One of the ways in which some eyes judge the level of a recruitment is its geographic spread. Are there national and not just regional schools ponying up scholarship offers? From that perspective, it could be said that Joseph Fauria is one of the top tight end recruits in the West this year, with four of his first six scholarship offers coming from other time zones.
That so much attention has come so quickly for the Encino (Calif.) Crespi Carmelite High School tight end is perhaps a surprise. The Celts are known more for running the ball and seldom for employing the tight end, but Fauria was a compelling enough talent that he hauled in 22 receptions for 329 yards as a junior, ranking second on his team in both categories. His four receiving touchdowns tied for the team lead.
"This is the first year that we have run a tight end set in probably eight years. We just put it in," Fauria explains. "We were more of a spread offense. They couldn't really deny me as a tight end, though, because that wouldn't be smart. We were mostly a running offense, and I would block a lot. There were a couple games in the year where we didn't pass probably all but two times and both our running backs combined for 500 yards. Our head coach was an O-lineman at Fresno State, so he takes a lot of pride in running the ball and blocking. I'm glad to be a part of that, pushing the defense back and getting some yards."
"But next year, I think the Crespi offense is going to change a little bit," he continues. "We have a lot of returning receivers, and our quarterback is going to be in his second year starting. Personally, I think he is one of the best quarterbacks in the nation, but I think he's a little underrated. We're going to combine our skills and our talents in the passing game."
Fauria may not have had as many balls thrown his way as some of the more prolific tight ends in the West, but what he did to catch those balls and then to follow caught the eye of college recruiters.
"If there was a third and long situation, I'm going to go out for a pass. Wherever it goes, I'm going to catch it. And it's a guaranteed first down," Fauria boasts. "When I did get the ball, they were not so easy of catches. I showed my athleticism - I have been a tri-sport athlete for these last three years. There were a couple of balls where I went up over two defenders and caught the ball over people. Many times, I only went down because there was a group of people tackling me. I showed how I made contact with linebackers to get off and create space, and when I did that, I showed colleges what I'm made out of."
What stands out in watching Fauria is his athleticism, which is exciting for his size. Measuring 6'7 1/8" out of shoes, the tight end has a measured 30-inch vertical leap. That explains why he is a standout center on the basketball court, leading Crespi in scoring (11.6 ppg), rebounding (8.4 rpg) and blocked shots (1.8 bpg). Fauria is also a high-flying outside hitter on his school's volleyball team, which is still in season.
Playing three sports fuels the athletic and competitive drive for Fauria, though he questioned whether he should suit up for this third year of varsity volleyball. His meal ticket for college is on the gridiron and not the hardwood, and he has areas in need of strength and skill development. College recruiting also requires attention.
"I talked with my coach before I started playing because I initially wasn't going to play. I was going to concentrate on football and getting bigger, stronger, faster," Fauria explains.
He points to the decision to attend Stanford's Junior Day today, which required missing a volleyball game Friday night while he traveled, as evidence that he is not a slave to his off-season sports. "It shows that football is my priority," he says.
Visual inspection of Fauria also supports his football focus this off-season. Basketball and volleyball are sports that can easily take weight off a big body, but the 6'7" athlete has built muscle and added to his frame through the winter. He played a shade under 230 pounds during the fall, and presently he tilts the scales at a proud 247 pounds.
Fauria is today attending Junior Day on the Stanford campus along with his quarterback and fellow Cardinal recruit, Kevin Prince, the 6'3" slinger who threw for 1,422 yards and 12 touchdowns on 57 percent completions last fall. Prince is the man who his tall tight end calls "underrated" and "one of the best quarterbacks in the nation. Fauria says this is a slinger to watch in the Class of 2008.
The early focus of my colleges recruiting Crespi is on Fauria, however. Though Stanford has yet to extend a scholarship offer, he has had a good deal of communication with the Cardinal.
"I've spoken with Coach [Andy] Buh and the tight end coach, Coach [Tim] Drevno," Fauria says. "I've built a relationship with the tight end coach, but the first person who really contacted and texted with me was Coach Buh. I think he has a relationship with my head coach at my high school."
Those relationships and his interest were strong enough to accept Stanford's invitation to today's Junior Day. For Fauria, this is just his second unofficial visit this winter to a college campus. His previous trip brought him to nearby UCLA. With a national spread of suitors, he will have to log some miles to see the schools who are pursuing him, and this weekend marks the beginning of his travel.
"I'm looking to visit my second school," Fauria says of Stanford Junior Day. "It's a good opportunity to finally get out there and see other schools that are not close to me. I'm looking to leave with a good relationship with the coaches and finally meet the head coach. When you meet them in person, you get to know if they are really interested in you and really want you to be part of the program. I'd like to leave with that feeling."
Fauria has a feeling what factors will most matter to him as he evaluates his college options.
"The tradition is definitely a big part," he begins. "Also what the school has to offer education-wise. Academics are a big part for me. I maintain a [weighted] 3.6 core GPA. The vibe I get from the coaching staff. The experience of the tight end coach. The way they utilize their tight end. And if they're a good, strong program or not."
"I would like to get it over with and commit before the season, but that doesn't seem like what I'm going to do right now," Fauria adds. "I think it would be smart to take my five [official] trips and see what each school has to offer - the location, the program and all of that kind of stuff."
With his visits just underway to assess his schools of interest, Fauria is hesitant to name a tight group of favorites. He does admit to the intrigue of some at this stage.
"The offers that I have are schools that I actually wanted to get offers from," the recruit comments. "It's hard to say who my favorites are right now. I'm kind of biased since UCLA is the only school I have visited because that's right next to home. I'd rather take my visits before I can call anyone my favorites, but if I had to say, it would be: The offense from Nebraska is great, and Coach [Bill] Callahan is a great coach. UCLA loves the tight end. LSU is always competing for a championship. I would like to get offered and get looked at by USC. Miami is a great tight end school. Stanford is like the Harvard of the West. It's a great school, and I think they're trying to get their program back up."
This weekend may offer more insight for Fauria as to the role Stanford sees for him in rebuilding their program. Stay tuned for our report with the tight end athlete following his Junior Day on The Farm.
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