Some positions such as quarterback, you recruit steadily and try to take at least one each year. Numbers games dictate that other positions may be recruited in spurts, and that has been the case of late for Stanford at tight end. The Cardinal will be led this fall by a pair of veterans in their final year of eligibility in fifth-year senior Matt Traverso and senior Patrick Danahy. Redshirt junior Michael Horgan is the next most experienced tight end on the roster. The next two scholarship tight ends came in the 2005 signing class: James Dray and Erik Lorig.
The Cardinal did not take a tight end this February, so it was celebrated news that 6'6" 255-pound Andrew Devlin from Pittsburgh (Penn.) Mt. Lebanon High School flew with his family of five to The Farm in May to attend Stanford's Junior Day. Devlin is rated as a four-star recruit by Scout.com and is currently ranked #34 overall in the East and #15 as a tight end in the nation.
"The first thing you think about Stanford is their academics," Devlin describes. "Then I go out there and the football is really important to them. They mix academics and football as well as anybody I've seen. That's encouraging. Coach [Walt] Harris has come in and turned the program around. They have a whole new attitude about winning."
The Pittsburgh two-sport standout not only went through the motions of Stanford's Junior Day on Sunday May 14, but he also spent the following Monday with some Cardinal players as they experienced a typical day of a football student-athlete on The Farm. Most of that school day saw him with two members of Stanford's "Northeast Mafia": James Dray and James McGillicuddy.
"I liked those guys a lot. They remind me about my friends at home," the Pennsylvania recruit offers. "They talked about how much they enjoy playing under Coach Harris, and how much the program has turned around. Last year was a big step, and it could have been even bigger. They should have beaten UCLA, and they could have beaten Notre Dame."
The Cardinal are not the only program in pursuit of, or to have hosted, the talented tight end. He lays claim to 25 offers today, ranging from Georgia Tech to Stanford. From Maryland to Michigan State. From West Virginia to Northwestern. Rather than name all his offers, he gives a list of 12 schools which he holds as his favorites today: Stanford, Virginia, Virginia Tech, Boston College, Pittsburgh, Iowa, Wisconsin, Purdue, Michigan State, Notre Dame, Ohio State and Michigan. The first nine have offered, while the Irish, Buckeyes and Wolverines have yet to take the plunge.
Devlin has taken unofficial visits to several schools. Notable trips include two separate jaunts to Virginia this spring, a stay in South Bend last fall for the Syracuse game, and a basketball tournament a year ago in Columbus. His busiest travel yet is only days away. Devlin will fly with his family to Chicago, where they have relatives and will set up camp. From the Windy City they will radiate and visit five Big 10 schools in six days: Michigan, Michigan State, Wisconsin, Iowa and Purdue. The tight end tentatively also has plans to see Boston College at the end of June or early July.
"We're going to see more schools and then hopefully decide after that," Devlin declares. "I would like to decide before my senior season. We're going to be pretty good. We have a chance to win a championship."
In good-natured fashion, a number of Devlin's friends and teammates kid him routinely about his recruiting attention, offers and options. One went so far as to print t-shirts on his saga. Fun for now, that hoopla is not something the "Mount Lebo" standout wants to carry into August.
"It could be a distraction," Devlin opines. "When the season rolls around, I want everybody focused on our football team."
The 2005 campaign was hardly chopped liver, with the Blue Devils recording an 8-4 record and advancing to the semifinals of the acclaimed WPIAL city championship. Devlin was a work horse in the truest sense, playing almost every snap in all three phases of the game. The 6'6" athlete was a dominant blocking tight end on offense and a run-stuffing defensive end on defense. For special teams Devlin long snapped on punts, was a wedge blocker on punt returns and also served on the "hands team." The only time you saw the First Team All-WPIAL performer sitting on the bench was kickoffs and kickoff returns.
"In college, I'm going to play wherever I can play on the field quick," Devlin says. "Most teams are recruiting me at tight end. I think Virginia Tech and Wisconsin are recruiting me for defensive end. Iowa and Georgia like me as an offensive tackle."
Playing as a junior at a stout 255 pounds, Devlin was a big physical presence wherever he played. But what sets him apart from other super-sized prospects is the athleticism he possesses.
"Devlin is a very cerebral football player and an outstanding student," says Scout.com East recruiting analyst Bob Lichtenfels. "He has a terrific frame, and could play tight end or eventually move to offensive tackle. I was sold on Devlin when I saw him play basketball this winter. He is not just a big body who plays the low post; he can run the floor as well. He is a tremendous blocker and a very good receiver who is deceptively fast for his size."
While some of the nation's top tight end prospects can claim gaudy receiving numbers from their junior season, Devlin caught 13 passes (on 14 attempted throws) for 100-plus yards.
"We're a running offense - grind it out," Devlin describes. "We run a lot of tosses and sweeps. I put that defensive end on the ground. We don't throw the ball very much on offense. Every time we get inside the 20, we go with two tight ends and a power back, and we run it every time. We have maybe one passing play in there, but we never use it."
"For blocking, I have good feet and hands because of basketball," he continues. "At the beginning of the season, I had to work on hand placement and my first step, but I really improved to the end of the year."
While his recruitment most likely will have concluded before he takes his first snap as a senior in high school, Devlin does have the chance to put up some bigger numbers in the Blue Devils offense this fall.
"We have different personnel - a small roll-out quarterback," he shares. "I like to have the ball in my hands, and I'm working on getting quicker down the field. I should get more balls thrown to me this year."
Devlin today is a shade under his playing weight from his junior season on the gridiron, after dropping some pounds while pounding the hardcourt during the winter. A standout basketball player, the 6'6" power forward was Mt. Lebanon's leading scorer and their designated monster in the paint. Devlin averaged 18 points and 12 rebounds while earning WPIAL Class AAAA Player of the Year honors. He will be more excited to tell you about the Blue Devil's city championship, their first since 1961.
Devlin also played AAU basketball during the off-season for a number of years, suiting up with the well-known Pittsburgh JOTS program. This year will mark a change in his summer plans as he leaves behind the basketball summer circuit and instead focuses on football training and recruiting visits. With goals of summer college commitment and a fall championship, Devlin has a lot of work to do.
One piece of that work in June has been the Stanford admissions application. A non-trivial task, the application packet is itself a litmus test for the seriousness of Stanford interest by a recruit. Devlin is diving into the paperwork with his 4.4 weighted (3.8 core) GPA with honors coursework. He scored a 1260 on the 1600 scale and 1850 on the 2400 scale of the SAT.
"It's real fun," he laughs. "I'm doing it right now. I've finished most of the application. I have my teacher recommendations, and I'm working on the essays."
"Stanford's academics are as good or better than anybody else's," Devlin declares. "In the end, it might come down to the distance."
"They are definitely up there," the recruit continues. "The campus is beautiful. They have new facilities. They're definitely up there. People ask me all the time about distance, but I don't have a problem with that. It doesn't matter to me. But my parents might want to see me play, and my friends, too."
Time after time, the decision from distant recruits comes down to mom and/or dad. For the 6'6" Pittsburgh prize, that may once again be the case.
"My parents say, 'This is a great opportunity for you,'" the son says. "The trip to Stanford was bittersweet for my mom. She said it was so beautiful and wonderful. At the same time, she was worried that I might commit right on the spot. She knows that Stanford is 3,000 miles from home."
On the other side of the coin, one has to consider the competition from the hometown school. Not only do the Panthers offer a chance to stay and play at home, but both of Devlin's parents are Pitt graduates. Despite those intrinsic advantages, he claims that the school holds no special leadership position today.
"I don't know," he says of Pitt. "I don't know if I want to stay home or not for college. I don't really favor them more than any other school. There are some things I like about Pitt, and some things I don't like."
And how about the other big in-state school?
"Half my family went to Pitt. Half went to Notre Dame. And I have one aunt who went to Penn State and took me to games when I was younger," Devlin details. "Penn State isn't really recruiting me. They have stopped. It's not going to work out. In all honesty, that doesn't really have a big effect on me."
The decision Devlin makes in the next couple months will undoubtedly have a big effect on his future, as well as that of a fortunate college football program. We will check back with the top tight end and student-athlete in July after he returns from his remaining unofficial school visits. Stay tuned.
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