As the Stanford Football calendar goes, April is for spring practices and May is for recruiting. However, there were a number of prospective student-athletes who visited Stanford during the Cardinal's spring ball, including two who subsequently made verbal commitments. The biggest hitter of the April visitors may have been the last, with four-star safety Dan McCarthy tripping from Youngstown (Ohio) Cardinal Mooney High School last weekend with his family. The 6'2" athlete, ranked by Scout.com as the #21 overall prospect in the Midwest, had a full itinerary during his two days on The Farm:
"I flew out Friday morning with my parents and my grandfather," McCarthy begins. "We left early in the morning and got there around 11 or 12 o'clock. We stayed right across from campus, so we were able to over and sit in some meetings. I was able to sit in some defensive and special teams meetings. I'm pretty close with Coach [D.J.] Durkin, so he kind of showed me around. From there, we met with Coach [Jim] Harbaugh. Coach [Clayton] White, the secondary coach, and Coach [Scott] Shafer, the defensive coordinator - I met with both of them. Then we went out to practice. It was good to see how practice went. It was a walk-through because of the Spring Game the next day, but it had good intensity and was a good practice.
"From there we went out to dinner with some of the coaches. It was on Stanford campus. They made sure everything was legal with that. We had a good time. That was a lot of fun. It was good talking with those coaches. They're great guys and really know a lot about the game. They're all good coaches.
"We had breakfast the next day with Coach Durkin and Coach White. From there we took a tour with Coach Durkin around the campus. He really took us on the whole tour, and I thought the campus was a really nice place. They have a lot of great things out there. We met with academic advisors. You know, their academics are one of the top in the country, and I think that's a great thing.
"From there we went to the Spring Game. I was able to meet some of the other recruits - some of the guys who are coming in this year's class and a couple guys who would be in my class. It was good talking with those guys. After the game, we had a barbeque with all of the players and coaches. It was good to talk to some of the players and see how things really go out there. Everyone was for the most part pretty friendly. There were a lot of good people out there.
"That was pretty much it. It was definitely a trip worth the time."
The importance of this unofficial visit goes beyond McCarthy's ability and his stature as a Class of 2008 recruit. He has previously told us his timeline for a college decision by the end of the summer, before he starts his senior season at Cardinal Mooney and defense of their state championship. Prospective student-athletes cannot take official visits until the start of their senior year of high school, which means that McCarthy's unofficial visits this spring and summer are tantamount to official visits.
Thus, the impression Stanford made this past weekend was likely the make-or-break event in their recruitment of the four-star safety.
"I'm not really shying anyone away. I'm still open and want to see what everyone has to say," McCarthy updates. "I'm hoping after this month, when all the coaches come in, to narrow it down. The schools I narrow it down to, I'd like to visit them during the summer. Then take it from there."
"Ideally, I'd like to do that," he adds. "But if that's not possible, then I don't have any problem going into the season still undecided. I'm just waiting until I feel right. I'm just taking it one step at a time."
The question of the day for the Cardinal of course asks: how does Stanford stack up in his thinking after the visit?
"Everywhere I visit, it just makes my decision harder," he laughs. "There are so many great schools out there. It's really going to be a tough decision."
"As far as my top schools go, I would definitely say that Stanford ranks up there among some others," McCarthy offers. "I'm not quite sure what all of my favorites would be right now, but I would have to say that they are up there... It's hard to narrow things down, but the schools I have visited - Michigan, Notre Dame, Ohio State and Penn State - are all great schools as well. We'll just have to see how it goes."
One comparison McCarthy is able to make after these visits is what he saw on the football field. His timing allowed him to watch Stanford's Spring Game this past weekend, which came one week after taking in the same in South Bend. McCarthy spent his time Saturday on the defensive sideline in Stanford Stadium and enjoyed a dominant performance by the defense.
"I was really focusing on the safeties and the kind of schemes that they do," he reports. "They had a lot of good things going there. I noticed that they blitz a lot, and they do a lot of the same stuff I do at my high school. That could be a good fit."
"The coaches think I fit in great there," McCarthy says. "They like really athletic guys. They feel that since I play offense and make plays on offense, I could carry some of that to the defensive side of the ball. Knowing from the offensive perspective what an offense likes to do, they think that would be a good fit for me."
The greater the distance between a recruit and Stanford, the more revealing the visit to The Farm can be. Recruits in the West have more exposure to and familiarity with the school and its surroundings, but the gap can be be substantial between expectation and reality for a resident in the Midwest or East. McCarthy had heard the stories about Stanford and felt the reality measured up well.
"I have heard a lot of really good things about Stanford," he says. "The coaches told me that it was hard to fully explain it to me, and that I would have to get out there to really show me all about it. Everything I heard about it was true in a good way. It's definitely a great place. There are a lot of good things going there."
"I think their academics is one of the best assets about the school," McCarthy adds. "I didn't have any real concerns leaving. I thought they covered everything pretty well."
Selling Stanford to a prospect in Ohio also means bringing the family on board. Most of the recruiting losses in the Midwest can be traced to family anxiety over the distance from home. The fact that both of McCarthy's parents joined him on this visit was every bit as important as his experience.
"They all had the same impressions that I did. They thought it was a great place as well," says the son. "The distance doesn't really affect me, and it doesn't affect my family either. They want me to go to the place that best fits me. That's what I'm looking for, too."
McCarthy is also looking to close strong in the classroom at Cardinal Mooney, as his junior year wraps. He says he is on target for a GPA in the 3.75 ballpark, with a handful of honors classes. McCarthy was proudly inducted just recently into the National Honor Society, as well. His last day of classes is June 5, after which he will sit down for the ACT on June 9. McCarthy is currently taking prep courses for the standardized test, and with good reason.
"They said that I have to apply first and go through admissions," he says of Stanford's unique dynamic. "Coach Durkin will be in on Wednesday, and he'll bring an application. We'll go from there."
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