'07 Unwrapped: Joseph Barksdale

The Midwest has been a hotbed of Cardinal recruiting activity this year, and recent news has uncovered perhaps the most elite prospect yet in the region. Detroit (Mich.) defensive tackle Joseph Barksdale is the toast of the recruiting world with his recent combine performance and rash of offers. Stanford is in the mix, throwing their hat into the ring with this engaging student-athlete.

Joseph Barksdale is shaping up to be perhaps the best defensive tackle in the Class of 2007.  He is a monolithic force on the defensive line at a legit 6'6" and 320 pounds (he played at 330 in the fall but is trimmer and better conditioned today), yet he has been clocked running a 4.89 in the 40 and a 4.6 in the shuttle.  Barksdale is the owner of a 30" vertical leap, and he is strong as an ox with a max bench press today of 445 pounds.

"I played offensive tackle and defensive tackle," Barksdale shares.  "I think I'm a better prospect on defense, and defensive tackle is the position I prefer.  I like to be aggressive.  I'm the tallest guy on my high school defensive line and maybe should play defensive end, but my coach plays me at tackle because that's where I'll play in college and he wants to prepare me.  I'm tall and I have long arms, so I get a lot of extension.  I like to think that I have good technique, too."

His junior season at Detroit (Mich.) Cass Tech, he collected 84 tackles including 20 behind the line of scrimmage.  Barksdale recorded eight sacks, forced 10 fumbles and recovered another five fumbles.

"And I had two pass deflections," he adds.  "But they both should have been interceptions.  I need to work on my hands."

There you have it.  The pass rushing tower of terror could stand to catch a few more balls in the off-season.  But there are not many other areas of obvious need for Barksdale to improve.  That was evident this past weekend at the Ohio State Nike Camp, when the Michigan man held out of testing yet still looked so dominant in drills and one-on-one competitions that he collected new offers from the two teams in last year's National Championship game.

Texas and USC were joined by Penn State, Illinois, Purdue and Toledo as new offers that came within 72 hours of his performance in Columbus.  It has been reported that Stanford was a seventh school who offered Barksdale after the Nike Camp, but he straightens us out on the facts.

"Stanford actually offered about two weeks ago," he shares.  "I was very excited about that scholarship.  Stanford is a chance to go to an Ivy League school with one of the best educations in the world."

Other offers to land in Barksdale's lap include Miami, Michigan, Michigan State, Ohio State, Wisconsin, Notre Dame and Tennessee.  This Detroit dandy has every option he could want regionally in the Big Ten, plus schools outside the Midwest who won the last few national championships (i.e. Longhorns, Trojans and Canes).  Where exactly does Stanford fit into the equation?

First off, Barksdale will tell you how honestly open he remains at this time.  He recently tried to formulate a favorites list by writing down all 117 Division I-A schools on paper, and then ordering them by a combination of athletic and academic prominence.  Crumpled sheets of papers in his wastebasket were the best he could succeed at that task.

"I tried to formulate a list but I couldn't," Barksdale relates.  "My coach told me that I need to stop looking at the big things.  I need to look at the little things that make a school special."

Moreover, the Michigan man is not your typical elite jock.  Though he is a freak athlete found in a city not known for its schools, Barksdale is a different kind of kid.

"I go to Cass Technical High School in Detroit, which is a magnet school for gifted academic kids," he explains.  "The school is on the east side of Detroit, but I live on the west side."

"Stanford has been recruiting me for about three months," Barksdale continues.  "I receive a lot of mail.  One of the pieces of mail from Tucker Waugh, who I believe is the wide receivers coach and assistant head coach, had his card in it.  They couldn't call me yet, so I gave him a call.  I'm very interested in academics."

The Cass Tech student-athlete takes a rigorous course load and carries a 3.45 GPA at the school.  He received a 22 on the ACT, short of where he had scored on the practice test, however.

"I plan to take it again because it's not good enough.  It's a personal thing," he says of his test score.

And that is part of what separates Joseph Barksdale from his peers.  He is an articulate and thoughtful kid, with a curious mind and a wide intellectual palette.  The way he describes the college recruiting process, and that of making a college decision, sheds light on his personality and critical thinking.  On paper, he's a big and athletic force in a world where cultivating your future NFL earnings are paramount.  But he's cut from a different cloth, which helps explain why a kid with the world on a platter took the initiative to call the Cardinal.

"Coach Waugh said, 'We've seen all we need to know.  You have a scholarship offer from Stanford,'" Barksdale reports.

"I'm open to everybody right now, but it's Stanford," the recruit relates.  "Stanford is one of those schools you hear about everywhere.  It has a really big reputation in my area.  You go to Stanford, and you can rule the world."

When a kid has personal conversations back-to-back with Pete Carroll and Mack Brown to receive scholarship offers, he certainly has a sense that he can rule the world.  Destined for prep All-American honors in the coming year, Barksdale says he wants to be an All-American in college and then an All-Pro in the NFL.  The world is his oyster right now, and the truth is that the Cardinal are in a crowded competition that will only grow more heated.  With so many options available to him, this recruit is carefully approaching his recruitment.

"I don't want to make an impulsive decision," Barksdale says.  "I can't really call anybody a favorite right now.  I don't know enough yet about these schools, and I might regret putting a school to the side."

"Right now I just take offers when they come, and I do research on the Internet," he explains.  "I'd like to narrow the list at the beginning of the summer.  By the end of the summer, I would like to get down to a top 10 or top five.  At the end of my season, I would like to take all five of my official visits."

With a patient time horizon and a fast-growing group of suitors, Joseph Barksdale is shaping up to be one of the hottest recruiting stories to follow this year.  Stay tuned to Scout.com for stories and Hot News updates as his saga continues to unfold.

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