He doesn't have the most stars next to his name, but David Green stands taller among his peers in the 2007 national landscape than any other Stanford recruit. Ranked by Scout.com as the #1 kicker in the country, Green is a multitalented specialist weapon and arguably the most valuable of the Cardinal's commits in the '07 class.
The Mission Viejo (Calif.) High School senior had Stanford special teams coordinator Jeff Hammerschmidt at his house for dinner on Sunday night, and there was little hint during the evening's conversations that the Cardinal coaching staff could be axed. Just hours later on Monday morning, head coach Walt Harris was fired
"We talked a little about football and a lot about a whole bunch of stuff. We touched briefly on Coach Harris, and he didn't expect anything to happen, so I wasn't concerned," Green says of his Sunday dinner with Hammerschmidt. "He didn't expect it either. It was a big surprise."
"I was kind of shocked. I thought that they were going to let him stay," the kicker continues. "I was surprised, but hey, what can you do? Hopefully we'll get a good coach in there. I had talked with Walt Harris a couple times, and he was a nice guy. He was nice to me. I just look forward to seeing who they pick."
The college recruitment of kickers is a unique process. Scholarship offers are seldom doled out, with many programs instead bringing specialists in as walk-ons who have to prove themselves before a scholarship might be awarded. Of the offer recruits on the board, a kicker may carry the most anxiety when the head coach to whom he committed has been fired. The next guy in that job might not feel the same way about handing over one of his precious scholarships.
David Green, however, is a special specialist. Beyond his Scout.com national ranking, the Mission Viejo man is widely coveted and holds competing scholarship offers from the likes of LSU, Oregon and Cal. He likely would have tallied more, had he not pulled the trigger in June with his Cardinal commitment. Today he is unfazed by the coaching transition underway on The Farm, confident in his stock and abilities.
"I don't really have any concern," Green says. "I'm a good enough kicker where I don't feel it should change anything. I don't know how the situation will be, but I'm not really worried about anything."
That self-assurance was strengthened by a phone call Monday night from Stanford athletic director Bob Bowlsby.
"He asked me if I had any suggestions for a coach," the recruit recalls. "I didn't say anything [laughs]. He wanted to know if I was still committed, and I said, 'Of course, yeah.' I wouldn't leave Stanford. It's a great program and a great school. Nothing is going to stop me from going to Stanford."
There will be temptations from his suitors, however. An Oregon coach already had a chat with Green at his high school on Wednesday.
"He was joking around a little and said, 'Hey, if you ever reconsider, we have a job here for you.' I wouldn't change my commitment at all," Green explains. "There are so many more reasons I'm going to Stanford beyond just the football team. Stanford in itself is just a great school. Maybe you second-guess what will happen with the team. How will the first year go with a new coach? I don't even know who the coach is going to be. I have some thoughts about that, but nothing regarding the school at all. I'm hoping that we have a good season next year and start winning some games."
Green will be keenly interested to take the temperature of the program and its players this weekend, when he visits Stanford. Never in his wildest dreams did he think his official visit weekend would be head coach-less, but he is moving ahead with the plan.
"I really don't know how the environment is going to be," Green admits. "The visit is going to go on as planned, I assume, but it might be a little awkward up there. It's a sensitive subject up there right now. But things go on as normal. I expect to get further knowledge of the campus, see how things go and enjoy myself up there."
This will be Green's second visit to Stanford this fall. He unofficially took a trip up I-5 in September to watch the Navy game and grand opening of the new Stanford Stadium.
"That was a lot of fun," he remembers. "I got to meet the coaches again, and I got to see the awesome stadium. That was a wonderful time. I enjoyed the Palo Alto area with my family. It was great."
The 2006 season has wrapped at Mission Viejo, with a disappointing 9-3 season that finished two weeks ago in the CIF Southern Section Pac-5 Division quarterfinals. The Diablos lost 25-24, with a two-point conversion by the upstart Eagles in the final two minutes. Green kicked one field goal in the game and was nearly in position for another in the final seconds, before his team fumbled for a loss and then suffered a procedure penalty.
Green punted for an average of 41 yards in his senior season, while kicking 57-of-60 on PATs, better than 85% touchbacks on kickoffs and 8-of-10 on field goals (long of 45 yards).
Stanford has no heir apparent to Jay Ottovegio, who will punt his fifth and final year in 2007. The Cardinal are also in need of an emergency upgrade in their placekicking, after ranking 10th in the Pac-10 in field goals (57.1%) and PAT kicking (86.7%) as well as eighth in kickoff coverage (38.7 net yards). One would think that the ghastly season for Stanford kicking would have Green licking his chops for first-year playing time next fall, but he is taking an even keel instead.
"If I perform and do well competing with the other guys, I guess I could be starting. But if I redshirt next year, the guys up there are pretty good, and that's fine," Green offers. "I'm going to do my best and contribute to the team the best that I can, whether I'm playing or not. Hopefully I can get in there and make a difference for the team."
"I don't know what people are expecting up there," he adds. "I will work my hardest, no matter what. I try not to let things up there affect how I train down here. It might make me a little inspired to do well, but I try not to focus on that and instead focus on my training down here before I go to college. I just work as hard as I can."
Though his senior season may be over, that training still continues.
"I stretch a lot. A lot," Green emphasizes. "I have a great stretching coach, and my flexibility is something that gives me an advantage over a lot of players. That helps me get the ball a good portion farther. Also my leg strength. And the fact that I can do all three kind of sets me apart from most guys. I can kick off, kick field goals and also punt."
David Green has already received First-Team All-League honors, and we expect CIF hardware and national recognition to follow shortly. Those are awards and accolades to celebrate, but nothing can top the news he received seven days ago, when the call came through that he had been accepted to Stanford.
"I worked hard to bring my SAT score up to a 1790. I spent all summer with a tutor and read many books," Green says. "I was very excited when Coach [A.J.] Christoff called me last Thursday and gave me the good news of my acceptance to the university."
More than just an elevated test score, Green's acceptance came largely on the back of what he did at Mission Viejo this fall. An early look at his transcript by the Admissions Office provided feedback, which he took seriously and put into action.
"Stanford wanted me to take more advanced classes in my senior year," Green explains. "I am taking AP English, AP Biology, and Math Methods IB in addition to my other courses. I have really enjoyed taking the harder classes... It has been more of a challenge."
'Challenge' is a fitting word these days. That is what faces the new Stanford Football head coach, and also what lies ahead for Green in upgrading the Cardinal kicking game. The optimism and hope is that all parties are up to the task.
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