'07 Unwrapped: Mark Santoro

Stanford will look high and low for talent at the safety position in this 2007 recruiting class. The Cardinal's official spring depth chart shows four scholarship safeties, three of whom are seniors set to graduate. South Carolina standout Mark Santoro might merit consideration, though the odds on paper look long. A closer look, however, reveals a West Coast connection that could help...

Cardinal recruiting in the Palmetto State is a difficult thing.  Most in the state foster loyalty to either South Carolina or Clemson, and the rare talents who escape the clutches of the Gamecocks and Tigers are hot targets for a bevy of SEC and ACC programs.  Stanford sits 3,000 miles away, and seems even more distant to the kids, families and coaches who do not know much about the Pac-10 program.

But there is a unique wrinkle to the recruitment of Mark Santoro, the 6'0" 185-pound safety talent from Greer (S.C.) Riverside High School.  His family moved in January 2005 from Anaheim (Calif.) to Greenville (S.C.).  The change in scenery from Southern California to South Carolina has afforded new culture and climate for Santoro.

"It was tough for us to move, especially with Mark coming off a great football season [at Anaheim (Calif.) Esperanza High School].  He started as a sophomore at strong safety and linebacker and had 86 tackles," says father Vito Santoro.  "It was tough, but he knew it was a good opportunity for his dad."

"When we made the Greenville move, we took a look at schools," the elder Santoro continues.  "We chose Riverside not only for football, but also for their academics.  People know about the football; three seniors signed with D-I schools this year.  But Riverside is a really good school, too."

The younger Santoro has made a smooth transition on the field and in the classroom.  He holds a GPA north of 3.8 while taking honors and AP classes at Riverside.  In his first fall on the gridiron, Santoro started at strong safety and was one of the Warriors' leaders with 75 tackles, three interceptions, seven deflections, three forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries.  He is also a talented athlete on the diamond and helped the Riverside baseball program (23-2) to their current #1 ranking in the state for Class AAA.

"Notre Dame asked for his transcript for baseball," the proud father reports.  "But I know where Mark's head lies, and it's inside of a football helmet."

"Obviously, Riverside has been good on offense," Vito comments on the football program.  "But he brings a good mentality that has helped turn their defense around.  His biggest talent is that he has a nose for the ball and loves hitting people.  Not a lot of people catch balls in front of him.  And he has great make-up speed."

Santoro has sent his junior film to Scout.com, and we will bring you video of his playmaking skills at safety soon.  In the meantime, several schools are hot on his case.  Wake Forest, Duke, Clemson, Vanderbilt, Stanford and Furman have had the greatest communication thus far.  Vanderbilt turned up the heat recently in their recruitment, while Stanford made a call that piqued the recruit's attention.

"Stanford called the school to request Mark's transcript," Vito Santoro says.  "I think things may start to happen once they get that."

And how would the distance of The Farm be received for the family now entrenched in South Carolina?

"When we lived in Southern California, Mark as a kid always wore Stanford garb," the father answers.  "We have family just down the coast, too.  I don't think that [distance] would ever be an issue."

Though his baseball season has him occupied this time of year while his peers showcase their football skills at combines and spring practices, Mark Santoro is a name to watch in this 2007 recruiting class.  Stay tuned for the latest on this intriguing bicoastal athlete as his recruitment picks up steam in the coming weeks and months.

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