Stanford scored big - very big.
Emeka Nnoli has given Stanford football its second verbal commitment for the 2003 class, and that fills a tremendous need for the Cardinal with a tremendous player. With the early end to Chris Rudiger's football career (back condition), Stanford was left in desperate need for a standout fullback in this class. Though fullback is not as sexy as many other skilled positions on the field, a look at Stanford's last two games can attest to the impact this position can have on the field. And Stanford matched this important position with the top recruit to fill it, in Emeka Nnoli.
Nnoli is currently rated by both SuperPrep and Rivals as the #1 fullback in the country, and The Insiders has him as the #22 overall back in the country, including all tailbacks. Allan Wallace of SuperPrep indeed thinks so much of Nnoli that he tabbed the Natomas senior as the only fullback in his pre-season All-American list. Rivals has placed Emeka Nnoli in their list of the top hundred overall players in the country. Yeah, this kid is a stud.
He earned that reputation with the body of a fullback that has rumbled through defenses like a fleet-footed tailback, racking up 1700 yards and 22 touchdowns at an incredible 12 yards per carry as a junior. Then this past spring at the Palo Alto Nike Camp, Nnoli shocked onlookers with his 4.09 pro agility shuttle time, beating out most of the receivers and tailbacks in the camp. His quickness at his size (6-1, 219) is ridiculous.
These skills and abilities helped to earn Nnoli scholarship offers from USC, Washington and Cal, in addition to Stanford.
And though Nnoli has maintained throughout his recruiting process that Stanford has been his leader, it was a very quick decision that he delivered Thursday evening when he talked with Stanford head coach Buddy Teevens on the phone. Teevens called that night to inform Nnoli that he had just been accepted by Stanford Admissions, and the young man was immediately excited. Emeka asked Buddy to hold on a second while he went to go tell his mother of the good news. Then he got back on the phone and promptly told Coach Teevens that he wanted to commit to the Cardinal.
"He was really happy," said Nnoli of Teevens' reaction to the commitment, "and then I could hear the cheering and reactions of other coaches in the background."
Though Emeka Nnoli is a highly rated recruit, with heavy interest from several schools, he had good reason to commit early. "I want to have time to concentrate on my senior year and my senior season," he said. The timing of the decision was completely dictated by the timing of his admissions acceptance, and Nnoli says that was the only thing we was waiting for. So why then the surefire focus that Stanford was the right place for Emeka?
Conventional logic looks at Stanford's depth chart and sees that no fullback is on the roster any younger than the current junior class. A fullback in high school today could redshirt next fall behind the then-senior class, and then find himself all alone as the king rooster his redshirt freshman year. The table is set for Emeka to come in and have four years as a starter at the position. But the young man from Elk Grove, CA says that was not really core to his decision and called the depth chart layout "icing on the cake."
The cake of which Emeka speaks is the essence of Stanford. "It was just their combination that attracted me," said Nnoli. "They are one of the elite colleges in the country."
He went on further to talk excitedly about the message he next wants to deliver to other Stanford recruits, hoping to bring them on board"
"There is a new head coach, and the future for the Stanford Cardinal is very bright," charges Nnoli. "We have everything you want academically, and athletically can challenge anyone in any season."
Speaking of interacting with recruits, Emeka Nnoli still wants to take his official visit to Stanford, for the experiences it will provide and the chance to mingle with some Cardinal recruits on the fence. On top of that as-of-yet unscheduled visit, the fullback would like to come out for the home games versus Arizona and USC this fall.
Though Nnoli has plenty to focus on with his own schedule at Natomas. They opened up this past weekend with a tough loss to McClymonds, dropping a 12-7 decision. Though he did not yet have stats when I talked with him, Emeka offered up that he was able to get more done defensively than offensively. Looking forward, he feels his high school team will be "OK" on defense, but has some offensive concerns.
"It is going to be tough to run behind the new offensive line this year," commented Nnoli. "There are a lot of new guys, and it's going to take some learning and time for them to adjust."
If you live in the Sacramento area, you certainly want to take a Friday evening this fall to watch Emeka Nnoli, and he recommends two big games on their schedule that should be big fun to watch: October 11 vs. Granite Bay and October 18 at Rocklin. For nostalgia's sake, maybe you would even check out the November 1 home game against Del Oro, Randy Fasani's old high school.
In addition to football this fall, Emeka is getting settled into his senior year of classes, including calculus. Unlike most high school seniors, Nnoli gets fired up about calculus and math, which are important precursors to his intended area of study at Stanford: computer science and electrical engineering.
Just as exciting as Nnoli gets toward math, he is excited to be at Stanford next fall. In parting, the upstanding Natomas senior had this to say to Stanford fans, parents and coaches:
"Casey Moore provides big shoes to fill, but I am ready for the challenge. I am going to come in and make an impact at Stanford, and do all of my best for the program."
Side bar: There is a lesson here for those who are easily affected by every quote or recruiting rumor from a prospect, as exemplified by the end game with Emeka Nnoli versus the perception at this time last month. In mid-August, one report indicated that Nnoli might make his decision as late as November this year, which was quickly interpreted by folks on a Cal message board to mean that the Bears were making headway against this previous Stanford lead. The ensuing panic by the posters on this site reminded all too much of a "Chicken Little" production, with cries of the sky falling on Stanford recruiting.
Instead we now can see with great certainty that Stanford has led all along, and that Emeka had to temper his public comments while he waited for the admissions decision. The greater lesson learned, hopefully, is that there are several of these instances each year. It is not easy to do, but you have to hold off on reading every fragment of every tea leave for those kids who are still waiting for acceptance via Stanford admissions. Until they hear back that word, their guard will be up in public.