Stanford's 2013 football recruiting class won't be one of its best in recent history, but it's not one that merits panic and consternation either.
News over the weekend that several of Stanford's remaining targets would not end up on The Farm sent some Cardinal fans into a tizzy: Why, they wondered, just weeks after Stanford won its first Rose Bowl in more than four decades, did Stanford have so much trouble closing on the recruiting trail?
It's a fair question, but also not as straightforward as it might seem. Just a few weeks back, Stanford closed with two of its top targets, arguably the highest priority recruits left on its 2013 board in Austin Hooper and Thomas Oser. That brought Stanford's class to 12 recruits strong, and left only two vacant spots.
That it now appears Stanford will not fill all of its available openings for 2013 has been a subject of concern for Stanford fans. But here's guessing it didn't have a similar effect on David Shaw or Stanford's coaching staff.
Prior to the start of the recruiting cycle, there were several clear priorities for the 2013 class: First and foremost among them? Fill considerable needs at tight end and outside linebacker.
The Cardinal accomplished both of those goals, and did so with impressive players. Stanford will ink a trio of four-star tight ends (by at least one recruiting service), who combined to hold offers from a who's who of major college football powers. The least-heralded tight end commit, Idaho star Eric Cotton wowed the Cardinal at their summer camp. It took Stanford only a matter of hours to extend Cotton an offer after camp. And the Cardinal has a pretty decent track record with tight end evaluation and recruiting. The other two - Greg Taboada and Austin Hooper were coveted by top schools from coast to coast. Stanford beat Alabama, Florida State and South Carolina, among others, for Taboada, and Notre Dame, Washington, and Oregon, among others, for Hooper.
Stanford also did well at outside linebacker. The Cardinal will sign Rivals 100 linebacker Peter Kalambayi, one of the most talented backers in the country. Ohio OLB Mike Tyler came on strong in his senior season, and has the look. Kevin Palma is a versatile athlete capable of playing inside or outside, and Sean Barton, who seems likely to play inside when he returns from a church mission trip, is an athletic freak who was highly coveted by programs across the nation. Even Greg Taboada, who is likely targeted for tight end, projects well at outside linebacker.
But to truly get an accurate gauge on why Stanford's recruiting class - and by extension its entire 2013 recruiting cycle - transpired in the fashion it did, it's pertinent to examine the overall talent level available to Stanford in 2013. Players like Cameron Hunt, Corey Robinson, Chans Cox, Torii Hunter, Scott Quessenberry, and Sean Dowling, among many, many others, expressed significant interest in the Cardinal, but Stanford didn't reciprocate.
The Card wasn't stingy in dispensing offers due to laziness or for lack of caring. Stanford's historic 2012 recruiting class - which was compiled with essentially the same coaching staff - is evidence of that. Instead, it's clear that Stanford's evaluation of many of those players didn't jibe with that of the recruiting services. And given the limited spaces Stanford had in its 2013 class, that's probably not a bad thing for the Cardinal. Early returns are that the admissible talent pool for 2014 exceeds 2013, and having two additional scholarships should serve Stanford well.
The point here isn't to claim the Card's 2013 recruiting was flawless, that Stanford finished at a 100 percent rate with all of its top targets, or that there weren't things Stanford could have done better this cycle. Rather, it is to reiterate that despite working with extreme space constraints, Stanford successfully addressed its top priorities for the 2013 class, and didn't endure as many painful losses as one might think. That the Card's average star ranking for 2013 (Stanford is ranked No. 19 in the country by that metric) is more evidence to the point.
And, with numerous top 2014 prospects interested in Stanford, concerns about the long-term prospects of Stanford recruiting are, in our humble opinion, misguided and uninformed.