It was only six days ago that Stanford landed its biggest catch in this 2007 recruiting class. Four-star athlete Kellen Kiilsgaard stunned observers near and far when he committed last Tuesday to Stanford over Cal, Oregon and Washington. Ranked #22 in the nation by Scout.com as a quarterback, the 6'2" 220-pound standout from Auburn (Wash.) Senior High School is perhaps even more highly regarded as a safety prospect.
Kiilsgaard took his official visit to Stanford in October, and he remains the one and only official visitor to The Farm to date in this class. He waited until the completion of his senior season to make a college decision, and that took him just a few days. Kiilsgaard and his family held a strong opinion of Stanford head coach Walt Harris, which was cemented during that visit, so the news today that Harris has been fired hit hard.
"It's surprising," the recruit admits. "There's a lot of speculation, but you still don't really expect it to happen."
"It's a relationship that was established, which I'm going to miss," Kiilsgaard continues. "Definitely what he does with the quarterback is going to be a big loss. He obviously is one of the best in developing quarterbacks to move on to the next level, so I'm going to be anxious to see who the replacement is going to be and what comes with all that."
The question on many Cardinal lips today asks whether Kiilsgaard and Stanford's other commits will remain firm in their verbal pledges. Those commitments are not binding until a National Letter of Intent can be signed on February 7, 2007. Colleges will often pursue other schools' commits after the fact, which in fact has almost annually worked in Stanford's favor with one or more recommitments from other programs. Today's traumatic news for the '07 Cardinal recruiting class, however, could open the door wide for rivals to try and poach one of the nine public verbal commits to Stanford. Kiilsgaard would be the most obvious target, with his decision just days old and his talent being so widely coveted.
"I'm not going to be surprised if I get a few texts or phone calls," Kiilsgaard says. "I'm not going to reopen anything, so I'm going to tell them that no, nothing has changed."
"I'm not too worried. It's disappointing because I liked Coach Harris, but I'm not reopening my commitment," he adds. "I'm going to stay firm with what I've decided, unless something changes that would prompt me to want to change. But just the firing of Coach Harris isn't going to change anything because I chose Stanford on a lot more reasons than just solely the head coaching position."
Those words might not be enough to sway Jeff Tedford, Mike Bellotti or Tyrone Willingham from making a phone call tonight to the Auburn athlete. Kiilsgaard is prepared to make a more forceful statement with his actions, however. He says that he plans on flying down to Stanford this weekend to join other Cardinal recruits who will make their official visits. A school can only host a prospective student-athlete for one official visit of at most 48 hours, during which time airfare, lodging, food and other expenses are picked up. Kiilsgaard would be visiting in an unofficial capacity, and thus he would be taking the trip on his own dime.
"Then I'll be coming down in January for that recruiting weekend, as well," he adds.
"I'm going to show them that I had options just as enticing as they're going to have," Kiilsgaard says of his message to the recruits he will meet this weekend. "Even with a tough year, some top recruits are still choosing Stanford, so they're not going to be alone. There still is going to be a strong recruiting class, even though the record doesn't present itself as very attractive."
Kiilsgaard has the benefit of having already enjoyed a successful official visit at Stanford, and he says that he hopes to share those experiences and messages with his peers.
"I'll make sure and let them know that the things that impressed me the most were like the diversity in the school and the quality of the guys on the team and at Stanford in general," Kiilsgaard comments.
Before then, there should be an interesting conversation which takes place. Stanford athletic director Bob Bowlsby said at his press conference this morning that he intends to personally call every recruit Stanford has offered in this class, both committed and uncommitted. As a quarterback and blue chip headliner in this recruiting crop, what messages does Kiilsgaard hope to convey to the man about to choose his future college head coach?
"I probably won't put in too much input," he replies. "I'll probably just listen to what he has to say. Obviously I'm going to be curious to know if he has any ideas of who he might pursue, but I probably won't do any major probing to give him my opinion on anything. I'll sit back and anxiously wait to see who gets the position."
As shall we all.
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