Stanford's Harbaugh collects top 20 class with hands-on approach
Stanford is expecting National Letters of Intent from 22 recruits on Signing Day
Trinity (Pawling, N.Y.) LB Shayne Skov is the star of the the top 20 recruiting class
RB Tyler Gaffney will also play baseball; WR Jamal-Rashad Patterson will run track
They all remember the hands.
When Stanford coach Jim Harbaugh is introduced to a recruit, he likes to size up the prospect immediately, guaging their true height and weight. For Trinity (Pawling, N.Y.) linebacker Shayne Skov, it was a handshake, and then, "Coach poked my hips like I had love handles. He said 'Fat is the enemy of speed'".
A year later, Harbaugh went for the shoulders on Cathedral Catholic (San Diego, Calif.) tailback Tyler Gaffney. "He shook my parents' hands in the coaches' office, but then he started massaging me."
Henry County (McDonough, Ga.) receiver Jamal-Rashad Patterson said Harbaugh "reached for my lats right away."
As hands-on as Harbaugh gets, it is his growing reach that is most impressive. With 22 verbal commitments from players in 13 different states, he is expected to collect National Letters of Intent from eight four-star prospects on Wednesday, giving him a top 20 class. "This is what I projected in my mind from Day 1," says Skov, a four-star linebacker who was the first prospect to commit in September 2007. "What he's done is make clear that he is unafraid of competing with the best colleges."
Refusing to use the school's high academic standards as a handicap, Harbaugh has not shied from top prospects. When Patterson was first approached by Stanford running backs coach Willie Taggart last winter, he admits he did not know much about the Cardinal. Pulled out of a weight training session to speak with Taggart, Patterson was intrigued by the pitch. Soon after, he continued to discuss the school with his parents, but with a 20 on his ACT, Taggart told him that he needed a 24, which he surpassed with a 26 on his next attempt.
"SEC people tell me those nerds can't win," says Patterson, a 6-2, 194-pound blazer who will also run the 110 hurdles and 200 meters on the track team. "I thought the students would be stuck-up preppies but once I got out there everyone was real cool. With today's economy, think what that degree is worth."
Patterson is not the only two-sport athlete in the class. Gaffney, who considered Notre Dame and USC, eventually chose the Cardinal, in large part, because of the opportunity to play baseball. "One week the baseball staff would call and the next the football coaches would," says Gaffney, who committed last week and will join Toby Gerhart, last year's top running back, on the baseball diamond. "Toby made it clear that it wasn't too hectic."
More impressive may be the non-sport activities of the incoming class. Stephens, who tried out for American Idol when he was 16, says that he will continue to pursue singing while at Stanford, and Skov, who scored a 2060 on the SAT, intends to major in physics. "The term 'enthusiasm unknown to mankind' gets used by coach and the alumni regarding the program," Skov says. "I think people will see that from us as well on and off the field."
Looking to capture the anticipation that the class has created, 19 of the committed players visited the school for a weekend last month. Anxious to get started, Skov said he could tell that his future teammates were ready to work. "We want to keep building," Skov says. "Just want to get our hands dirty."
Eagles stay in the nest
Kimball Union (Meriden, N.H.) defensive end Kasim Edebali first sat down with Boston College offensive line coach Jack Bicknell last year in his coach's office. Unaware of BC's football program beforehand, the Hamburg, Germany, native left the meeting in awe of what the coach was selling. "The summer camp brochure had a picture of Boston and he told me that the Prudential Center was my gong to be my dorm," Edebali said Tuesday night on the eve of inking his National Letter of Intent with the Eagles. "I thought, 'Wow, this will be so much better than prep school living.' Then he told me he was kidding. That was disappointing."
Despite the white lie, the 6-2, 235-pound Edebali gave Bicknell his verbal commitment last July. Five months later, though, Edebali, a boarding student at the remote prep school, gained word from a day student who had been off campus that BC coach Jeff Jagodzinski had been fired for interviewing with the New York Jets. "I don't watch much TV so I could not believe it," Edebali says. "Coach Bicknell assured me that my scholarship was still good."
In the staffing departures that followed defensive coordinator Frank Spaziani's promotion to head coach, Bicknell moved on to the New York Giants as an offensive line assistant, but Edebali stayed committed. "I would have loved to play for coach Jagodzinski," says Edebali, who knows of just two recruits who changed their commitments since Jagodzinski left. "But I'm still committed to the school."
Similarly, Dillon Quinn, a 6-6, 295-pound defensive lineman and the Eagles' top-rated recruit, said that BC remained his "dream school" after taking additional visits to Cincinnati and Maryland during the time between Jagodzinski's firing and Spaziani's promotion. "No coach knows whether an offer for something better will come," Quinn says. "You just have to find a program you can believe in."