'07 Unwrapped: Max Bergen

We uncovered Max Bergen after eyeballing him on his official visit two weeks ago today. We then broke the news of his scholarship offer and commitment to the Cardinal. But who is this linebacker from Pennsylvania, emerging in the final weeks of the recruiting calendar, and why did Stanford sign him? Here are some answers, including explanation from Stanford linebackers coach Andy Buh.

His recruitment primarily focused on Division I-AA schools through the fall and early winter of his senior year.  Max Bergen considered Princeton, Penn, Brown, Lehigh, Rhode Island and New Hampshire but took a single official visit to Princeton the first weekend of December.  The East Stroudsburg (Pa.) South High School linebacker standout committed to the Tigers three days before Christmas.

Clear across the country, there was a coaching transition underway at Stanford, though Bergen hardly had reason to pay attention to the hire of new head coach Jim Harbaugh.  The Keystone State recruit had no involvement with the Cardinal or any team outside the Northeast.  But a random coaching connection involving new Stanford defensive line coach Lance Anderson sent Bergen's film to The Farm.

"This really picked up when Coach Harbaugh took the job," Bergen explains.  "I had really only looked at schools on the East Coast, so that is where I sent most of my game films.  One of the coaches on Coach Harbaugh's staff had known one of the coaches from another staff over on the East Coast, and he ended up exchanging my DVD with him.  That's how they found out about me.  Once they had that, I was contacted.  It worked out well."

The first contact between Bergen and the Cardinal came January 10, and an in-home visit by Stanford linebackers coach Andy Buh followed soon thereafter.

"He told me that they were very interested in me and wanted to fly me out for a visit," the recruit reports.  "I figured I had nothing to lose."

Bergen quickly completed and submitted his Stanford admissions application.  The 6'2" linebacker took his official visit the weekend of January 26, during which time he was offered a Stanford scholarship.  Within 24 hours of returning to home, Bergen switched his college commitment to the Cardinal.

"I just thought that Stanford was something I couldn't pass up," he explains.  "It wasn't that hard, knowing the fact that I could go to Stanford and play Division I football."

"I just really want to play with kids at the level where I would know I have to push myself and be surrounded by other players who are that much better," Bergen adds.

Days later, he his application was accepted by the Admissions Office.  Less than a week later, he faxed his signed Letter of Intent to The Farm.

Among the 19 Stanford signees in this recruiting Class of 2007, Bergen is the greatest unknown.  To some, he is a question mark in the Cardinal class.  Does Stanford really want to steal a prospect committed to the Ivy League and a ceiling on his regional interest beyond I-AA schools?

"I just think the problem was that I didn't get junior tape out, and enough schools didn't know about me," Bergen responds.  "There was just not enough communication between me and the schools.  I never got a spot on Scout.com or Rivals at all, so I didn't have a chance to get my name out there before the recruiting season started."

"I think I have all the tools needed to play at the Pac-10 level," he adds.  "It's my ability to move.  My quickness and speed.  My ability to read and react on the play.  I think that's my main strong point as a football player.  I guess that stood out to them, that I could move my feet better and react better than most kids my age."

Now that Bergen is signed and sealed officially for Stanford, we are able to speak with the Cardinal coaches about him.  The position coach who visited Bergen, backed the offer to Harbaugh and will coach him in college is linebackers coach Andy Buh.

"The first thing I look for in a linebacker is production," Buh explains.  "A lot of times, you spin your wheels trying to look for potential, and I look for production.  Both Max and Johnathon [Frink] are productive players on their high school teams and very recognized for what they have done production-wise.  That's always the number one thing."

Bergen notched 93 tackles and an interception his senior season at East Stroudsburg South on defense.  He also played tight end on offense, with a team-best 273 receiving yards on 12 catches for four touchdowns.

"We were really a run-based offense," Bergen says in apology for his receiving totals, though his 23 yards per reception are eye-popping for a tight end.  "I broke a few tackles."

"The second thing that I loved about Max was his ability to change directions - stop and start," Buh says.  "He had the suddenness that I'm looking for at the position.  Those are the hardest things.  You always hear me when I'm critiquing recruiting film say, 'The player's eyes are working faster than his feet.'  We all know, being old and fat now, that we want to go over there but our legs aren't taking us fast enough, and we fall over.  Well, that's not the case with Max Bergen.  His feet are way before his eyes.  His eyes are seeing it, and his feet are taking him to it.  That's what I'm looking for in a linebacker: the ability to see something and react to it very fast."

"We're very happy to get Max," the coach concludes.  "He played at about 6'2" and 215 pounds this year.  He's weighing about 208 pounds right now because he's wrestling in a very tough wrestling league in Pennsylvania.  I think he's going to be a great addition to what we're trying to do."

We project Bergen to play the weakside "Will" outside linebacker at Stanford, given his size and 4.6 speed.  He says Buh wants to try him initially at all three linebacker positions upon arrival at training camp in August.  The question is not position but rather the level of contribution Cardinal fans can expect from his unheralded and largely unknown scholarship signee.

"I feel like I'm as good or better than anyone at Stanford University right now," Bergen bellows.  "I'm just ready to compete.  I'll have to prove myself, obviously, but I don't think I'll have a problem doing that."


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