However, the fact is that between his lacrosse season, his schoolwork, and football coaches' spring games, Barker reports his recruitment has been relatively quiet, much quieter than one would expect for Scout.com's No. 10 tight end in 2010 and a three-star prospect.
"It just hasn't been that busy lately, because of spring games and such," Barker told The Bootleg in an exclusive interview Wednesday. "Some coaches I know are coming up to visit in May, [defensive coordinator Ron] Lynn from Stanford is coming up to see me this Friday, and a coach from Tennessee is coming up this weekend too. So my recruitment is just picking up now, but during spring practice, it wasn't that busy."
Despite the relative lull in his recruitment, Barker has acquired 12 offers from Division I schools. In turn, he has trimmed that list down to eight serious contenders.
"The schools I'm considering are down to eight," Barker said. "Right now, I'm focusing on, in no order, Stanford, Virginia, Florida, Tennessee, Penn State, Boston College, North Carolina and Duke. Those are the schools I've been mainly in contact with. I've got offers from Purdue, Rutgers and Maryland, but I haven't really been talking to those coaches that much."
Barker also has an offer from Syracuse, not in his current top-eight. He reports Boston College was his first offer, Stanford his second, Duke his third, and Florida, Tennessee and Virginia his most recent. Of his eight finalists, Barker can also identify the coaching staffs which are recruiting him the hardest.
"Right now, [tight ends and tackles coach James] Cregg from Tennessee has come on pretty hard, and then Coach Harbaugh and [defensive coordinator Ron] Lynn from Stanford. There's [Tight end coach Brian] White and Coach Meyer from Florida. I talk to the BC coaches too, and Duke's sometimes too."
Barker has visited five of his finalists, and plans on visiting a sixth soon.
"I've been to Stanford, obviously Boston College because it's so close, Duke, UNC and Florida," he said. "I'm planning on hopefully getting to visit UVA, because that's always been a school, putting football aside, that has always been interesting, because it's a good academic school in a good area. So I definitely want to visit there, and then I've been to most of the others."
By the way, many Cardinal fans likely didn't know that Barker isn't the only Buckingham Browne & Nichols 2010 prospect to have earned a Stanford offer. James ("Jimmy") McCaffrey, who plays wide receiver presently but could also be a defensive back in college, stands five feet, 11 inches tall, weighs 185 pounds, and sports one Division I scholarship offer: Stanford's. Scout.com has no profile for McCaffrey, but the Card (unsurprisingly, I suppose) lead for the Massachusetts prospect, according to Rivals.com.
Alongside McCaffrey, Barker made the journey to Stanford's first Junior Day on Feb. 27, and reports he enjoyed the trip.
"It went really well," Barker said. "I got there the day before Junior Day and got to talk to the coaches. The next day was more official Junior Day stuff – a tour of campus, seeing practice, and then sitting down with Coach Harbaugh, and the tight ends coach [Greg Roman] too. It definitely went really well. I love the campus and got to go to one of the classes, so it went well."
Stanford fans may not have known about McCaffrey, but they likely know the Cardinal have a plethora of incoming tight ends – with four signed in the 2009 class, and two already committed to the 2010 class. Though all six prospects will almost certainly not end up at tight end, the Card still appear stacked at the position for the foreseeable future. With strict limits on scholarship numbers, many Stanford fans would therefore like their team to chase prospects at other positions, notably offensive line.
As a player who could play either tight end or defensive end, Barker represents an interesting case study into the Stanford coaching staff's mentality. And per Barker, the staff is plowing full speed ahead – they're recruiting him as a likely tight end.
"Most of the schools I have been talking to like me at tight end, and then some schools could see me playing defensive end too for them, so most could see me playing either way. At Stanford, the tight end coach likes me a lot and the defensive end coach [D.J. Durkin] does too, but they'd probably make me a tight end."
Ultimately, though, Barker's opinion of the coaching staff's football knowledge matters more than the fans', and Barker reports he left the Farm impressed both with Stanford's staff, and with the university as a whole.
"Obviously, it's a very prestigious school competing in the Pac-10, a very competitive league," Barker said. "Right now, they're rebuilding under great coaches. I know that the tight end coach [Roman] is a great guy, with a good background, having coached in the NFL, and I really had a good connection with Coach Harbaugh. I really like the whole staff, and they really showed a lot of commitment to making the program turn around and compete for Pac-10 Championships."
This reporter has heard countless Stanford recruits speak of their bond with Coach Jim Harbaugh, and so he asked Barker just what it was about Harbaugh's personality that so attracts recruits. Barker said one reason recruits feel so able to bond with Harbaugh is a feeling of shared identity, for at heart, Jim Harbaugh is no older than they are.
"I just think he does a really good job of seeing what type of kid you are and bonding with the players," Barker said. "When I went there, he was in the locker room just hanging out with players. He seems like just another kid. It doesn't seem like kids are afraid of him. He seems like a really calm and personable guy, and when you talk to him, he seems very straightforward. It seems like has a great commitment to Stanford and turning their program around, and that just really impressed me."
Lest Stanford fans get too optimistic, however, remember that the Card are but one of eight finalists. In fact, much of what Barker saw in Stanford, he reports he saw in another school as well.
"I think Duke is a lot like [Stanford] too, because their program is on the rise too and they're trying to rebuild under Coach Cutcliffe and a whole new staff with great coaches," Barker said. "I think they'll be successful in turning it around too. I definitely got the same feel academically, and it's in a nice town too, like Stanford."
Before Duke, Stanford or any of Barker's other current top programs learn whether they've survived the next cut, however, they're going to have to wait. As promised, Barker's lacrosse schedule is impacting his football recruiting, as he's loathe to narrow down his list further without doing due diligence, research which Barker won't have time for until summer.
"Right now, during the spring, I can't take any visits too far from home because I'm busy with my lacrosse and school schedule, with games every Saturday," he said. Sometime this summer, I'll talk to my coach, try to narrow it down a little bit, take visits and try to work from there."
While an increasing number of football recruits commit early each year, Barker does therefore plan on waiting until his senior year and taking his official visits before deciding upon a school.
"I've definitely thought about official visits and talked to my coach about it," he said. "It's definitely something to take into consideration. It's really one of the only ways to see how you fit into the environment, with the school and the players. It's a big decision, and so I want to make sure I feel comfortable at a school and really narrow it down before I make a decision, because I wouldn't want to regret anything."
Barker knows what he's looking for in a school.
I look first for academics, and most of the schools I've been looking at definitely fit that mold with great academics," he said. "Then, I look at what commitment there is to the football program, the school's tradition and how competitive they are in their league."
Barker has one final, albeit slightly less crucial, criterion.
"Then another thing to look at is location," he said. "I don't think that'll be a deciding factor, but it's definitely something to think about. I definitely consider myself a Northeast guy. I love Boston. I like it a lot. I go down to Florida every year and I guess it's the same type of place, just warmer. It's definitely nothing like the Deep South.
"I definitely consider myself a Northeast guy, but there's always room for experiencing something different. That's why there are some different schools like Stanford [in my top-eight]. I might want to get away and experience something different."
Academically, at least, Barker's track record does reflect an intellectual curiosity. He sports a 3.2 overall GPA and an 1840 on his SAT.
Stay tuned to The Bootleg as Blake Barker's recruitment continues to heat up.
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