Though you might expect the Cardinal recruiting board to have been set some time ago, there are still some late-breaking additions coming into focus. Stanford has extended offers to "Plan B" recruits close to Signing Day in years past as their primary options were lost to recruiting decisions or admissions denials. Every once in a while, however, there is a late bloomer who erupts onto the scene with film from his senior season. In the case of Ernest Owusu, the story has come even later - at the end of his prep fifth year.
A year ago at this time, the skinny pass rushing defensive end was First-Team All-State at Father Ryan High School in Nashville (Tenn.) but his recruitment was strictly Division I-AA. Owusu looked more like a safety than a defensive lineman and felt a prep year at the Hun School in Princeton (N.J.) could help him do better than Brown, Austin Peay and Tennessee State.
"I was kind of undersized. I was 6'4" and 215 or 220. I didn't get the looks that I wanted," Owusu explains. "I knew that I could definitely mature more academically and athletically, so I went to a prep school. My grades were fine my senior year. I graduated with a 3.55, so that wasn't a problem. But I knew that I could mature much more athletically and physically in taking a prep year. Currently I'm in the 245 to 250 range, so it was pretty beneficial."
Graduating high school at age 17 and now 18 years old, Owusu is still growing into his body.
"I'm kind of young. They always call me the 'baby' around here," he relates. "I'm still growing, in fact. I measured myself before I left for the Hun School, and when I came back to Tennessee, I had grown half an inch. I'm still maturing a little bit more."
Owusu blossomed physically in 2006 and made an instant impact for the Raiders, starting at both defensive end (weakside) and offensive guard.
"I felt like I was a big factor on our line on pass rush. I was a great pass rusher for my team. On offense, I was a great pass blocker," the two-way lineman details. "I feel like I had a great season and really helped our team. We went 7-2 in our league and 5-0 in our conference. We won our championship, so it was a pretty exciting year."
Schools are recruiting him primarily for the defensive line, where he racked up 60 tackles, 12 tackles for loss, eight sacks, four force fumbles, two fumble recoveries and one interception, but there is the thought that he could have at least as much potential on the other side of the ball.
"I'm a great pass rusher, and I'm going to play defensive end. But some of the schools that have been rolling around here have been telling me I'm pretty good on the O-line," Owusu says. "With my potential on O-line, they say I might possibly be playing on Sundays. We'll see how that goes."
If Ernest Owusu is an unfamiliar name to you, worry not. His current collection of 15 Division I-A offers exploded only after he finished his prep season at the Hun School. That is when he sent out film, and when some schools made their annual stop by the Hun School to check the Raiders' recruitable talent. In a matter of just a few weeks, Owusu went from I-AA options to having offers from Kansas, Missouri, Connecticut, Boston College, Western Michigan, Minnesota, Duke, Miami (Ohio), Toledo, Pittsburgh, Washington, Wisconsin, Buffalo, Louisville and Stanford.
"I would say I definitely improved my athleticism because I worked out at Velocity [Sports Performance] throughout the whole year. That was just the best thing I could have done," offers the Volunteer State native. "My overall athleticism improved so much. My speed, my broad jump and everything just skyrocketed."
Owusu says that he was offered last month by recruiting coordinator Nate Nelson, who at the same time extended a scholarship to teammate and fellow prep Quentin Plair, a 6'1" 190-pound defensive back. Plair had a similar plight to Owusu this time a year ago, in Plair's case at the Greater Atlanta Christian School in Norcross (Ga.).
"I'm very high on Stanford because I look for schools that fit me both athletically and academically," Owusu offers. "I want the best of both worlds. Playing in the Pac-10 with a Stanford education on the side - I don't know what more you could ask for."
"At this time I wouldn't say I have any favorites, but if I would have to say somebody is on top, it would be Minnesota just because I've visited there," he adds. "I can't say anyone is better than Minnesota because I haven't visited anyone else."
Though the Cardinal offered him just a little over two weeks ago, Owusu is already fast at work for Stanford. He has scheduled an official visit for January 12, in addition to his trip he will take in a few days to Washington (1/5). Owusu plans on taking all five of his allowed official visits, with two more to go. He tripped to Minnesota the first weekend of December and had Boston College slated the following weekend before Jim O'Brien left for the North Carolina State job.
The ultimate proof of a prospective student-athlete's interest in Stanford comes, of course, in the school's admissions application. The unique and lengthy packet of materials and essays is only undertaken by those serious about Stanford, and Owusu says he is on task.
"[Nelson] explained to me that I have an offer, but I still need to get into the school," the recruit relates. "My past academic records show that it shouldn't be that much of a problem, but he's mailed the application to my house and I'm starting that up. I'll get that in as soon as possible."
Owusu graduated with a 3.55 GPA at Father Ryan High School, also serving as student body vice-president. He scored an 1140 on the SAT and a 24 on the ACT. His studies and scores could not prepare him for what the last month has been like, however.
"My head is spinning a little bit," he admits. "It's a little stressful at times because we have so many schools. It's not only I-A, there are also the I-AA schools. We have schools coming in during our breaks, during the times when we work out or during times when we are sleeping. Sometimes you have to get up early to go have breakfast with a coach. My head's spinning a little bit, but it's worth it. I'd rather have all these schools coming through than none at all."
With options spanning the Big 10, Big 12, ACC, Big East, Pac-10 and more, there is a great diversity of geographic destinations where Owusu could spend his next four to five years. A Tennessee native might be a hard sell to bring across the country, but Owusu already left home and traveled more than 700 miles for the opportunity that the Hun School gave him. Moreover, the fact that he is taking two official visits to the West Coast the next two weeks speaks to his willingness to go away from his home in Brentwood (Tenn.). Apparently his parents are willing to let him leave, as well.
"They're not necessarily so concerned about distance," the son says. "Distance isn't a problem at all. They don't really care about distance, and I don't care about distance either."
"You could say that their heads are spinning, too, because sometimes coaches call them. They're overwhelmed by the whole situation, too," Owusu adds. "They just want me to make the best decision that is going to best affect my life. It's a big decision. They obviously know that, and they don't want me to rush into it. They want me to take all five of my visits."
The defensive end recruit says he is aiming for the "best of both worlds" in football and education, but he will also look at some softer factors while on his trips in determining the right home for his college experience.
"Basically it comes down to the visit," Owusu explains. "What fits me? That's what all the coaches tell me. If it fits me, then that's the school I am going to be at."
"Most definitely the social life," he elaborates. "How do I get along with other students at the school when football practice isn't going on and I'm not in the classroom? That's something I'm going to look at. Definitely what type of support they have for athletes academically, if I'm struggling in a class. A lot of things will come into play. I could list off so many things."
With a pair of Pac-10 trips in the next week and a half, there will be some checkmarks made on that list and progress to report on Owusu's college decision. Stay tuned for more on this new and developing story of one of the fastest rising prospects in the Class of 2007.
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