The winter is when Stanford builds its recruiting board, scouring not only the nation's high school football programs for film to evaluate but also transcripts to scrutinize. By the spring, enough is understood about candidates to extend invitations and host a Junior Day in May, after the completion of spring practices.
The Cardinal are still scheduled to host their annual event for high school junior recruits in a little more than a month's time, but they broke new ground this past Saturday March 31 by hosting their earliest ever edition of Junior Day. Backing up the talk that Jim Harbaugh uttered on Signing Day about his staff's relentless approach to recruiting, Stanford has unleashed a wave of scholarship offers and now orchestrated what was - by all accounts from attendees thus far - a wildly successful Junior Day.
While Stanford's May Junior Day typically brings a more national flavor of attendees, this edition was dominated by the Golden State. In particular, there was an overwhelming majority from Southern California. Of the 22 recruits who we have unofficially tabulated in attendance, 19 were in-state and 16 from SoCal.
Another eye-catching trend was the high population of quarterbacks. Nine signal callers came to The Farm on Saturday, and while not all of them were remarkable, there was serious star power. Dayne Crist may be the nation's best at his position, and he is currently at the center of a battle between Stanford, USC, Michigan, Notre Dame, LSU and Oregon. He brought his entire family with him, including his mother and father - and even his little brother on his birthday. At least one observer playfully dubbed the day the "Dayne Crist Show" with the attention paid to the slinger. He was fresh off a multi-day stay at LSU the previous weekend where he was showered with meals, girls and coaches' attention, and Stanford answered the bell with a lavish amount of love in its own way.
The top thrower in Northern California was also on campus. Drew McAllister has played quarterback just two years but already amassed more than 4,000 yards and 41 touchdowns while completing 65 percent of his passes. He may also be the state's best dual-threat athlete at the quarterback position, as evidenced by his blinding 40 time of 4.54 in the slow conditions at the U.S. Army All-American Combine in January. McAllister comes from Monte Vista High School in Danville, squarely in the shadow of Berkeley and Jeff Tedford. Both of McAllister's parents are Cal alums, yet their enthusiasm for the Farm was broadcast Saturday by their both donning Cardinal red.
Three other top signal callers in attendance who are not yet household names, but who will stand as some of the best in the state by the end of their senior year: Ryan Griffin, Kevin Prince and Beau Sweeney. Prince came with his friend and tight end, Joseph Fauria (more on him in a moment), from Crespi High School in Encino. Sweeney hails from Clovis West High School in Fresno. Griffin was a surprise when we laid eyes on him Saturday afternoon at Sunken Diamond - we did not expect him in attendance. He is a big-time thrower who notched more than 3,300 yards and 32 touchdowns this past fall. Add these three quarterbacks to Crist and McAllister, and Stanford had five of the state's best on campus Saturday.
While the lion's share of recruits were in-state, three made the trek from beyond California's borders. The award for the most distant traveler goes to Jonathan Meyers of Connecticut. The linebacker's father played at Florida, where he holds an offer in addition to one from Maryland. Stanford may also be taking a look at Meyers as a fullback. His family has a close relationship with the family of Alex Fletcher, which played a part in this cross-country visit.
Of the 22 visitors for which we accounted, one did not join the festivities until they were over. Running back Delano Howell was on campus as early as Friday to participate in the Stanford Invitational track & field meet. Per NCAA rules, he could not have contact with the Cardinal coaching staff, however, until after completing his competition. Late on Saturday, he made his way over to the Stanford Football offices, met with the staff and toured the facilities.
Five of the attendees hold Stanford scholarship offers, including Howell and Crist. Wide receiver Chris Owusu and offensive lineman David DeCastro also possessed offers before arriving on campus. The fifth offeree found out that news only at the end of his day. Joseph Fauria was the sole tight end in attendance and called The Bootleg immediately after returning home to Los Angeles that evening with his offer news. He was slated to attend USC's Junior Day the next day. Fauria's interest and excitement for the Cardinal skyrocketed after the eye-opening and eventful day at Stanford.
Our pick of the sleeper recruit in attendance? Safety John Boyett from Napa High School. The 6'0" athlete broke all kinds of school records during his junior season - rushing, receiving and returning more than 2,500 yards and 20 touchdowns. He added another score, 104 tackles and six sacks on defense. Boyett was the Napa County Player of the Year, and we think his appearance at Stanford's Junior Day will not be the last we hear about him.
Stay tuned for much more on the activities of the day and the reactions from the recruits, as we deliver reports on each of the headliners. Some of the key items on Saturday's agenda included a guided campus tour, a tour of Stanford's football and athletic facilities, lunch, a player panel and taking in the Stanford-UCLA baseball game at Sunken Diamond. The baseball game capped the day's events, which probably did few favors for the football program. Stanford was battered early and often, with an 11-0 deficit in the first six innings. The last recruit and family we saw sticking out the late innings of the game was Ryan Griffin, who was with former Stanford player and new staff member Jon Haskins.
The player panel was hailed by recruits as a unique highlight of the day. The coaches cleared out while recruits and their families could engage in a more private and frank Q&A session with Alex Fletcher, Richard Sherman, Udeme Udofia and Anthony Kimble for the "no holds barred" look at the program. It is a time-tested truth that Stanford's players are its best assets when recruits come on campus, but we also have heard exceptionally favorable feedback on the Cardinal coaching staff. The positive energy, personality and charisma of the coaches earned rave reviews and was as big a piece as any to the day's marked success.
The Bootleg's unofficial list of March 31 Stanford Junior Day attendees
WR/CB Osa Aikhionbare - Los Angeles (Calif.) Ribet Academy
DB/ATH John Boyett - Napa (Calif.) High School
QB Byron Campbell - Bakersfield (Calif.) Liberty High School
DT Sammy Cervantes - Imperial (Calif.) High School
QB Dayne Crist - Sherman Oaks (Calif.) Notre Dame High School
C/OG David DeCastro - Bellevue (Wash.) High School
OG/DL Jacob Farley - Lompoc (Calif.) Cabrillo High School
TE Joseph Fauria - Encino (Calif.) Crespi High School
QB Ryan Griffin - West Hills (Calif.) Chaminade College Prep
DE Ross Gruber - North Hollywood (Calif.) Harvard-Westlake School
QB Greg Hoffman - St. Louis (Mo.) Priory School
QB B.R. Holbrook - Newhall (Calif.) Hart High School
QB Corey Howard - Burbank (Calif.) Burroughs High School
RB/DB Delano Howell - Newhall (Calif.) Hart High School
QB Drew McAllister - Danville (Calif.) Monte Vista High School
FB/LB Jonathan Meyers - Greenwich (Conn.) High School
RB Roman Owens - San Diego (Calif.) Marian Catholic High School
WR/S Chris Owusu - Westlake Village (Calif.) Oaks Christian School
DE Chris Pousson - San Diego (Calif.) St. Augustine High School
QB Kevin Prince - Encino (Calif.) Crespi High School
QB Beau Sweeney - Fresno (Calif.) Clovis West High School
OG A.J. Wallerstein - Canyon Country (Calif.) Canyon High School
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