CardinalSportsReport - Stanford lost on Wilkins, so now what happens next?
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Stanford lost on Wilkins, so now what happens next?

Defensive line coach Diron Reynolds, left, and David Shaw are in a tough spot to upgrade the defensive line pipeline.
Defensive line coach Diron Reynolds, left, and David Shaw are in a tough spot to upgrade the defensive line pipeline. (Don Feria,

It used to be very simple for Stanford recruiting: If a high school football player went through the trouble of completing the application — including committing to take two AP courses his senior year — and got admitted, then it was about 99 percent certain that he would sign with Stanford.

In fact, this was such common knowledge that recruits would sometimes ask for it not to be reported they were admitted because so many people consider it to be the end of a recruit's process.

When Derek Wilkins committed to Cal Saturday he became the second student-athlete to choose a different school this cycle after being admitted. Owen Prentice committed to Washington July 16.

The last time multiple admitted recruits went elsewhere in the same cycle it was for very different reasons. In 2014, Kenneth Brinson decided he wanted to serve his country and signed with Army and Uriah Leiataua de-committed in the final hours to attend BYU — a decision determined largely by his strong faith as a member of the LDS church.

So, what does it mean to lose Wilkins? Cardinal Sports Report takes a look at the impact and what is next.

There's no way to slice this cake to make it taste good. It's bad news for Stanford's 2021 class and as an indicator of how recruits view the program.

Evaluating how Stanford has managed this recruiting cycle is only fair if we take into account that COVID-19 has had a disastrous effect on Stanford recruiting because visits aren't allowed. A visit to Stanford features one-on-one time with professors, a panel with student-athletes, a jaw-dropping tour and much more that often results in "A+" reviews. It's by far the best tool in the staff's toolbox.

However, Wilkins had visited multiple times in person and he described Stanford as a childhood dream school. There was never a doubt he would be admitted.

He chose Cal because, in his own words, he had a better relationship with the staff, likes the current trajectory of the program and has a close bond with multiple Cal commits. That last one is really out of Stanford's control and Cal is helped by how well they're recruiting the state, so Wilkins developed a number of close friendships easily. (the other Cal commits from California aren't on Stanford's board, so that factor wasn't going to change much.)

But by Wilkins' own admission, Stanford was not as active building a relationship with him as Cal. That wasn't a surprise, though, because Wilkins also acknowledged it's not Stanford's style to try to match their competition in that way. Instead, they lay out what Stanford can do for a young man and if it's appealing then they commit.

Wilkins didn't find it appealing enough.

What's next?

Stanford needs quality and quantity on the defensive line this class. They are still waiting on their first commitment for the position group and could take up to four.

The next guy on the must-get list is Aaron Armitage. He also has been admitted. (Armitage, Prentice and Wilkins were all admitted within a couple days of each other.) Armitage likes USC a lot and Florida is moving up his list as well. He wants to try to hold out long enough to take visits, but he may need to make a decision without visiting several of his finalists.

He has visited Stanford. He was at the same March junior day as Prentice and Wilkins.

Jacob Schuster and Anthony Franklin also have a high level of interest in Stanford. Kelvin Gilliam was recently offered but it's very unlikely Stanford can get him away from Oklahoma or Penn State.

If Stanford can get Armitage, Schuster and Franklin they may call it a wrap for this cycle.

Stanford has offered two elite edge defenders in the 2022 class: Ernest Cooper and Justice Finkley.

Cooper also visited Stanford in March and is a high-academic student who was interest in the major "Biomedical Computation" when he spoke with a professor from the biology department.

"I see myself fitting in nicely," he said in a message to Cardinal Sports Report in March. "Stanford has some great guys with an amazing work ethic"

Finkley is the son of parents who have doctorates in education from Samford. His father, Jacqnaii, is the principal of Clay Elementary and April is Executive Director of Assessment, Accountability and Research at Birmingham City Schools.

The Stanford offer went over very well in the Finkley household.

"My parents believe that Stanford is a school that can provide me with a phenomenal education," Justice said. "They talked to me about the long term benefits of a Stanford education. Both of my parents have their doctoral degrees. Ever since I can remember, education has always been a top priority in our home. They had me reading The Hobbit by J.R Tolkien in kindergarten. Getting a great education is highly important to me."

It's unlikely Stanford will get an instant-impact defensive lineman in the 2021 class. If they want one in 2022 then they need to shift more resources to accomplish that.