Orange County has been a tough recruiting area for Stanford for several years now, but the Cardinal appear to be making strong inroads with this recruiting class under first year head coach Buddy Teevens. Already in the fold is the verbal commitment of WR/TE Evan Moore from Brea-Olinda HS (Brea, CA), and next may be OL Preston Clover from Laguna Hills HS (Laguna Hills, CA).
The 6'4" 265-pound interior lineman has been familiar to Pac-10 coaches for some time, particularly in California. Though it was the schools in the Pacific Northwest who first jumped to offer Clover. Washington State jumped on early, and then Oregon followed suit. Reportedly, an Oregon coach was down in L.A. checking out Laguna Hills and reported back to head coach Mike Bellotti that this Clover kid was for real and needed to be offered on the spot.
Colorado State and San Jose State have also both offered, with the Rams reported as Clover's leader just a month ago. He has also drawn heavy interest from the Ivy League (Harvard, Penn and Princeton) but says he would like to stay in the Pac-10 or on the West Coast.
But Stanford has emerged onto the scene like a 500-pound gorilla who will likely not be beaten. Even without any offer in hand, the Clovers back in October planned an unofficial visit to come see Stanford for the USC game. Then the Monday before the visit, the Laguna Hills senior received a phone call from Buddy Teevens. Teevens said that he and offensive line coach Steve Morton had reviewed Clover's tape and wanted to offer him a football scholarship to Stanford, conditional upon his acceptance by Stanford admissions.
"I was really excited," recalls Clover, "but my mom was extremely excited. She was just jumping up and down hysterically, almost crying. We had talked as a family before about college options and thought 'wow, wouldn't it be amazing to have the chance to go to Stanford?' I know that I couldn't probably get admitted to Stanford as a regular student, but with football I now have a great opportunity."
In addition to Stanford being a heavy favorite for his parents, Preston Clover is pretty high on the Cardinal as well. "My decision is 95% toward Stanford right now," he glows. "Stanford's pretty much my dream school."
For him to complete that dream, he still has to get admitted, which is a process well underway. Clover says that he has finished his portion of the Stanford application and is just waiting on his teachers to finish writing their recommendations. He is the student body president at Laguna Hills, with a 4.1 GPA and 1260 SAT.
On the football field, Clover brings a unique background from another sport. He has also played goalkeeper in soccer, which demands the highest level of hand-eye coordination, as well as footwork. Put those together with a frame that presents shorter legs and a longer upper body, and you have the package for an outstanding center candidate. Stanford is in dire need of a center, given that last year's deep OL recruiting class really produced a cadre of guards and tackles. He also anticipates redshirting a year and adding 20 to 30 pounds to his frame.
Laguna Hills just completed its regular season last Thursday with a big 33-6 win over Irvine that pushed their record to 6-4, and also vaulted them into the playoffs (after a tense coin toss to break a three-way tie). The Hawks will play Mayfair Friday in the first round of the playoffs in a rematch of their season-ending loss last year in the playoff semifinals. "We are all really excited to get to play them," says the pumped up senior. "It's definitely payback time." Clover plays at the strongside offensive guard position, and he admits that the Hawks had troubles on the O-line early this year, which have since been fixed. The offense is now humming and averaging over 20 points per game.
Returning to his recruitment, Preston Clover took his first official visit to Washington State this weekend, and has two others scheduled for January (Oregon on the 10th and Stanford on the 17th). His two other official visits remain open at this time. On his other two schools in his top three he says, "Washington State is tops in the Pac-10, which is pretty amazing. Oregon is a little better academically, with a good business school, and they are a good team."
His visit last week to Stanford was a very positive one for him and his family. "The campus was beautiful," he relays, "and the new weightroom and facilities were awesome. I got to meet several of the guys on the team, and they seemed great. Stanford lost to SC, but I got a great impression from the coaches - particularly Steve Morton and Buddy Teevens." Preston's twin sister Crystal bought more Stanford gear on the trip than he did - "She bought out the store." After the visit, their father remarked to Preston that Teevens was a very different coach than he expected. "This isn't a football coach," he joked with his son. "I can relate to this guy!" The son has reached the same evaluation, calling Teevens "not your average coach."
"He is very intellectual and chooses his words carefully," Clover describes. "But at the same time, he wants players who want to go to the NFL. The difference at Stanford is that these players also want the top education."
The younger Clover also beams about Morton, who spent a good deal of time talking with him during the trip. "Coach Morton reminds me of my O-line coach - he doesn't dance around subjects," says the OL recruit. "I like how he doesn't powder-coat anything."
In college, he would ideally like a tailor-made major that combines business, communications and journalism. Why the combination? He says he might like to work on or start a magazine some day. Clover protests that he is not looking to take over The Bootleg, but instead might enjoy working with a car magazine.