2016 Stanford recruiting class superlatives
Stanford's 2016 recruiting class is in the books, checking in at No. 18 in the Rivals team rankings. With the Cardinal's recruiting efforts now firmly shifted to the 2017 class, it's time to take one final look back at the best 2016.
Like Ben Edwards in 2015, Pryts projects as a physical force in the middle of Stanford's secondary. In this day and age of increased awareness about keeping players safe, rule changes have somewhat limited physicality. But as Pryts' high school highlight film shows, he's a sure tackler who can deliver a thump.
Most likely to make SportsCenter's top 10 plays
It's unusual that a tight end would be the choice in this category - Christian McCaffrey was our pick in 2014 and Trent Irwin in 2015. But Smith is not a typical tight end. In addition to possessing plenty of athleticism and blocking ability, he has terrific hands. The Rivals100 standout broke the record for one-handed catches made in one minute last spring, and his one-handed sliding catch checked in at No. 9 on Rivals' list of the top 10 plays from the 2015 Rivals Camp Series.
Smith has the athleticism and eye-hand coordination to continue to dazzle once he arrives on The Farm.
In this day and age of social media and text messaging, it's common practice for recruits to contact one and other to try and sway each other to a particular school. And for the second year in a row, a Cardinal offensive line signee takes this designation - Brian Chaffin was our pick last year.
But Rivals250 standout Clark Yarbrough is the choice here among a very competitive field. He was in touch with several uncommitted prospects late in the cycle, pushing the the Cardinal program. As one late commit and eventual signee told me when asked about hearing from other players in the class: "The No. 1 recruiter for Stanford is Clark Yarbrough. And I can say that without a doubt."
Clark is also great friends with Donald Stewart - not that their conversations were limited only to the recruiting process - but that couldn't have hurt the Cardinal, either.
Also considered: There were many strong candidates here. Numerous Stanford commits, including K.J. Costello, Trevor Speights, Curtis Robinson, Bo Peek and Bailey McElwain did their best to try and make the Cardinal's 2016 recruiting class as strong as possible.
Treyjohn Butler has shined on both the gridiron and the track in his high school career. His time of 21.35 seconds in the 200 meters was the second fastest in California last year. He was also clocked at 4.61 in the 40 at The Opening Los Angeles last spring, which was among the fastest at the event.
Also considered: Trevor Speights, who ran a 4.62 40 at the Dallas Opening Regional, is also among the fastest players in the Cardinal's signing class.
Keep in mind that high school self-reported 40 times often seen in recruiting profiles are notoriously inaccurate - the times registered at The Opening are more accurate, and in the case of Butler, Eboh and Speights, quite impressive.
Update: The original post did not include mention of defensive back Obi Eboh. It should have. Eboh clocked the fastest 40 time (in an official, Nike Camp setting) of any prospect in Stanford's 2016 class. He ran a 4.58 at The Opening over summer, and also posted one of the top SPARQ scores at the event.
Most underrated (in the Rivals.com rankings)
There were many strong candidates for this category - certainly more than in previous years. The Cardinal's 2016 recruiting class has an extremely strong crop of three-star recruits on Rivals. Two of the best, Andrew Pryts and Henry Hattis, get the nod in this category.
While a mid-level three-star prospect in the Rivals rankings, Pryts was one of the most heavily recruited safeties in the country. He was a priority target of the likes of Ohio State, Notre Dame, Penn State and Stanford before committing to the Nittany Lions last spring.
Hattis' offer list doesn't compare with Pryts', but Stanford is very excited about the future of the New Mexico standout. He first emerged on the Cardinal's radar after word of his dominant performance at the Oakland Opening regional, where he outshined several more highly ranked prospects. He then impressed at Stanford's camp the next month. Hattis' recruiting profile probably took a hit because he plays in New Mexico, which does not grant its athletes much exposure, but his ability is considerable.
Cardinal Sports Report community vote: 1. Trevor Speights, 2. Nate Herbig, 3. Henry Hattis 4. Andrew Pryts
Also considered: Trevor Speights, whose record-setting Texas career and recruiting profile could easily have merited four-star status, Obi Eboh, Nate Herbig, Donald Stewart and Devery Hamilton are among those who also have strong arguments.
Most likely to play in the 2016 season opener
The departures of Remound Wright (graduation) and Barry Sanders (transfer) leave Stanford somewhat light on running back depth. Christian McCaffrey will obviously be the starter and take the bulk of the carries, and Bryce Love should have an increased role, but there will be opportunity for other backs to contribute. Speights, one of the most productive running backs in the history of Texas high school football, will have every opportunity to contribute as a true freshman.
Meanwhile, with Reed Miller's eligibility exhausted, Stanford's deep snapping job will be open heading into next fall. C.J. Keller handles snapping duties on field goals and PAT's, but is he ready to assume punt snapping responsibilities? McNitzky should be in the competition.
Also considered: While offensive linemen don't traditionally play as true freshmen, the Cardinal's six incoming players at the position will have legitimate chances to see the field in 2016. It might be an uphill battle for the true freshmen to earn one of the five starting spots, but don't be surprised if the ogre and/or jumbo tight end spots are filled by first-year players, a la the 2012 season.
Most likely to be a four-year starter
Richard McNitzky is believed to be the first long snapper to enter Stanford as a scholarship player. Given the aforementioned opportunity at deep snapper, he should have a chance to start on special teams in 2016 and for the foreseeable future.
Also considered: Stanford's offensive linemen - perhaps Henry Hattis, Clark Yarbrough and Devery Hamilton in particular - will, as previously mentioned, be in the mix to play as true freshmen as extra offensive linemen. It's then possible that one or more of the group will start for three years beginning in 2017. The Cardinal will lose Michael Rector and Francis Owusu following the 2016 season; it should be possible for the Cardinal's incoming wide receivers to start for multiple seasons starting in 2017. The same logic might apply to running back following Christian McCaffrey. Kaden Smith and Curtis Robinson might also be candidates if they redshirt in 2016.
Most likely to become an All American
Kaden Smith's impact on The Farm might be somewhat delayed due to a serious knee injury he suffered in December, but assuming a return to health, he's about as safe a bet to shine as there is in the 2016 signing class. Smith thrived against top competition in Texas, and he was terrific on the camp and combine circuit last spring and summer. Given the way Stanford utilizes the tight end position and Smith's abilities, a successful career on The Farm is certainly well within reach.
Also considered: Curtis Robinson, among several others.
Best recruiting win
This category is not necessarily for the highest-ranked or most heavily recruited prospect in the class. Rather, it refers to the most contested and competitive recruiting victories.
Donald Stewart's recruitment came down to Michigan and the Cardinal. While Stanford appeared to be in a strong position following the New Jersey native's mid-January trip to The Farm, Michigan took the lead after Stewart visited Ann Arbor a week later. The Cardinal had to overcome a strong push from the Wolverines to land the talented prospect.
Also considered: While K.J. Costello was one of the earliest commits in the class, Stanford had to fend off Michigan and childhood favorite USC. The Cardinal worked hard to secure Costello's commitment. Devery Hamilton (Michigan) and Andrew Pryts (Penn State) were longtime commitments to schools closer to home.
Most likely to be a first-round NFL pick
This was a very competitive category, which is probably an endorsement of the quality and quantity of high-end talent in Stanford's 2016 class.
But due to the importance and value of the quarterback position in the NFL Draft, the pick here is K.J. Costello. Like some of the Cardinal's recent quarterback recruits, the nation's No. 2 pro-style quarterback has plenty of physical gifts, including the size and arm strength that coaches desire. Now it will be a matter of development, as will be the case for Stanford's other recruits.
Cardinal Sports Report community poll: 1. Devery Hamilton 2. Costello 3. Curtis Robinson 4. Kaden Smith
Also considered: The Cardinal's lone five-star signee, Curtis Robinson, was an obvious candidate, as was the nation's second-ranked tight end, Kaden Smith. Several of the Cardinal's offensive linemen also have NFL ability.
Historic rankings addition
Prior to the 2016 recruiting cycle, Stanford had never signed a five-star linebacker in the history of the Rivals.com rankings. Curtis Robinson has changed that. The Mater Dei high school standout earned his fifth start after a very strong senior season, and maintained his lofty ranking following a top showing at the Army All American Bowl. In addition to his rarefied air as a linebacker, Robinson is one of only defensive two five-star prospects who has ever inked with the Cardinal. Aziz Shittu was the other.
Also considered: Like Dalton Schultz, Kaden Smith was the No. 3 tight end in the Rivals rankings. Smith is, however, the highest-ranked tight end to ink with the Cardinal in the national rankings - he checks in at No. 49 overall. K.J. Costello is one of three Stanford signees who has been ranked as the nation's No. 2 pro-style quarterback. Trent Edwards and Keller Chryst are the others.
Best position group: Offensive line
Stanford's 2016 offensive line class might not rival the Cardinal's historic 2012 class on paper, but there is a ton of excitement about the unit in and around The Farm. The Cardinal filled their needs in the trenches with both depth and talent. Not all of the Cardinal's incoming offensive linemen are among the most highly ranked at their position, but the feeling is that this unit as a whole is very underrated. Add walk-on Matthew Gutwald, who turned down six Pac-12 offers to join the program, to a five-player scholarship class of Dylan Powell, Clark Yarbrough, Nate Herbig, Devery Hamilton and Henry Hattis and the future of Stanford's offensive line looks extremely bright.
Also considered: Defensive back, defensive line