During the Early National Signing period on Wednesday, Stanford football added 22 players to its roster. The class was ranked third-best in the conference and top-25 in the nation.
“I’m really excited about this group,” said Stanford head coach David Shaw ’94.
While much of the class was locked in, Wednesday did provide drama with the live announcement that E.J. Smith, a unanimous four-star running back, would sign with the Cardinal.
“They just love my versatility, and the way they use their running backs is something I focused on, and also the education played a major part in it, too,” Smith told ESPN. “It’s a great feeling because only people know the athletic part of me, but they don’t know how much time I put in on the education side of it as well.”
Smith is the son of Pro Football Hall of Fame running back Emmitt Smith, who rushed for 18,355 yards and 164 touchdowns during his 15-year NFL career. But E.J. Smith’s father was not perturbed that his son strayed from his alma mater, Florida.
Emmitt Smith told ESPN, “At the end of the day, my son has his own journey. And it is his journey, not my journey.”
“E.J. is his own man,” Shaw said. “I do believe as we got closer to the end, both of his parents supported his decision to come here. He’s going to be a very good football player no matter where he goes.”
Stanford addressed needs on the offensive line with six signees, including one five-star and two four-star recruits.
“Length, athleticism, toughness, size and speed,” Shaw said. “You have to have all of that and I think this class has it up front.”
Leading that group is Myles Hinton, a consensus five-star offensive tackle and the son of Chris Hinton, an offensive guard who played professionally for 13 seasons and was named to seven Pro Bowls. Myles Hinton played at the same Greater Atlanta Christian School from which junior quarterback Davis Mills graduated.
“He is big, he is physical, but most importantly, he’s got great feet,” said Shaw. “I watched him play basketball two years ago. And to see a guy with that size move on a basketball court with that quickness and explosion — jumping for rebounds, starting a fast break — you can see that athleticism.”
After all five freshman offensive lineman saw time this past season, with three starting the final five games, the need to shore up the front was apparent. To that end, Connor McLaughlin and Drake Metcalf, two four-star recruits, were much-needed additions. Levi Rogers, a three-star recruit, as well as Logan Berzins and Max Kalny, both walk-ons, will also fit into the mix.
Of the seven recruits on the defensive side, only one fits in on the defensive line, where the Cardinal are poised to lose two starters as graduate transfers. That would be defensive tackle Tobin Phillips, a four-star recruit from Fresno.
“He’s a difference maker,” Shaw said.
Another key defensive signee is cornerback Ayden Hector, a four-star recruit who also played basketball and track in high school. While four-star defensive back Brandon Jones was only informed of his admission to Stanford on Saturday, he remained faithful to his May commitment.
Safety Alaka’i Gilman only committed to Stanford on Friday, flipping from Washington State after a visit to the Farm for the season finale. The signings of two walk-ons, outside linebacker Kiersten Lee and inside linebacker Anson Pulsipher, were also announced.
Cardinal faithful can look forward to the addition of John Humphreys to the talented wide receiver corps. Humphreys, the top-rated wide receiver recruit in the conference, won the state championship with Corona del Mar.
“The first time I saw him, I saw Ed McCaffrey,” Shaw said, comparing Humphreys to his former Stanford teammate. “I saw a tall, long, fast receiver that can make difficult catches but can also drop his weight and get out of breaks, and that’s awfully difficult for guys over 6-4. This guy does it just like the 5-11 guys do it. I think he is the most underrated receiver in the nation.”
Running back Casey Filkins, the Oregon Gatorade Player of the Year, will take his 6,786 total yards and 100 touchdowns to the backfield. The last offensive piece is three-star wide receiver Bryce Farrell, a football and track standout who helped his high school win a Division II state football title in 2017.
Special teams coach Pete Alamar will also add long snapper Bailey Parsons and kicker Joshua Karty to his already-impressive arsenal. The consensus top kicker in the country, Karty has kicked a 70-yard field goal in practice and has the strongest leg Shaw has seen of any high school kicker in the last five years, the coach said.
The Cardinal will also welcome quarterback Tanner McKee to the Farm, who was originally signed in the 2018 recruiting class before serving a mission in Brazil.
“Inside the program, there’s energy, there’s enthusiasm and there’s excitement,” Shaw said. “I think you see that with the class we have.”
Shaw also said he expects to add a few more players in the next signing period.
Contact Daniel Martinez-Krams at danielmk ‘at’ stanford.edu.