For the second straight year, the position group where Stanford football has the greatest need for players is on the offensive line. The only recruit from three classes ago is Kwame Harris, and with the need for him to play his first year, that leaves a completely vacant redshirt sophomore class. Only one body occupies the redshirt freshman class in Brian Head. Yes, just one young man was left behind for two entire classes on the offensive line by the last staff.
Indeed, the Card have a depth chart that could be stripped even closer to the bone. The three starters on the interior of the offensive line this year were all seniors. That left fourth year player Dustin Stimson to backup all three interior spots, and when he became a starter after Paul Weinacht's season-ending injury, that left just redshirt freshman Brian Head as the only available body. Stimson and classmate Edmond O'Neal are graduating this spring, and true junior Kwame Harris is on the cusp of entering the NFL draft this spring as a first round selection. To save you the math, Stanford will be sporting a starting offensive line next fall with three or four redshirt or true freshmen starting across the five positions.
While the prospects for Stanford's offense next year may be frightening in this light, the prospects for O-line recruits are correspondingly off-scale. You can certainly understand why linemen are lined up for the Card this year, with more top prospects than at any other position. One prospective student-athlete at the top of that list is elite Cretin-Derham Hall big man Ryan Harris, and he is coming to visit Stanford this weekend.
Harris is currently ranked the #7 offensive lineman in the entire country by TheInsiders recruiting experts, with offers littering every corner of the country. From Stanford to Wisconsin, Oregon to Michigan, USC to Illinois, Notre Dame to UCLA, Miami to Minnesota. Harris is wanted and wanted badly, additionally as a prospect who might help out on the defensive line.
He has narrowed down the list to five schools, and is almost finished taking his official trips to the quintet. He visited Miami earlier in the fall, Notre Dame in November (Rutgers game) and then USC most recently this past weekend (ND game). Stanford is his destination this weekend, and his fifth and final visit will bring him to Ann Arbor next weekend (12/13) to see Michigan.
"I'm wide open," says Harris about his prognosis. "Some people read me wrong, but I'm quiet during visits for a reason. I want to take it all in, and then assess what I have learned later. I am looking for a school that has the best combination of football and education."
A couple of notes of interest on the scheduling of these visits. Good news is that he was originally slated to attend Notre Dame's big banquet visit weekend this weekend, but moved it earlier to make way for a Stanford visit this weekend. The bad news might be that Stanford appears to have been the last of his five official visits to be scheduled, which may reflect weakly on his Cardinal inclinations.
Indeed, he was quote in a recent report as saying that he would take a trip out West to "dot the i's and cross the t's" before making his final decision. That has all the ear-markings of someone who wants to be fair to himself and explore a unique option like Stanford, but doing so with one foot already in the boat for another destination.
As to his three trips in the books, he had this to say about them:
- Notre Dame: "I was impressed by the whole atmosphere and tradition."
- USC: "Their tradition really surprised me. I didn't know how much they had for football there."
- Miami: "Wow. Just the campus and the city were really great."
Reading between the lines, as well as the inflections in his voice, it feels like Miami may have been the most impressive visit and suitor for him to date. Though Harris is a very intelligently spoken young man who is trying hard to keep his cards close to the vest. The first time anyone gets a definite read on him may not come until his final decision later this month.
Harris and his whole family are making the trip to Stanford this weekend, and he has some specific ideas about what he wants to ask, see and learn. He says that he wants to get a feel for the players, what type of offense will be run and how he overall fits in. He furthermore says that he knows full well the outstanding academic side of Stanford, which leave the remaining questions for this visit around football.
"I definitely want to be in an atmosphere were people want to win," he charges. "I'm used to the expectation of winning, and I want to be at a place where people are aiming to win championships."
As to his comments about being used to winning, Cretin-Derham Hall is one of the powerhouse programs in the state of Minnesota, consistently among the top few in the state and always pushing deep into the playoffs. Indeed, talking with this young man it is clear that he is accustomed to the bigtime in high school and is truly ready for the bigtime at the college level. There are just some young men who exude winning and confidence, and Harris is such a person, though without being the least bit overbearing about it.
He notes that coach Peter McCarty was just in the Harris home on Tuesday for a visit, and he spoke to this question. According to Harris, "he says every person there [at Stanford] wants to win a championship." The Minnesota lineman has also spoken with head coach Buddy Teevens several times, noting that Teevens has been particularly adept at communicating with his family. "He has been really good talking with my parents, and that shows me a very important sign of respect," Harris comments.
The Harris family is big on education, according to Ryan, hoping he can land the best academic opportunity possibly available to him. And though he says his eyes are squarely on football this weekend, Stanford will need to score serious points with mom and dad to help beat out the likes of Miami and Michigan.
Returning to the football questions, Harris says he is looking for something deeper than win/loss record. He says he is not very hung up on the performances of this past year so much as the coaching styles and what that may