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Football: Card lands two more big verbal commitments

Stanford football made a big splash at the end of its main official visit weekend, landing verbal commitments from two of its top four remaining targets in the class of 2013.

De La Salle (Concord) senior tight end Austin Hooper and Harvard-Westlake (Studio City) senior center Thomas Oser both committed early this week after spending the weekend visiting Stanford. Hooper, a four-star recruit and member of the ESPN300, could provide immediate help at the recently vacated tight end position for the Cardinal in 2013.

Hooper had narrowed his focus to Bay Area rivals Stanford and Cal. Most did not expect a final decision for at least a few weeks, pending a Stanford admissions decision, but Stanford accepted Hooper on Friday. Once he had been accepted, Hooper decided to follow in the footsteps of his uncle, Greg Hooper, who played fullback for Stanford in the ‘80s.

Oser, referred to by many recruiting experts as “a true center,” will also join a positional group looking to replace its starter, senior Sam Schwartzstein. Coming into the weekend, Oser was still deciding between Oregon, Vanderbilt and Stanford, but after two days on the Farm, Oser was ready to commit to David Shaw on Sunday.

“Stanford was just a perfect fit,” Oser said Sunday night. “It’s a combination of a great program, great academics and great people. It’s an amazing place that really felt like home.”

Stanford’s 2013 recruiting class now has 12 verbal commitments. With National Signing Day just over three weeks away, the Cardinal is close to wrapping up its class. Stanford has two big battles remaining, tight end Durham Smythe (Belton, Texas) and wide receiver Devon Allen (Phoenix, Ariz.).

Smythe, the nation’s sixth-ranked tight end, recently de-committed from Texas, opening the door for Stanford. The consensus among recruiting experts is that if Smythe is admitted, he will pick Stanford. With Stanford’s 2013 tight end problems, Smythe could be a difference maker from day one on the Farm.

Devon Allen is also an intriguing prospect for Stanford’s 2013 plans. Though his strength has yet to fully develop, Allen’s speed has coaches drooling. He is the Arizona state record holder in the 110m and 300m hurdles, and is looking to also run track in college.

Though Stanford relied more heavily on its departing tight ends, specifically Zach Ertz, this season, Stanford might lean on its receiving corps to replace Ertz and company. Ertz lined up at wide receiver for many plays this season as Stanford struggled to find capable replacements for Griff Whalen ‘12 and Chris Owusu ’12.

With or without Devon Allen, Stanford does have at least one heralded wide receiver in its committed class of 2013. Chris Owusu’s little brother, Frances, is verbally committed to play wide receiver for Stanford next year.

Overall, Stanford’s class is ranked 38th in the nation by ESPN, which is a step down from 2012’s 12th overall ranking. However, this ranking is a bit misleading, deflated by the small size of Stanford’s class, which is limited by the number of scholarships Stanford has available.

Because seniors Ben Gardner, Shayne Skov, Trent Murphy and Usua Amanam, among others, decided to return to Stanford for a fifth year, the Cardinal won’t have room on the roster, or on the field, for nearly as many freshman as 2012. That’s a trade most Stanford fans would gladly take.

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