By King Jemison
With the passing of Wednesday’s National Signing Day, Stanford’s 2018 recruiting class is finalized and 14 new Cardinal will join the team in the fall. The class included five four-star recruits and is ranked 39th in the nation according to 247 Sports. Head coach David Shaw addressed the media on Wednesday to discuss the latest group headed to the Farm.
“This day is still always special to me, where you get to talk about the entire class,” Shaw said of the date that is the highlight of the college football calendar during the long offseason. “A lot of credit to these young men and their families for being able to provide an environment that is conducive to them being the scholar-athletes that are coming to us.”
Shaw took the time to talk about each of those young men. He started off with the two highly touted quarterbacks, Jack West and Tanner McKee. West is ranked as the tenth best pro-style quarterback in the nation. He was one of the 12 recruits who chose to sign their letter of intent during the new early signing period in December.
“We’ve been recruiting Jack [West] for a long time,” Shaw said of his future signal-caller. “He’s such a great fit for our football team, for our school. A true leader, an athlete and an accurate passer. We’re so excited about him.”
With most of the class including West already signed, the biggest news for Stanford on National Signing Day was McKee’s decision to join the Cardinal, which he announced live on ESPN2. McKee is the highest ranked member of the class at No. 46 overall, third best among pro-style quarterbacks.
“Similar to Jack, [McKee] is such a great fit for us,” Shaw said. “He’s taller, 6-foot-5, another good athlete that can run. He’s got a quick release, strong arm.”
Although it’s unusual to sign two star quarterbacks in one class, McKee’s decision comes under unique circumstances. He is a member of the Church of Latter-Day Saints (LDS) and is set to embark on a two year mission before enrolling in school, effectively making him a member of the Class of 2020.
He’s certainly not the first Cardinal recruit to delay his enrollment in order to go on an LDS mission. Current junior linebacker Sean Barton did the same, and he will be joined this summer by wide receiver Simi Fehoko and outside linebacker Loa Kaufusi, both members of the 2016 recruiting class returning from their years of service abroad.
Fehoko’s return makes him one of the most intriguing recruits in this class. He was the number-one ranked player in Utah during his senior year, becoming one of the most decorated wide receivers in state history. Depending on how quickly he is able to recondition his body after two years away from football, he could see the field next year.
“He’s a special, special playmaker,” Shaw said of Fehoko. “At some point down the road, this guy’s gonna make some big plays for Stanford football.”
Shaw responded with uncertainty and optimism when asked about which other members of the class could have an instant impact in the coming fall.
“Any of the guys on defense. We’ve got a little turnover but more important than that, we play a lot of guys.”
Stanford’s pair of four-star defensive end recruits will have a particularly good chance at earning significant playing time in year one. Thomas Booker and Andres Fox both signed last December to the relief of nervous Cardinal fans pondering the future of the defensive line without lynchpin Harrison Phillips. Shaw actually compared Booker to Phillips, calling him a, “big athlete who can rush the passer and play the run.”
Andres Fox was one of the biggest recruiting wins for Stanford in this cycle, as they beat out Alabama and Auburn for the top-ranked in-state product out of Mobile.
“He’s got length, he’s got size,” Shaw said. “He had a bunch of SEC offers but has our academic mentality. Looking forward to him competing.”
The main offensive player that Shaw mentioned as being a prime candidate for freshman playing time is four-star wide receiver Michael Wilson, who he compared to current junior wide receiver JJ Arcega-Whiteside.
“He plays the game like you love to see our guys play,” Shaw said. “He’s quick, he’s physical. Those tough, physical catches that you see JJ Arcega-Whiteside make, he makes them just the same way.”
Although McKee, West, Booker, Fox and Wilson were the only four-star recruits in the class, Shaw also expressed enthusiasm about the overall makeup of the incoming freshmen, saying that he and his coaching staff feel that many of them were underrated by the popular recruiting websites.
“We look for the guys that fit us, that can do what we need them to do physically, athletically, intellectually,” Shaw said. “Sometimes the recruiting services agree with us, and sometimes they don’t.”
There’s no question that regardless of their incoming recruiting rankings, Shaw and his staff have done a tremendous job of developing their players into NFL-caliber talent. That prowess was on display in last Sunday’s Super Bowl, where Stanford had the most former players participating of any college, and former Cardinal tight end Zach Ertz scored the game-winning touchdown for the Philadelphia Eagles.
“It says a lot about what we’ve built here,” Shaw said of the prominent Stanford presence amongst the NFL’s best teams. “We want to put guys in the NFL that can help teams win championships.”
Time will tell which of the most recent signees could one day end up in the NFL themselves, but, for now, Shaw and his staff will look forward to getting them on campus and beginning their preparation for the upcoming season. The next major date on the Cardinal college football calendar is the annual Spring Game, which the program just announced will be held on April 14 in Cagan Stadium.
Contact King Jemison at kingj ‘at’ stanford.edu.