Widgets Magazine

Wednesday Roundtable: Will Stanford football’s performance this season affect recruiting?

After four straight double-digit win seasons, Stanford football will be on the wrong side of the 10-win mark – and possibly by a wide margin – for the first time since 2009. We asked football writers Joseph Beyda, Vihan Lakshman and David Cohn: Will Stanford’s dip in performance this season have a profound impact on recruiting?

David: While the Cardinal will not represent the Pac-12 North in the Pac-12 Championship Game for the first time in three years, the foundations of the program remain strong, so I do not expect this season to have a profound impact on recruiting. This is because the Card continue to develop players at its historically strong positions. In particular, the emergence of the three sophomore tight ends in Greg Taboada, Austin Hooper and Eric Cotton in their first seasons on the field will mean that the Farm will continue to be Tight End U.

Andrus Peat (right)

Junior offensive lineman Andrus Peat (right) figures to be a high draft pick in the NFL Draft when his Cardinal career ends. In addition to Peat, several offensive linemen, including David Yankey, David DeCastro and Cam Flemming, all developed during their times on the Farm into NFL players. (SAM GIRVIN/The Stanford Daily)

While the offensive line, as a unit, has had an up-and-down season on the field, the Card’s placement of David Yankey, Cameron Fleming, David DeCastro, Jonathan Martin and others in the NFL, as well as the development of Andrus Peat into a Day 1 NFL draft prospect, will still hold weight with the best offensive line recruits in the nation. Stanford already has two four star commitments on the offensive line for 2015 in recruits Brian Chaffin and Nick Wilson, and I imagine that the Card will continue to be active and successful in recruiting offensive linemen to the Farm.

I could go through the other position groups one-by-one, but I think that the takeaway message in recruiting for Stanford is development. More specifically, the Cardinal program continues to be successful in developing its players, helping them improve toward achieving their professional goals both in the NFL and outside of football. As long as those two facts hold true, Stanford will continue to recruit at a high level, namely because of its preeminent position as one of the best academic institutions in the world, with four BCS Bowl appearances, two Pac-12 titles, and with one more win, six straight bowl berths in recent years.

Joseph: I’m not quite as optimistic as David. Bumps in the road — whether a bad season, a change in coaching staffs or NCAA sanctions — threaten recruiting for basically every program in the nation, save for the USCs and SEC powers of the world. Stanford has certainly established staying power with recruits over the last five years or so, but this mind-boggling season is bound to test that success at least somewhat.

Now, in the long run, there are a lot of things for Stanford to feel good about on the recruiting trail. Slips by other football programs at strong academic schools (Vanderbilt, Northwestern, UCLA) this season still make the Farm a very competitive option for elite athletes who are interested in getting a great education. The Cardinal also continued to recruit at a very high level after the transition from Jim Harbaugh to the then-first-time head coach David Shaw, perhaps indicating that their target audience isn’t as fickle as the average high school senior.

In the next class or two, however, we shouldn’t be surprised if there’s a dip. Just imagine a recruit choosing between Stanford and ASU, or Stanford and Oregon, who took an official visit to Tempe or Eugene the weekend the Cardinal were run out of town. Watching those games, any recruit’s faith in Stanford would be shaken.

Vihan: Ben Gardner, two-star recruit. Doug Baldwin, two-star recruit. Chase Thomas, three-star recruit. Zach Ertz and Coby Fleener, three star recruits. Trent Murphy, three-star recruit. And the list goes on and on.

Stanford didn’t rise to the upper echelons of college football by waking up one day and suddenly hauling in truckloads of blue-chip prospects. Jim Harbaugh, David Shaw and the rest of the coaching staff identified smart, underrated players with chips on their shoulders and watched them develop into NFL talent.

Recruiting is absolutely crucial — there is no doubt about that. Stanford definitely wouldn’t be the same without the likes of touted prospects like Andrew Luck, Ty Montgomery or Andrus Peat, but there is a reason we don’t hand out championship trophies on National Signing Day. This season was supposed to be the year that Stanford’s record-setting 2012 recruiting class seized the spotlight, but success hasn’t really materialized the way some envisioned.

Will Stanford’s recent struggles lead to a dip in recruiting? I think that’s a certainty, but it won’t be the end of the world. It certainly wasn’t just a few years ago. The fact is that Stanford can win football games by finding players who fit the program’s mentality. It’s never easy, but the Stanford coaching staffs of the late 2000s could recruit and develop current NFL talent despite mediocre records.

Joey makes a great point about Stanford recruiting targets losing faith after watching a couple of those rough road performances. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that Canton Kaumatule (brother of Luke) committed to Oregon a day after his official visit to Eugene, when he watched the Ducks crush Stanford at Autzen Stadium. Bad losses will hurt, sometimes for a long time.

Overall, though, I feel pretty optimistic about Stanford’s recruiting future. The Cardinal’s recent success should still entice many of the nation’s top recruits, and the coaching staff has shown a knack for finding the next Gardners, Murphys and Baldwins, underrated players with winning attitudes. That’s what Stanford recruiting has really been about.

With the this less than stellar state of Stanford football, The Stanford Daily’s football writers have no choice but to either be optimistic towards the future or to berate the current team for its shortfalls. In this instance, optimism, has won. Share your optimistic v. pessimistic attitudes toward the team with David Cohn, Joseph Beyda and Vihan Lakshman at dmcohn ‘at’ stanford.edu, jbeyda ‘at’ stanford.edu and vihan ‘at’ stanford.edu. 

About David Cohn

David Cohn '15 is currently a Sports Desk Editor. He began his tenure at the Daily by serving as a senior staff writer for Stanford football and softball, and then rose to the position of assistant editor of staff development. He served as the Summer Managing Editor of Sports in 2014. David is a Biology major from Poway, California. In addition to his duties at the Daily, he serves as the lead play-by-play football and softball announcer for KZSU Live Stanford Radio 90.1 FM.

About Joseph Beyda

Joseph Beyda is the editor in chief of The Stanford Daily. Previously he has worked as the executive editor, webmaster, football editor, a sports desk editor, the paper's summer managing editor and a beat reporter for football, baseball and women's soccer. He co-authored The Daily's recent football book, "Rags to Roses," and covered the soccer team's national title run for the New York Times. Joseph is a senior from Cupertino, Calif. majoring in Electrical Engineering. To contact him, please email jbeyda "at" stanford.edu.

About Vihan Lakshman

Vihan Lakshman's journey at The Stanford Daily came full-circle as he began his career as a football beat writer and now closes his time on The Farm in the same role. In between, he has served as an Opinions columnist and desk editor, a beat writer for Stanford baseball, and as a member of The Daily's Editorial Board. Vihan completed his undergraduate degree in Mathematical and Computational Science in 2016, and is currently pursuing a master's in Computational Mathematics. He also worked as a color commentator on KZSU football broadcasts during the 2015 season. To contact him, please send an email to vihan 'at' stanford.edu
  • Andrew

    Remember: coaches recruit players. We need more experienced offensive coaches to get better offensive recruits. Not worried about defense. We should be worried about offense both on the recruiting side and on the play calling side.

  • seesdifferent

    Harbaugh’s recruits and coaches are now pretty much all gone, Shaw being the notable exception. His Harbaughness was certainly a horse’s backside, but he would have recognized way back in the spring game that the running game was in big trouble, and done something about it. 6 or so months later, Shaw gets the news flash: either his evaluation of the offensive line recruits was way way off, or his coaching stinks. We hope a couple servings of humble pie will provide the needed antidote for an overdose of arguably inherited success.