The Harbaugh Watch: Los Angeles

Recruiting in Southern California is highly competitive, highlighting both the importance and difficulty of the visits made by Jim Harbaugh in May. After hitting Orange County, it was a short drive over to Los Angeles for the Cardinal head coach. He was received with mixed results. Enthusiasm came from a pair of top prospects, but two recruits committed elsewhere were not affected the same.

The Harbaugh Watch: Phoenix
The Harbaugh Watch: San Antonio
The Harbaugh Watch: Houston
The Harbaugh Watch: San Diego
The Harbaugh Watch: Orange County

Oaks Christian School
(Westlake Village, Calif.)

With their position as a powerhouse in prep football, and a pipeline that is producing premier talent year after year, Oaks Christian is a focal destination for college recruiters.  The small private school also offers strong academics, which has played a part in Stanford signing players each of the last two recruiting classes.  Cardinal head coach Jim Harbaugh will likely make the Lions' campus an annual stop on his personal recruiting trail, and he indeed visited in May to see wide receiver offeree Chris Owusu.

"He came by my school, and it was great to see him," the recruit reports.  "I'm definitely happy he came.  We just talked a little bit - bumped a little bit - and that's basically it."

"I don't think a lot of head coaches came to my school, but there were definitely a lot of recruiters," Owusu adds.  "For Stanford, it was great to see the actual head coach, with Coach Harbaugh there.  He's a great guy, and I'm definitely glad he came to see me.  You don't see a lot of head coaches coming out just to see anybody, so I'm glad he came to see me.  They're definitely showing a lot of interest in me, and I'm definitely glad about that."

This was not the first encounter between the Cardinal coach and recruit.  Owusu visited Stanford at the end of March for their Junior Day, fresh off receiving an offer.  He started to establish his relationship and understanding of Harbaugh, which is continuing to develop.

"He seems like a coach who definitely wants to win," Owusu offers.  "From the trip up there I took with my dad, you can tell that he's a winner and a fun guy to be around.  He does everything with his team.  I just really like his personality.  He seems like a fun, caring guy who definitely wants to be a winner."

The reciprocal visits this spring have helped Stanford's position as one of the favorites for the 6'2" speedster.

"Right now, they're definitely near the top," Owusu says.  "Stanford is one of my top schools, as well as some other big-time schools like Notre Dame.  But they're definitely on top and just a great school."

William S. Hart High School
(Newhall, Calif.)

Another early offeree in the Southland who Harbaugh visited was running back/defensive back Delano Howell.

"It was at school during lunchtime.  I was about to lift weights," Howell reports on his encounter.  "That was the first time I actually met him in person, so it was pretty exciting."

You may remember that the 5'11" athlete attended the same Junior Day as Owusu in March.  Howell however was participating that weekend in the Stanford Invitational track & field meet, which prevented him from attending the breadth of activities that his peers enjoyed.  Howell only later was able to make it to the football offices for an abridged edition of the Junior Day.  He missed Harbaugh, which made the visit from the Cardinal coach to his school an important one.

"He's a young guy - seems very lively and has a good personality," Howell says of his first impression.  "I think he would bring a good vibe to practice.  He seems like a fun guy and a good coach."

It was also heartening for Howell to receive Harbaugh and not just a Stanford assistant coach at his school during the spring evaluation period.

"It made me more excited and made me feel that they really wanted me," comments the recruit.  "He also wanted to be there to help make sure that I'm handling my business to make sure I get there."

What business is that?

"Keeping my grades up and whatnot," Howell answers.  "I've been doing the application well.  I'm not rushing on it and just making sure I do what I need to do."

Notre Dame High School
(Sherman Oaks, Calif.)

While Harbaugh was eagerly received at a couple of his stops in Los Angeles, he also ventured into the territory of a recruit already lost to a commitment.  Dayne Crist was one of Stanford's first quarterback offers, and somebody Harbaugh gave great individual attention.  It didn't surprise us to find that the Cardinal coach took another crack at Crist by visiting his school in May, though the reception was polite rather than enthusiastic.

"I'm completely done with my recruiting.  I'm 100 percent committed to Notre Dame, but it was still kind of flattering," Crist comments on the visit.  "We definitely built a nice relationship throughout the course of my recruitment, and I have nothing but respect for Stanford and their program.  I know that Coach Harbaugh is going to do some great things out there."

"I definitely let him and Coach [Tim] Drevno know that I'm 100 percent committed, but I appreciate what they did coming out of their way to visit me," he adds.  "Again, I have nothing but respect for them and wish them nothing but the best."

The four-star quarterback says that Stanford was not alone in trying to see him this spring, despite his Irish pledge.  That could grate on the nerves of some 17-year-olds, but Crist has handled the continued attention with considerable grace.

"There have been a lot of coaches coming by.  We have a lot of talented D-I prospects at our school," he says.  "It's all about being cordial with all the coaches and showing them nothing but respect.  These coaches came all the way to see you, so the least you can do is show them respect."

Crespi Carmelite High School
(Encino, Calif.)

Notre Dame also landed Joseph Fauria earlier this spring, not coincidentally a childhood friend of Crist's.  Harbaugh similarly rolled the dice during his time in Los Angeles and visited the 6'7" tight end at his school.

"It was right after morning practice, and I had a little bump into him," says Fauria.  "I didn't really have many words with him.  It was mostly 'Hi, how're you doing?' and 'How does the team look?'  I also said hello to the tight ends coach with him.  They basically said that eight months is a long time.  That's basically it."

"It's always good to know that a school doesn't want to give up," the recruit reacts.  "I have a couple schools still going, but most of them have dropped out because they basically know they can't compete now that I've committed."

Who other than Stanford has kept up their pursuit?

"Cal offered me after I committed," Fauria shares.  "Michigan State has lightly recruited me.  They started recruiting me just two days before I committed, and I think maybe would have offered if I hadn't committed then.  They haven't offered, and I think they are going to stop because I think they know that my commitment is pretty strong."

"Recruiting has slowed down dramatically since I committed," he adds.  "It's a really good thing.  I made my decision, and I'm happy with my decision.  I get to spend more time on my family and spend more time on my schoolwork.  I can concentrate on football without having the hassle of waking up to six different schools texting me in the morning."

Fauria says that although Stanford sent their area recruiter as well as their head coach to see him in May, he feels like that may be the final foray for the Cardinal.

"I think they've basically stopped recruiting me.  I haven't had new text messages or contact from them," Fauria offers.  "I think for the most part, they came for my quarterback."

Kevin Prince, the 6'2.5" signal caller for Crespi, is close friends with Fauria and the two traveled together to Stanford two months ago for the school's Junior Day.  While Fauria is ostensibly off the board, Prince is still in play and has seen his recruitment pick up in the last month.

Prince says that Harbaugh saw him briefly, along with Fauria, in the morning after their workout.  The Cardinal coach then went to the Crespi football office to watch film of Prince.  The two bumped later in the day, after Utah and Nevada had just offered the quarterback.  Harbaugh was not the bearer of such good news.

"I didn't get the impression that he was very interested in me," Prince reports.  "He wants me to come up for an individual camp, where he is going to have five or six other quarterbacks up there.  I don't know how many quarterbacks he has offered, but I'm obviously not one of them.  I kind of got the vibe that he wasn't too interested in me."

"We've had a bunch of coaches come by the school, including talking to a few head coaches," the recruit continues.  "When I can talk to coaches, I know that they are interested in me because they want to get to know me more.  They sit and talk to you a little bit longer than Coach Harbaugh did."

"I was a little disappointed because when I went up to Stanford for their Junior Day, I really liked it up there," Prince admits.  "I liked the campus and loved the coaching staff.  I definitely didn't rule them out completely, but as of right now they haven't shown as much interest in me as other schools have."

While the Cardinal may be moving in a different direction, Prince is enjoying increasing options and opportunities.

"Right now I have offers from Air Force, Wyoming, San Diego State, Utah and Nevada," he shares.  "I'd say that the schools showing me the most interest who haven't offered are Washington, Boise State and BYU.  I'm actually in Utah right now for a one-day tryout camp at BYU.  Hopefully I can get a scholarship offer from them soon, as well as Boise State and Washington.  Those are the schools who have been contacting me the most."

If the primary message from Harbaugh was an invitation to attend the Cardinal's camp later this month, but Prince is not feeling the love, then is it unlikely that the quarterback will attend?

"Not necessarily," cautions the quarterback.  "I'm going to have to see how that fits into my schedule.  I'm attending a bunch of other camps, and if a camp at a school where I have higher interest conflicts, then I might choose it over Stanford's camp.  But if I can make it up to Stanford, I would love to do that."

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