Cincinnati (Ohio) St. Xavier High School senior Fred Craig is no stranger to Stanford. The 6'2" 205-pound safety visited The Farm in late April, attending the Spring Game. The two-star prospect at the time held a few regional offers, though the spring evaluation period was about to begin. Afterward, Craig saw his offer list grow to 20, including one in early June from the Cardinal. He decided to make a return trip with his mother to see Stanford again early last week, this time in greater depth.
"It was good on the first visit just to get a sense of the coaching staff and everything," Craig says. "But I hadn't received an offer from Stanford at the time. Obviously it was the Spring Game, so I wasn't able to talk to the coaches as much because they were preparing for the game. I just wanted to come back, see everything again and make sure that it was the way I remembered it. It definitely was. I got a chance to sit down and talk with Coach [Scott] Shafer, the defensive coordinator for a while about their plans for me at Stanford. On Monday I got to go to lunch with all the defensive coaches. I had a tour during that day, and then in the evening I went to dinner with Coach [D.J.] Durkin and his wife."
"The experience with the coaches was really good for me because the only coach I had been in contact with was Coach Durkin, who recruits me," Craig continues. "The first time, they had to cater to everyone. This most recent visit, I was the only person there. I got to really sit down and talk to them and find out how much they really wanted me to come to Stanford and what they really liked about how I play. The first time, it was kind of like a guessing game for me. I didn't really know how interested they were. This most recent visit showed me how highly they think of me and how much they want me to come to Stanford."
The longest conversation during this visit was a 90-minute sitdown with Scott Shafer, which helped describe the Cardinal's defense, where Craig could help and how. While a handful of schools have offered the Cincinnati athlete at safety, his current position at St. Xavier, Stanford is recruiting him for the weakside "Will" outside linebacker position.
"I really enjoy playing safety, but up until my sophomore year I had been playing linebacker. So it's something I'm used to," Craig explains. "As long as I get to play, I don't really care where I play, to be honest. I just want to see the field the fastest way I can, and if the coaches tell me that's at linebacker, then I'll do the best I can playing at linebacker."
"Coach Shafer was telling me that my speed and my toughness are something that would work well at the 'Will' linebacker position," he adds. "He says that my background playing safety in high school is something that would really help me at that position in college because the 'Will' linebacker gets out and covers a lot in open space. That's something I'm used to and something they saw on my tape that they really liked about me - my ability to play well in open space."
"I really like Coach Shafer," the recruit continues. "He's a very intense guy, but you can tell that he's really passionate about what he does. He likes being around young people. That was very attractive to me. When he was at Western Michigan last year, his defense was one of the top-ranked defenses in the country. All of the stats and everything they showed me really stood out. They play an attacking style of defense, and I think that's attractive to a college recruit who wants to go to a school, be successful and get noticed."
Craig's current offer list includes Stanford, Nebraska, West Virginia, Louisville, Michigan State, Indiana, Duke, Cincinnati, Miami (OH), North Carolina State, Vanderbilt, Air Force plus others in the MAC. The Farm sticks out like a sore thumb on Craig's recruiting map, easily the greatest distance from his home. He maintains a perspective, however, that minimizes the importance of geography in his college decision.
"The distance is not really a problem for me," he explains. "I've realized that wherever I go, I'm only going to be allowed to come home a certain amount of time anyways. That was also my second time being out in California, and I really love California. It's beautiful in Palo Alto."
So how does Stanford stack up against their numerous competitors for Craig today?
"I would say Stanford's chances are very good. They're one of my favorites and top schools right now," he replies. "If you consider location, academics, facilities, commitment to excellence in athletics and everything else, I think Stanford is the total package as far as what I've seen from those schools. They have a new coaching staff that is really young and really enthusiastic about what they have there. In my opinion, Stanford stacks up with anywhere else I have been, easily."
The safety/linebacker prospect names six other schools who are also in the running: "Duke, Vanderbilt, Louisville, West Virginia, Nebraska and UC are probably at the top of my list."
Craig says to expect his college commitment in the coming weeks.
"I think I would like to make my choice before the season starts," he offers. "Right now my first priority is to be with my team and not have any distractions with that. I think I would like to get my college chosen. I know that's a big choice, but I would like to get that completed before the start of the season."
"I still haven't gotten a chance, since I got back from Stanford, to sit down with my family and talk about everything," Craig adds. "But I think I'm pretty close to making my choice. I know that I'll have my choice before our first game, which is August 24."
In addition to the Stanford visit post mortem for the Craig family, there is one other item on the agenda before deciding his college future. St. Xavier started their training camp and preseason practices on Monday, leaving only weekend's on Craig's calendar in the next few weeks. One of those weekends, he intends to make one final unofficial visit - to Vanderbilt.
"I would just like to check it out first, to make sure that I'm weighing all of my options," he says.
Craig has everything in order in the classroom, owning a 4.1 weighted GPA and a 94 percent unweighted numerical average. He took AP courses in French and history last year. Craig also scored a 1200 on the SAT, with 600 each on the math and verbal sections. Those numbers suggest smooth sailing for the outside linebacker recruit as he navigates the Stanford admissions application process.
"I talked to Coach Lance Anderson while I was out there, and he said that with my grades and my SAT score, barring a complete disaster, I would almost be a sure shot to get in as a Stanford Football player," Craig shares. "They sent me an application in the mail. I haven't started on it, but I'm going to try to do it soon just because I know it's going to be really tough once football and school starts to be doing that while everything else is going on. I'm going to start it while I have some free time still this summer."
Craig is also gearing up for his senior season at St. Xavier. The 6'2" safety missed three games of his junior season with an eye injury, and the nationally-ranked Bombers (10-2) missed their goal of a repeat state title when they lost in the Regional Finals. Craig will again help anchor the defense again this fall with his standout speed. Earlier this summer at his high school, he was laser timed running a 4.52 40 as part of a biomedical study for the University of Cincinnati Medical School.
"I would like to win a State Championship. I started my sophomore season when we won state, and that was a great experience," Craig says. "That's my first goal, but personal goals I guess would be to be First-Team All-State and First-Team All-League. If I do those things, my team will succeed. That's the direction I would like to go."
Which direction he will take his college recruitment should be determined much sooner, so stay tuned for all the latest as Fred Craig nears his decision.
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