Standard disclaimer – Yes, we know recruiting is an inexact science and that it's impossible to judge a player's contributions until he graduates. And yes, we also know (all too well, for that matter) that verbal commitments made in June are non-binding. With that said, here's how Vaughters stacks up to some of the bigger names in recent Stanford football history, using a few relatively objective criteria.
Although getting an accurate assessment of a recruit's offer list can often be difficult, the quality and quantity of schools interested in a prospect is one of the more useful barometers to judge his talent. And with nearly 40 scholarship offers from major football powers coast to coast, Vaughters' offer sheet certainly reads like one of an elite prospect. The 6-foot-2, 232-pounder reportedly boasts tenders from every national champion of the BCS era except Texas – and reports indicate that if Vaughters had decided to commit on the spot, he could have picked up an offer from the Longhorns. Suffice it to say, you'd be hard pressed to find a prospect with a more impressive list of suitors.
To find a Stanford recruit with a comparable list of offers, you'd have to go back several years. While Shayne Skov and Andrew Luck were rated similarly by the major recruiting services, neither had the depth or quality of offers as Vaughters, although that was at least partially the case because of choice. Class of 2005 defensive tackle Ekom Udofia was the last Stanford recruit to have a comparable list of offers – Udofia claimed reported tenders from Miami, Oklahoma, USC, Nebraska, Georgia, Tennessee, and LSU, among others. A severe ankle injury in his senior year led to Udofia getting downgraded by several recruiting services, though.
Looking further back in Stanford history, we find the class of 2002 produced several prominent recruits. Five star quarterback Trent Edwards was universally hailed as one of the top prospects in the nation, but didn't really have an offer list to write home about. According to data from Scout and Rivals, Edwards did have offers from elite programs like Florida, Michigan, and UCLA, but lacked the depth of Udofia or Vaughters' offer list. That's easily explainable by Edwards' position, though.
The best comparison to Vaughters, in many ways, might be found way back in the class of 2002, in the form of Woodward Academy (College Park, Ga.) defensive end Julian Jenkins. A 6-foot-4, 230 pounder who also hailed from the Peach State, Jenkins was Scout's No.1 defensive end in the country. Jenkins made official visits to the likes of Michigan, Notre Dame, Penn State, and Miami before deciding on Stanford. In addition to that quartet of collegiate powers, Jenkins reportedly held offers from schools like Georgia and North Carolina, among others.
So, in the last ten Stanford recruiting classes dating back to 2002, Vaughters surely has one of the top three offer sheets, and quite possibly claims the best.
While some recruiting observers prefer to rate players based on the quality of schools pursuing a prospect, others prefer to rely on recruiting rankings.
Using data from the two main scouting services, Scout and Rivals, Vaughters again compares favorably to recruits in recent Stanford history, although there have been a number of Cardinal recruits ranked similarly.
Vaughters is Stanford's highest rated 2011 recruit on Scout at No. 71 in the nation, but only comes in at No. 121 on the Rivals national list – behind Stanford commitment Anthony Sarao and only a few slots ahead of Amir Carlisle. It is important to note that Vaughters has suffered through a nagging wrist injury in the past few months, and it's possible that a healthy, productive senior year could push him even further up the national rankings.
Listed below is the average recruiting ranking of the top commit(s) in each of Stanford's last 10 recruiting classes, dating back to 2002. Note that Scout didn't compile a top 100 list prior to 2004.
James Vaughters: Scout/Rivals average of 96
Class of 2010: No top 100
Class of 2009: Shayne Skov: Average of 42.5
Class of 2008: Andrew Luck: Average of 57.5
Class of 2007: No top 100
Class of 2006: No top 100
Class of 2005: Ekom Udofia: Average of 61.5
Class of 2004: Alex Fletcher: Five-star, No. 2 OL on Scout, Four-star, No. 3 Center on Rivals
Class of 2002: Trent Edwards: Five-star and No. 2 QB on Scout and Rivals. No. 20 overall by Rivals.
Julian Jenkins: Five star on Scout, No.1 DE in the nation. No. 43 overall by Rivals, No. 2 DE
Judging by the above criteria, Vaughters again proves to be one of the elite recruits Stanford has pulled in recent years. Though his recruiting rankings might not be as impressive as his offer list, Vaughters would have been a class headliner for several recruiting cycles.
Even then, if Vaughters' offer list and ranking aren't enough to excite Stanford fans about his commitment, consider the following. Stanford has signed a number of Georgia prospects over the last couple of years, and come close but struck out on a handful of others. With the name recognition Vaughters brings to the table as a well-known and highly regarded prospect in the Southeast region, the Cardinal coaching staff hopes his commitment will serve to further legitimize Stanford's recruiting efforts in that part of the country. Vaughters certainly seems willing to do his part in bringing more top talent to Palo Alto.
"I can soon focus on my senior year, and also help to build a great recruiting class for the school I choose," Vaughters told The Bootleg earlier this week. "In order to win a national championship, we have to start with some great players and teammates and I want to be able to help with that."
So while it's virtually impossible to quantify the impact of Vaughters' Cardinal commitment (assuming it sticks, of course, unlike the last four-star Georgia recruit to commit to Stanford) it's safe to say Vaughters' commitment is a major coup of Jim Harbaugh and the rest of the Stanford coaching staff.
The Bootleg will have much more on Vaughters in the next few days, so stay tuned!
Are you fully subscribed to The Bootleg? If not, then you are missing out on all the top Cardinal coverage we provide daily on our award-winning website. Sign up today for the biggest and best in Stanford sports coverage with TheBootleg.com (sign-up)!