Fab 48 Hours Continues

In case you have been hibernating the past day or two, you have been missing the most exciting and quick-changing recruiting developments seen in years for Stanford football. The Card received a pair of huge commitments yesterday, and word is coming today on three more. Throw in some changes of heart, and outstanding admissions drama still to play out, and you have a whirlwind of activity to catch up on.

Yesterday, the Cardinal received commitments from two of the top talents on the West Coast, regardless of position, when both Mark Bradford and Michael Okwo announced their verbal commitments to Stanford.  Absent those commitments, Stanford could have been left a little lacking at the receiver and linebacker positions in this class, but now they have can boast the presence of a pair of nationally prominent players.

Bradford stands at 6'0" and weighs 185 pounds, ranked by TheInsiders as the #12 wideout in the country and the #84 player in the country at any position.  The Rivals recruiting network has pegged him as the #6 receiver in the land, and the #45 recruit overall in America.  His recruitment was a heated battle between Stanford and LSU, rarely found together in a recruiting matchup, until late last week when the Card's dance partner changed.  Bradford tells The Bootleg that his suitors from the SEC informed him that they were full-up on scholarships, given their most recent spat of commitments, and that at this late date they very regretfully had no more room for Bradford.  Shocking though it may sound that a school could run out of slots when in the running for a top 10 national receiver, remember that LSU often doles out as many as 70 or 80 offers to fill its NCAA maximum of 25 spots in any one class.  Picking up the Tigers' abandoned place was USC, where Bradford visited unofficially on Thursday and came away very impressed.  According to Bradford they sold him on their need at wide receiver, the prominence of their rising passing proficiency, the history of the program and the connections in L.A. made after graduation from USC.  But he says that the academic offerings that Stanford gives him, which will buoy his future after college is behind him, tugged inexorably at him.  An in-home visit Saturday from Buddy Teevens, David Kelly and Tom Williams spoke to the offense and football they can offer him, but also to the lifetime advantages accrued with a Stanford education.  That night, Bradford felt a strong lean toward the Cardinal, and experienced no change when he awoke Saturday.  He finalized his commitment to the Card by calling the coaches Sunday afternoon and sharing the exciting news with them.  The turnaround story on this recruiting battle is a tremendous one, with Stanford off Bradford's radar and left for dead late this fall, now rising up to win the final tussle over the likes of USC, UCLA and Notre Dame.  Even though LSU essentially dropped out late, Bradford says that he would have picked Stanford anyway because of the tremendous academic opportunities.

Bradford is also a basketball star, including his awards as one of the top players in California and Los Angeles in his underclass years at John C. Fremont High School.  He is an outstanding scorer with a good handle and great quickness and leaping ability, though he plays more like a shooting guard in a point guard's body.  Stanford welcomes all the help they can receive in the backcourt, and Bradford brings a lot of toughness and athleticism to Stanford basketball.

Okwo has been one of the strangest recruiting stories of the year, publicly favoring Stanford through the summer and fall, only to turn on a dime early in January after his official visit to Stanford.  He revealed then that he did not feel comfortable at The Farm, and wanted to take a similar visit the next weekend to UCLA to gauge its comfort level, and then likely commit to the Bruins.  But the official visit never transpired, and late last week it was reported by Greg Biggins that Okwo had reversed field to favor Stanford after lukewarm interest from UCLA.  The Bootleg checked two very independent UCLA sources, both of whom stated that the Bruins were passing on the supposedly undersized (6'0") linebacker, holding that sholarship for next year's class.  But further digging has revealed that Okwo turned in favor of Stanford earlier than any of these reports had hinted, stretching back to a phone conversation Okwo had with Stanford head man Buddy Teevens on Friday January 24.  The Manhattan Beach two-way star, who was named the California Linebacker of the Year just recently, warmed up to the Cardinal at that time and gave as much an indication to UCLA.  We may never uncover who soured on whom first in the Okwo/UCLA drama, but the soap opera came to a close Sunday when he called Stanford to tell them of his commitment.  That final word came only though after he flew up to check out the school once last time on Saturday.  He spent the evening there, plus half of Sunday, to gauge his comfort level.  The returns were much more positive than his January trip, and gave him the peace of mind to make the Cardinal his choice.  Okwo is rated the #16 linebacker in the country today by TheInsiders, after capping a stellar senior season at Mira Costa High School at both running back (2481 yards and 30 TDs) and linebacker (130 tackles and seven sacks), and had his pick of offers all up and down the West Coast.

Though neither of these stories are completely closed.  Both Okwo and Bradford submitted their applications very late in the recruiting process, with each of them reaching the admissions office the middle of last week.  As of their commitments Sunday, neither recruit had been accepted, which makes their place in this class a little tenuous.  Bradford has one class on his transcript that has stood out with some concern for the Stanford admissions staff, which is trying today to get in touch with one of his teachers to discuss the class and any circumstances that surrounded it.  If that check clears, Bradford may be set for an acceptance.  Okwo is still under review and his decision may come as late as Signing Day on Wednesday.  If he surprisingly falls through the cracks, the Stanford staff will have to act swiftly on one of three other linebackers in the crosshairs: Landon Johnson, Blake Shubert and Ricks College junior college potential transferee Cameron Jensen.  Though with the coffers relatively full at linebacker in Stanford's past two classes, it is conceivable that they could pass at the position altogether.

Later today, news should come forth on three more top recruits.  The most uncertain of these announcements will come at 4:00 pm Central Time (2pm on the West Coat), when two-sport standout Jai Miller will reveal his college decision at his high school in Selma, Alabama.  For football, Miller presents a phenomenal athlete who played quarterback the past couple years for his Selma High School team, though he projects as a wide receiver for Stanford and his hot and heavy in-state suitors, Alabama and Auburn.  Miller is a versatile athlete with quickness, leaping ability, smooth change of motion and incredible toughness, which combined with his 6'4" height gives his future college team a powerful weapon in the receiving game.  On the basketball floor, Miller brings those same attributes to the backcourt, where he can handle the ball at a high Division I level, but score in big chunks as a shooting guard.  Just this past Friday night, Miller scored 35 points and grabbed 19 rebounds in a loss, despite his having to play out of position as a forward on his small and undermanned Selma team.

If you have followed Stanford basketball recruiting closely, you might be scratching your head at the thought of Miller coming to join Tim Morris in this class.  After all, Morris is also a 6'4" combo guard, with a good handle, phenomenal athleticism, off-chart strength and lockdown defense.  On paper, Jai Miller might seem to duplicate what Stanford already has coming in Morris - arguably the best player in the state of Georgia and one of the top 50 players in the country.  A layer of irony is applied to this canvas when you note that Morris took a somewhat random unofficial trip to Stanford in October the same weekend that Miller took his big official visit weekend.  The two spent a little time chatting, and recalled perhaps having played against each other in a summer AAU game a few years earlier.  But most surprising is the fact that Miller received a phone call last week from his Georgia counterpart, urging him to commit to Stanford.  Why would Tim Morris want to see another similar athlete come in as ostensibly his position in this class?  Miller answered the question simply stating, "Great players want to play with great players."

Though in-state media reports and recruiting websites bill this battle for Miller as one of the titanic clashes between Alabama and Auburn, the best information actually has pointed for some time to this as a Stanford-Bama fight.  Our queries cannot reveal any late leaning for this two-sport star one way or the other, though a few signs offer some help.  When we spoke with Miller Wednesday night, not long after he concluded his last in-home visit with any school - this one with Staford coaches Buddy Teevens and David Kelly.  I asked what kind of reaction Jai and his family took from the visit, and he said that the Cardinal coaches made a big impression.  His words sounded like the balance had at least returned to neutrality between Stanford and Alabama, which previously looked to be leaning hard toward Tuscaloosa after the prior weekend's extravaganza official visit to Alabama.  Nevertheless, his grandfather has been a loud and clear voice since the beginning in favor of the Crimson Tide, and the reaction of the man who raised this young man like a father was a key indicator of inroads Stanford may or may not have made.

"Grandpa still likes Alabama," the younger Miller revealed Wednesday night, "but he's more and more seeing what Stanford has to offer me.  You see, he went away for school and his father never got to watch him play, and he doesn't want that to happen with me.  He really wants to be able to see as many of my games as he can.  But he knows that this is my decision, and he is going to let me make it.  This is a lifetime decision for me, not a four-year decision."

And that is perhaps the best indicator in favor for Stanford yet.  Recruits use the oft-cited line about a "forty year decision, not a four year decision" exclusively to defend choosing the road less traveled away from home, to The Farm.  It would be a little surprising for Miller choose against the academic opportunities he has long extolled at Stanford, and still describe this is a lifetime decision.  On the flip side, though, Miller told The Bootleg last night that his final decision came to him Thursday night, at which time he sat down with both his grandparents to talk things over.  He says that he told them what he wanted to do, and asked for their reactions and thoughts.  According to Miller, the conversation did not last very long, which might bode poorly for Stanford.  A decision leading him away from home would presumably provoke a longer debate in the Miller home, while a tally for Tuscaloosa might yield little conversation beyond head-nodding and congratulations.  Either way, the Stanford football and basketball offices are on pins and needles waiting for the official word one way or the other this afternoon.

Look for two more recruits from the South to reveal their commitments to Stanford today, as Emmanuel Awofadeju announces his intentions and David Long makes public the decision he conveyed to coaches yesterday.  Awofadeju was a heated battle between Stanford and Notre Dame through much of January, but told The Bootleg last week that he was 95% committed to Stanford.  That commitment did not boil over 100% because he wanted to take one last official visit to Tulane this weekend that just concluded.  Cardinal fans and Cardinal coaches may not much fear the Green Wave as a recruiting foe, but Awofadeju has said all along that he'd like to take as many of his five official trips as possible in this process.  "It's not something you ever really get to do again in your life, and I'd like to take full advantage," he has said.  And though one source has suggested that the Roswell High School (Roswell, Georgia) defensive star even went so far as to give a silent verbal commitment to the Cardinal, he cleaned his hands of any slip in ethics in taking this last trip.

"I told [Tulane] that my intentions were to commit to Stanford, and that I was really high on them," he explains, "but they told me they are fine with that.  They fully understand my strong feelings toward Stanford, but still wanted me to come down and take a look at the school and the town.  I think seeing New Orleans would be a blast, so what do I have to lose?  Especially when they are OK with my taking the trip right when I'm trying to commit to Stanford."

Awofadeju has discussed with his high school coach about perhaps making an announcement at school today, but regardless of the medium, the Nigerian athlete is expected to formally conclude his recruitment today with his commitment to the Cardinal.  He has a frame that could fill out into a pass rushing beast at weakside defensive end, though possesses the speed and athleticism today to play at outside linebacker for Stanford.  He is rated the #45 defensive end in the nation by TheInsiders and the #29 weakside end by Rivals, despite his very quiet recruiting profile before this season.

David Long has continued with a relatively quiet recruiting profile, partially because his 6'10" frame stretches beyond the imaginations of most football coaches.  This supersized offensive tackle can play, though, earning an offer this fall from Stanford and earning continued hot attention from in-state Ole Miss.  When The Bootleg talked to Long just yesterday, he said that he had just concluded his decision and was in the process of trying to reach the coaches at both schools.  "Give me a call tomorrow to find out," he said.  We will call him this evening to get the word straight from his mouth, though our best information indicates that he has given the thumbs up to the West Coast.  If true, that is something of a minor upset, given that there has been some pull within his family to say close to home in a more comfortable and familiar environment, not to mention the fact that Long grew up a Mississippi fan.

Though not transpiring in the last 48 hours, it just came to light yesterday that Georgia defensive tackle David Jackson gave his verbal commitment to Buddy Teevens Wednesday night when he was informed that he had been accepted by Stanford's admissions office.  Jackson has been a complete unknown to recruiting services, given that he was viewed as undersized to play tackle at 6'3" his junior year.  His father, also his high school coach, felt it was not even in his son's interest to fashion any highlight video to send to colleges, which is a critically important tool in the evaluation process.  Stanford stumbled on Jackson late this fall when David Kelly went to visit the elder Jackson, a longtime Georgia high school football coaching contemporary and family friend.  A casual and perfunctory query about the Wesleyan coach's son revealed the surprising data that David had sprouted three inches.  Film soon found its way out to The Farm, and the Cardinal coaches were excited at what they saw.  An offer soon followed, and the rest has played out since.  Jackson is an important addition simply because of the dire need in this class as defensive tackle, where he projects to play once he can fill out his body to match his elongated frame.

One final note: if Bradford and Okwo do clear admissions... if Miller announces for Stanford... and if both Awofadeju and Long reveal their Stanford decisions today, that brings the total count of Stanford accepted scholarship offers to 24.  The NCAA maximum is 25 in any one year, and it is very reasonable that the Cardinal coaches opt to max out in an effort to bolster their thin roster that operated below the 85 scholarship limit this past year.  Who would fill that final remaining spot?  That is a very tough question that may not be answered for the next few days.  Almost every position of even moderate need has been filled in this class, and the one spot that perhaps could use more bolstering would be the defensive backfield.  I don't see any remaining athletes at Stanford's level to fill another slot at corner or safety, though.  Most remaining prospects other than the linebackers mentioned above would be receivers or big bodies, which look to be in no shortage today.

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