As an indication of Malele's interest, consider that the family came across the Bay early in the morning to make the 8:30 am practice, then shoot back over the Bay Bridge to Berkeley for the middle of the day, and then back again to make the scrimmage in the afternoon. That is more than a casual stop-by-and-see-the-sights unofficial visit. Mathew and his family meant business and wanted to extract as much time with the staff and around the football team as they could muster during this Bay Area swing.
When you ask Mathew about his school interests, he gives you a confident top five: Stanford, Oregon, Tennessee, Miami and USC. The curious point is that his top five will not necessarily correlate with his five official visits. For one, he thinks it is not a good use of his NCAA allotment of five trips to burn one at USC.
"SC is too close to home to take an official visit."
The only visit that is a certainty today is Tennessee, which he has set for November 9. "I'll probably take a visit to Stanford," he comments, and further asserts other likely visits would go to Washington and Notre Dame. I asked him how that jives with his top five list, and he says that they are below his top five, but would like to visit. Well, you have to be excited to get that visit if you are a Husky or Domer backer, even if trailing other schools currently. Quick math tells you that someone other than USC in his top five has to miss out on an official visit if he sticks with this, though. Miami would be my guess, based on the love he has had for Oregon this summer.
I followed up on Oregon, whom Mathew told recruiting services in July was his leader. He laughed and said that was true then, but it was an emotional swing due to the UO commitment of his friend, A.J. Tuitele. "We talked about going to Oregon together and winning a national championship," says Malele. But he says he has come down from that emotional influence and asserts that "all five of [his] teams are equal."
Though if there is one more equal than the others, my hunch is Tennessee is in good shape. Mat says that in talking with their staff, he has learned that they sent their entire defensive front four to the NFL, and that the depth chart could line up well for his early playing time. Malele comments on the pro preparation, "I want to go to the NFL and support my family."
Returning to Stanford, I asked Mathew for the positives and negatives he sees most today in the Cardinal football program. On the plus side, he talks about academics and the Stanford degree.
"A degree from Stanford is better than [one from] any other place in the country," Malele opines.
On the negative side, he cites the "change in environment" relative to his home in Carson, CA. I followed up for more detail, and got a clearer explanation: "Every school I am looking at would be a change in environment, except for USC, which is right next door," Mat says. As with most recruits, gaining that comfort level is the key, and it seems that Mathew Malele wants to find a place that will resonate with him if he is to be away from home. That is the challenge for Stanford's staff.
And from what I saw Saturday morning and Saturday afternoon, it looked like they are mobilizing their full forces to make those personal connections with the young tackle from Carson. I have seen a good number of recruits come through this campus this year, though admittedly I have missed a good number as well... but I have never seen so many coaches on the staff converge on one recruit like they did with Malele. Even if you didn't know about this recruiting class, and how infinitely valuable Mathew Malele could be at the DT position, you could easily gauge his preeminent value by watching this staff in action.
In the morning, Buddy Teevens took time to stand with Mathew and talk with him and his family as they watched the practice. Tom Williams came over. David Kelly came over. Wayne Moses spent good time with the family. Tom Quinn settled in to engage them. Dave McCarty joined the fray... It was something to watch.
Buddy, TW and Matt Doyle giving time to the big guy
Even offensive guru David Kelly gets in the action
Then in the afternoon, the Maleles sat in the Stadium to watch Stanford's scrimmage. But after the final whistle blew, they descended onto the field, and the Stanford staff descended onto them. Buddy got in his words, and was soon joined by the majority of the coaching staff.
The defensive tackles on the team also made sure to all personally greet Malele after the scrimmage. I can only wonder what Mathew thought of Ian Shelswell, a fellow beast of a man...
So why is Stanford putting such a full press on Malele? From my observations of the young man at the LA Nike Camp last spring, he was the most awesome combination of size, power and explosiveness I have seen at this level. Pictures of Warren Sapp II are not unwarranted for this kid. He is built like a bulldozer, but moves like a jackhammer. He simply destroys offensive linemen between him and the QB.
To try and put his impact in perspective for this Stanford class, let me put him in a class for you. What Michael Craven is doing at LB... what TJ Rushing is starting to do at CB... what Julian Jenkins is doing at DE. Mathew Malele will change the game for Stanford on the defensive line. He could be a defining player for the future of Stanford's defense. He really is that special.
The questions that usually follow ask what Mathew will do to work toward Stanford's admissions process. Well, when I asked about his outlook on that process, he disclosed that he has a free academic period for this fall semester at Carson, which he will use daily to work with his high school counselor exclusively on Stanford admissions items. That would include a breadth of activities surrounding the SAT and his application essays. Mathew says that his counselor has helped a couple guys before him get their academics in order for college eligibility, and he is encouraged that she can help with his higher goal.
It is noteworthy that Mathew has had a changed attitude toward the existence of Stanford's admissions requirements. He says his initial reaction when he first heard some time ago was along the lines of... "Dang!