At 6'5" and 220 pounds, Michael Keck might confound your projections as a college football player. He has the frame and 4.5 speed of an elite outside linebacker, where he played his freshman and sophomore seasons. But the Harrisonville (Mo.) High School standout moved to defensive end as a junior and enjoyed wild success. Keck earned First Team (3A) All-State honors in Missouri, while leading his team to a second state championship in three years.
"I got a lot better at pass rushing," Keck comments. "This year I have to get even better at that. I'm pretty elusive; I can come off the edge like an outside linebacker."
The Missouri man amassed 148 tackles, 12 sacks, three forced fumbles and three recovered fumbles in his 2005 season. The number du jour, however, is his weight. He has been offered by more programs than he can count, stretching from the SEC to the Pac-10. College coaches clearly see a ballplayer, but where do they see him playing? Keck could and probably should outgrow his linebacker build, but can you confidently call him a prospective defensive end give his current 220-pound weight?
"They've offered me as a defensive end or outside linebacker - whatever I grow into," the recruit responds. "It just depends on what my body does."
"My strength is my speed," Keck continues. "I don't want to gain any bad weight. I'd like to weigh 230 or 235 this year, but I'm a lean guy. I'm just going to get stronger and faster and try to be in the best shape I can be. That's more important than my weight."
Meanwhile, the heralded Harrisonville athlete has to handle the attention and communication coming to him from college coaches near and far. Keck owns scholarship offers that ought to have this small-town talent's head spinning.
"Recruiting gets kind of big and overwhelming because it's not normal. I'm not used to all of this," he admits. "But I enjoy it. I have to. Somehow I just try to keep a level head and work through it."
"My goal is to get my decision done before the season starts, but I'm not going to rush into something if I'm not quite comfortable. I haven't seen enough of the schools yet," Keck says.
This is where it becomes more clear that there is a dim outlook for Stanford in this recruiting story. Though the Cardinal offered the outside linebacker/defensive end prospect early in the winter, Keck has no plans to see The Farm during his summer unofficial visits. A combination of distance and logistical barriers have soured his Stanford fervor.
"I'm excited about the offer," he maintains. "They said that I need to take the ACT and need to be in some harder classes my senior year. The big problem is that I plan on graduating early and enrolling in the winter. Stanford doesn't offer that."
It pops up not frequently, but from time to time one of the difficult restrictions that encumbers Cardinal recruiting is the University's insistence that all incoming freshmen enroll together in the autumn quarter, for the purpose of a uniform residential education experience as well as the Introduction to Humanities sequence of courses. There has never been an exception to this rule allowed for Stanford Football, and there is nary a hint of one coming soon. Early college enrollment is a slowly building trend that is starting to take hold of a non-trivial number of Stanford's recruiting pool. Elite recruits of note lost to the Cardinal in recent years have included five-star defensive tackle Vince Oghobaase and four-star offensive lineman Aleksey Lanis, among others. Also in this 2007 class, four-star Joseph Barksdale is certain that he will graduate early, cutting short his Stanford interest. Keck can be added to the list, barring some unforeseen change in his plans.
"Waiting until the fall to start college isn't something that I really want to do," Keck contends. "I feel like it would be a big advantage for me to have that head start with conditioning and spring practices before my freshman year."
"Stanford is still talking to me. They're still recruiting me," he closes. "But we don't think anything will work out, unless something off the wall happens."
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