before we turn the page on the Cardinal class that just closed.  Stanford's strength this year came out West, which is notable.  Walt Harris needed to reload his offensive stables, at a number of positions.  He went to Illinois to find his quarterback, which is unusual for "Quarterback U" - no signal caller from outside California has started a game for the Cardinal since Scott Frost (Nebraska) in 1994.  But Harris hauled in two running backs from the Golden State this year, along with two wide receivers.  Another Western wideout was signed out of Washington state.  Additionally, Stanford's top two overall nationally rated recruits signed this year (both defensive linemen) came from California.

Eight of Stanford's 19 signees this year hail from the Golden State.  Add one from Washington and one from Arizona, and you find more than half of the Cardinal's class in Pac-10 territory.

WR Stephen Carr - Chula Vista (Calif.)
OT Joe Dembesky - Westlake Village (Calif.)
DT Sione Fua - Encino (Calif.)
RB Toby Gerhart - Norco (Calif.)
DE Levirt Griffin - Modesto (Calif.)
RB Tyrone McGraw - San Francisco (Calif.)
CB Tyler Porras - Scottsdale (Ariz.)
WR Marcus Rance - Yakima (Wash.)
WR/CB Richard Sherman - Compton (Calif.)
LB Sam Weinberger - Sherman Oaks (Calif.)

Some of these players are recognized talents, while others project more favorably by Stanford than some recruiting services or college coaches assessed.  With Signing Day in the books, we can now examine the final rankings where slots the best out West. Class of 2006 West Hot 100 Class of 2006 California Top 100

Stanford signed four players among Scout's top 50 in the West region: Gerhart (#23), Griffin (#31), Fua (#40) and Sherman (#50).  Stanford's top dog on both lists is Toby Gerhart, who completely shattered the Golden State career rushing record and was honored as a Parade All-American as well as California's Mr. Football.

"I think it's a great class that Stanford signed this year, even if guys weren't from California," says Sherman.  "But we signed a lot of guys down here, and that will pay dividends.  I definitely feel that Southern California has football dominance.  It's been proven over the years that the best players come out of here."

"I was very excited when Toby committed.  It's much better for the program to get those kinds of players," the Compton native continues.  "I think he's going to bring a big running threat to the offense.  He can take it up the middle or outside, and he can also break tackles."

A look at the West Hot 100 also reveals that several of Stanford's Pac-10 rivals also got rich with the top talent in the region this year.  While Stanford signed four players from the top 50, Cal brought home six.  UCLA amassed eight.  USC signed a mind-numbing 14, including three of the top five and seven of the top 15.

Stanford recruits nationally, more so than anybody else in the Pac-10.  You can call it an apples to oranges comparison to look at how Stanford stacks up against its conference rivals in recruiting the region, when the Cardinal comb the entire country (and Canada in this class).  That is the nature of Stanford's admissions requirements.

Stanford landed every player they offered in California this year who was admitted, batting 8-for-8.  (Two other in-state offerees were denied by the Admissions Office.)  The Cardinal went 1-for-1 in Arizona.  There was nobody to be found in Oregon, Nevada, Utah, Idaho or Hawaii in the 2006 class.  The only area where Stanford could have improved its West Coast haul was in Washington state.  They landed wide receiver Marcus Rance, who the Cardinal believe can be a high-impact player in Walt Harris' offense.  But Stanford missed on three players in the Evergreen State rated in the top 25 of the West region by OL Steve Schilling (#1), S Taylor Mays (#15) and DL Cameron Elisara (#22).

But this year was a statistical outlier for Washington state talent, both overall and that which Stanford had a chance to recruit.  The time-tested treasure is found in California.  Most of the Cardinal's current stars, and brightest prospects, came from inside the state.  Trent Edwards, Evan Moore, Mark Bradford, Matt Traverso, Michael Okwo and Mike Silva represent much of the team's best returning talent for the 2006 season.  Erik Lorig, Clinton Snyder, Will Powers and Matt Kopa are some of the Cardinal's brightest future stars, along with several signed last week.

In his first year on The Farm, Walt Harris did an excellent job of closing on the best California prospects the Cardinal could recruit.  We believe he may have identified a few more who are regarded today as sleepers but could surprise.  Convincing blue chip recruits from other corners of the country to shun the powerhouse programs in their backyards can be done on occasion, but it is a difficult proposition.  Closing on the kids in Stanford's backyard is essential to the program's future success, and Harris is off on the right foot with that charge.

Next up: the Class of 2007...

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