Stanford's highest profile offensive line commit since Alex Fletcher and Allen Smith signed nearly four years ago, David DeCastro has only seen his stock rise in the months since his commitment to the Cardinal coaching staff back in May. In the midst of a strong senior season, Scout.com now ranks the son of parents born and raised in South Africa as the #3 center prospect in the nation, the #30 recruit in the West, and the #153 recruit in the entire nation.
His talents have also been recognized by an expanding list of college suitors, including Arizona, Arizona State, Boise State, Cal, Oregon State, Washington, and Washington State, all of whom have joined Stanford in offering the Bellevue (Wash.) High School offensive lineman.
Meanwhile, DeCastro's strong senior year has helped his team bounce back from a disappointing loss in the season's first game and rip off eight consecutive wins heading into the playoffs, which begin this weekend. The top program in Washington, Bellevue has compiled undefeated state championship seasons in two of the past three years and does not want to get used to losing.
"We got off to a rough start in the first game but we've won them all since that game," DeCastro explains. "We're coming together well as a team. We've got some guys back who were injured and kind of beat up for the majority of the season. But now the playoffs are coming and actually pretty much everyone is getting healthy and back together and in shape."
With Bellevue apparently getting healthy at the right time, opponents will be even more hard-pressed to stop the famed Wolverine running game. Despite their injuries, Bellevue has rushed for over 300 yards per game this year, thanks in part to a healthy and effective 6'5" 290-pound people mover on their offensive line in DeCastro.
"Has to be, has to be physical," says DeCastro in describing his style of play. "You've got to move guys. Gotta move them out of the way." DeCastro's gifts, however, go beyond a simple willingness to play physically.
"One of the things that stood out to me was his flexibility and how quickly he came out of his stance and exploded off the line" relates Scout.com West recruiting analyst Brandon Huffman, who personally evaluated DeCastro in September. "He's got great footwork and a real nasty streak. He plays low and doesn't play stiff. He's going to make a heck of an interior offensive lineman for the Cardinal."
As DeCastro builds up a body of work showing proficiency at opening holes in the running game, however, he faces questions regarding his ability to function in pass protection sets at the college level. While consistently racking up 300 or more yards of rushing offense brings Bellevue ever closer to another state championship, the future Cardinal lineman gets little practice in the pass blocking work that will serve as such a central part of his life in the Pac-10. Indeed, as he admits, "we don't pass at all." Nonetheless, DeCastro shrugs off concerns about his abilities to adapt to the next level.
"I think it'll be alright," DeCastro offers. "I think I'm athletic enough and smart enough to learn pass blocking."
In addition to the project of learning pass blocking, DeCastro's acclimation to college football will undoubtedly involve the vagaries of a specific position on the line. Although DeCastro possesses 14 games of junior year starting experience as a center and has been projected as a center by recruiting analysts, it may not necessarily be set in stone that he will man the middle of the line in college. With current backup center Bert McBride and Oklahoma transfer Chase Beeler both having three years of eligibility left after this one, Stanford may face a more pressing need at one of the guard positions. Moreover, DeCastro's footwork and high school experience playing every position on the line may make him a candidate for duty at other positions on the line besides center.
For his part, DeCastro does not dwell on thoughts of his future position in college. "I'm not really too worried about it," DeCastro shrugs. "Whatever is best for the team."
While DeCastro's future college position remains an open question and one that can be answered further down the line, the fall of a prospect's senior year brings milestones that presents recruits with more immediate opportunities and responsibilities. First among those rituals for DeCastro this fall was his official visit to Stanford, which he took in September during the weekend of the home game against the high-flying Oregon Ducks. Joined on the trip by a dozen other Cardinal recruits including fellow 4-star commit Andrew Luck, DeCastro reports decidedly positive reflections on the experience.
"It was cool, man," DeCastro recalls. "I saw a lot of good stuff from Stanford. They were down by, what, 25 points but they still managed to come back and take the lead at half, which is pretty good. They didn't give up. The weekend was cool. It was just nice to see the campus and see how good it is. It was an extraordinary place – all the people and the campus."
The weekend also gave DeCastro an opportunity to begin bonding with some of the recruits who will become his future teammates. "I met a bunch of them," DeCastro shares. "I met the quarterback and some other guys. They're all really cool guys. I like them a lot." He feels like he was able to start building relationships with future teammates, though "it will be a lot stronger once I get there and start playing with them."
In the weeks after returning from his official visit, DeCastro completed the next, and most important, milestone of his recruitment by submitting his completed Stanford Admission application.
"I sent it in," the recruit reveals. "I think it was in at the beginning of October, so now I'm just waiting for a reply."
With the application in, DeCastro must now wait to be accepted before his months-long plan to continue his education in Palo Alto can proceed toward the reality of signing on the dotted line with Stanford on Signing Day. Coming into his senior year, DeCastro boasted a 3.6 unweighted cumulative GPA and a score of 29 on the ACT to go along with a steady diet of Advanced Placement courses during high school. That stellar academic profile makes DeCastro a presumptive future Cardinal, but like all other recruits, he must wait for word back from Stanford's Office of Admission before his offer can become final. He expects to hear back soon. "I'm hoping as soon as possible."
While he waits, DeCastro has kept a close eye on Stanford's progress on the football field. When asked for thoughts on the season to date, DeCastro immediately pointed to the season-defining, national headline-making upset of USC.
"I mean, (laughs) USC! It's pretty amazing. I think it's really a turning point. Coach Harbaugh is turning it around. He's doing a lot of good stuff."
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