"The Lance Anderson Sessions": Part III
Sorry to say it, but this is "Part III", the third and final installment of our three-part sit-down conversation with Stanford Football's Recruiting Coordinator and Outside Linebackers coach Lance Anderson . Read on for Coach's take on potential rule changes, the likely size of the '11 class, the emergence of "contingent commitments", and the challenging issue of "decommits", plus learn which schools Stanford most frequently sees as viable competition on the recruiting trail.
The Bootleg: Moving on to some general recruiting topics, there has been talk that the NCAA would ban schools from offering scholarships to recruits until July 1 after their junior year. What are your thoughts on that possibility and how do you think it would affect Stanford recruiting?
LA: Well, whatever the rules are, we will work within those. I think we'll still be effective with whatever those rules end up being. We have still been able to target guys early and we'll continue to do that. Whether we formally offer them a scholarship or whether we just let them know we are extremely interested in them, I don't know that it really matters that much. The key thing for us is going to be to identify them early and get them on the right track academically, making sure they are taking the right classes, they're getting the test scores that they need to, that kind of thing.
TB: At the same time, according to published reports, you already have 20 commitments for 2011, and wouldn't it seem that a recruit is far more likely to follow through on his academic responsibilities if he has already made a verbal commitment?
LA: You know, I think there definitely is some truth to that. But if the NCAA changes the rule, everybody will be playing by the same rule so it's not like somebody else can offer a guy a scholarship and we can't, or they could be committed somewhere else and not here. I think it will all even out, but again, we have to identify them early, get to them early, and let them know we have serious interest. And we must tell them what they're going to need to do (for Stanford) and get them interested enough to make sure they're doing those things.
TB: With the recent, extended nature of the recruiting process, it seems that there has been the creation of a "contingent", or "non-committable" offer, a situation in which a recruit technically receives an offer, but isn't "allowed" to make a verbal commitment. What are your thoughts on the "non-committable" offer?
LA: With the way it is right now, it seems like you almost have to offer a kid to show them that you are interested. A lot of kids will tell you they don't want to come to camp, they don't want to take the right classes, they don't want to do the things academically that you ask them to do unless you're willing to offer them a scholarship, even if that offer has contingencies and conditions, like to come to camp, or to do this, or do that. So that's why if they do change that rule as you mentioned earlier, that might eliminate a little bit of that. But it certainly seems like everybody is doing it, there are different "levels" of offers. Hey, we'll offer you, but we have some guys rated ahead of you, so we're going to give them a chance to commit first, or we'll offer you a scholarship, but you need to come to camp, or whatever it might be. But I think the "offer" now is letting kids know that hey, this school is genuinely interested in me, they are serious in me.
TB: More like an "official tender of interest"?
LA: That's exactly right. And it's kind of frustrating for us as coaches. I'd still like to be able to explain to a recruit that "Hey, we really like you, but we have guys rated ahead of you, so why don't you come to our camp and show us differently" or "Hey, we want to see a couple of your best films from your first two or three games next year, but it doesn't seem like they want to do a lot of that unless they have that "offer" in hand.
TB: Stanford already has 20 verbal commits in the current 2011 cycle and you had a similar number at this time last year. What do you think explains that high number of "early" verbal commits?
LA: I think number one is because we are targeting kids so early. We're trying to get to them early. We're trying to get the message to them of what they need to do academically. But another big part of our message is that we want to get them out here to Palo Alto. Because we think if they come out here and they get a feel for the Stanford experience, we're going to be pretty hard to beat. And that's happened in a lot of these cases. The kids have come out here and fallen in love with the place. They are excited about what's going on with the football program and we've been able to get some early commitments, which has been very positive for the program.
TB: But with the positive element of having so many early commitments comes the probable high number of decommits. Last year, for instance, Stanford was in the upper teens in that category. How do you go about reducing the number of kids who end up decommitting?
LA: That is the difficult thing for us because we're obviously dealing with things that no other schools does in terms of the academics, admissions, and the application process. I mean, obviously the prospects are the ones that make the commitments and do that so we're probably always going to lose some guys along the way. But what we've tried to do this year, and we've learned as we've gone on, is that we might be a little slower to take certain commitments. We've let some guys know on the front end that "Hey, we'd love to have you, but this is what you're going to need to do academically" and we talk about the pros and cons of committing early when they're in that particular situation. Even in this group that are committed, we hope there aren't, but there might be some. It is really in their hands – how are they going to score on the test in the fall, how are they going to do academically, are they going to get into the right classes. And historically, there have always been a few that haven't. We're trying to get that message to them of exactly what they need to do and we hope that by doing that they will follow through and end up getting in.
TB: Yes, I should have mentioned earlier that there will always be "decommits" who simply can't qualify academically, but last year it seemed like you had a couple of players who changed their minds for other than strictly academic reasons. Is preventing those casualties simply a matter of being really clear and transparent with them throughout the whole process, or being a bit more assertive up front that "Hey, we do have a few more guys at your position", or is it something else?
LA: I think so, and we haven't had too many of those, but yes, we did have on a couple last year. For some of them it wasn't the academics that actually eliminated them, but they got tired of the process, they got tired of waiting. They didn't want to wait until the admissions office saw their next set of grades or saw that next test, and they started to feel pressure from other schools and decided to go with that option. But we did have at least one or two kids that did decommit, just for other reasons. I think from the very beginning, letting them know these are the numbers we want to recruit at their position and we might recruit more - just being totally up front with them from the very start.
TB: Do you think Stanford is in a position to capitalize on the sanctions brought against USC by the NCAA, specifically in recruiting kids from Southern California?
LA: You know, it potentially could. Again, the academic standards narrow our pool so much we don't go head-to-head with USC on a lot of kids, but potentially, sure, it definitely could.
TB: In general, is there a particular school that the staff have found to be a "thorn in the side" more than others?
LA: It really varies a lot because we recruit nationally and we go all over the country. It usually becomes a regional thing. There are not that many schools that we consistently compete against. Notre Dame, probably more so than anybody else, but there are a lot of kids in the Midwest that might be inclined to consider Northwestern and a few other Big-10 schools or Big 12 schools. If we get into the south, it might be Vanderbilt, Duke and occasionally a few SEC teams or ACC teams. In the West, say if we are talking about a kid from Washington, then it might be UW, Washington State, and some other Pac-10 schools, but it's really regional. I'd say across the board, Notre Dame probably more so nationally than anyone else.
The Bootleg wishes to thank Niall Adler of Stanford Athletics Media Relations for helping to arrange this interview with Coach Lance "Mister" Anderson.
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