Since the NFL draft, I’ve been spending a lot of time sifting through the Internet in order to learn about the situations that the former Stanford football players are now in. After all, football season never really ends. For some, like Andrew Luck, it means high expectations abound.
Like my colleague Tom Taylor, I can’t resist occasionally looking at the inane banter that populates the comments section of these articles about Luck. Down in the Stygian depths of these pages, I frequently found a refrain that goes something like this: “If he had any good wide receivers at Stanford, he would have been incredible.” While this is usually used as a defense of Luck’s college career (as if he needed one) or an explanation of why he’ll be good in the pros (again, as if he needed one), this set me to thinking: where exactly have all of Stanford’s wide receivers been hiding over these past few years?
While there have been some success stories at wideout these past few seasons — Ryan Whalen and Griff Whalen became two of Luck’s favorite targets even though both started their Stanford careers as walk-ons, and Ty Montgomery was a smashing success in his freshman campaign — many of Stanford’s recruited wide receivers have never quite seen their careers get off the ground.
This is partially due to the fact that tight ends Coby Fleener, Zach Ertz and Levine Toilolo have been so prolific, but there still is a gap of talent out wide that begs to be explained. So, through the magic of the Internet, I set out to examine just what has happened to the “elite receivers” on the Farm.
Perhaps the profound gap at wide receiver is due to the strange semi-disappearance of two players that were perceived to be cornerstones of Stanford’s passing game for years to come.
In 2009, the Cardinal brought in one of its strongest recruiting classes in years on the heels of the class that included future first-rounders Luck and David DeCastro. That included two four-star wide receiver recruits, Jemari Roberts and Jamal-Rashad Patterson.
Roberts, from Long Beach, Calif., was ranked the 18th-best receiver in the country, and Patterson, from McDonough, Ga., was seen as the 28th-best pass-catcher in the country. Roberts, at 6-foot-3 and 205 pounds, looked like he would pair with Patterson, who is 6-foot-2 and 194 pounds, as a pair of deep threats that would help push the Cardinal back to its winning ways.
But three years later, the two four-stars have little to show except tales of unrealized potential. While Patterson did reach the end zone to score his first (and only) career touchdown against San Jose State in 2009, perhaps his most well-known career highlight is when he was ejected from the Cardinal’s 2009 48-14 blowout win over Cal for throwing a punch at a Bear player before the opening kickoff. Sadly, Roberts is best known for … nothing. The former four-star has yet to catch a single pass in his Stanford career.
However, their time on the Farm — and their time to make a mark — isn’t up yet, as Patterson will be a senior in the fall and Roberts will return for his redshirt junior season.
While they still have a year to realize their potential, Stanford has also driven away a pair of promising wide receivers over these last few seasons.
The next recruiting season, the Cardinal brought in three-star quarterback Darren Daniel, an Alabama native, and, with Luck entering his senior season, new head coach David Shaw and his staff converted him to play wide receiver the next spring. Additionally, the Cardinal secured an early commitment from Tai-ler Jones, a four-star recruit from Georgia, but Jones eventually changed his mind and signed with (yuck) Notre Dame instead.
Daniel was generally pretty impressive in spring practice, showing off a lot of athleticism as both a pass-catcher and a wildcat quarterback, but he ultimately decided that the switch wasn’t for him, and elected to transfer, where he ended up at Itawamba Community College in Mississippi. This February, while the Cardinal was bringing in its best recruiting class in school history, Daniel signed his letter of intent to play for Alabama State, continuing his football career just an hour and a half away from his hometown of Phenix City, Ala.
Jones, on the other hand, has already made his mark felt at Notre Dame, where he’s renamed himself “TJ Jones” and accumulated 672 yards and six touchdowns in his two years as a Golden Domer.
Altogether, the lack of depth on the outside hasn’t slowed the Cardinal down — of course, having the best quarterback in college football has been the primary factor in that — but it still is interesting to consider just how unlucky the Cardinal has been with its wide receivers as of late.
Hopefully, that won’t be the case for any of the four wideouts coming to Stanford this fall as part of the fantastic 2012 recruiting class. That way, Brett Nottingham or Josh Nunes can have the one thing that Andrew Luck just might have been missing in his time on the Farm.
Jack Blanchat was also recruited to play wide receiver, but the coaching staff thought he was better served as a sports writer. Find out if his 40 time wasn’t up to par at blanchat “at” stanford.edu or follow him on Twitter @jmblanchat.