Any discussion of 2012 recruits comes with the understanding that even those players who have committed to the Cardinal could change their minds. Nothing is official until national signing day on February 1, 2012, so recruiting news should be read through that filter. It's an inexact science, but it's simply too much fun to ignore.
The foundation of any football team, especially a Stanford team, must begin with the offensive line. For proof of this one need look no farther than the group that's been protecting Andrew Luck and clearing the way for Toby Gerhart and Stepfan Taylor for the past three seasons.
For those who are concerned that Stanford Football is ready to fall back off the map the minute Luck moves on to the NFL, the prospective incoming recruiting class offers a quarter ton (and maybe more) of optimism.
The latest recruit to commit to the Cardinal is Nick Davidson, a 6'6" 275-pound offensive lineman from the great state of Minnesota. Both major recruiting services honor him with four stars, and he seems to be the real deal, at least based on the thirteen other offers he turned down in favor of Stanford, including powerhouse programs like Michigan, Ohio State, Virginia Tech, and Oregon. Rivals.com ranks Davidson as the 38th best offensive tackle, and that should come as no surprise -- his father, Jeff Davidson, is the offensive line coach for the Minnesota Vikings. I'm guessing Nick has had more than a little coaching at the dinner table.
After committing during the middle of last week, Davidson told the Minnesota Star Tribune, "Stanford has pretty much been my number one choice all along. I took a visit out there the summer after my sophomore year and again in the spring after my junior year, and I loved it both times. It just always seemed like the best fit for me." He also noted that the Stanford coaching staff plans on using him at right tackle early on before moving him across to the all-important left tackle spot as he matures.
Davidson's commitment is another in what could develop into an impressive recruiting class, especially on the offensive line. There's already another four-star tackle in the fold, Graham Shuler from Brentwood Academy in Tennessee, and a three-star guard, Johnny Caspers. Beyond that, there could be even bigger things on the horizon, as Stanford is still in the running for three of the top seven offensive tackles in the nation, five-stars Andrus Peat and Kyle Murphy and four-star Josh Garnett. Landing just one of those three to go along with the three already committed would give Stanford one of the top groups of incoming linemen in the country.
This commitment, as well as the list of other players still interested in the Cardinal, highlights the dramatic change in the caliber of players being recruited by Coach Shaw and his staff. For comparison's sake, Jonathan Martin, David DeCastro, and Chase Beeler, arguably the three best linemen to play for the Cardinal in the past decade, all came to Stanford as three-star recruits. All three of those men developed into NFL first-round draft picks, so it will be interesting to see what happens with linemen who come in with higher ratings and presumably higher ceilings.
Nothing in football is guaranteed, neither the actual enrollment of these players nor their eventual development, but there's an awful lot to be excited about. February 1st can't get here soon enough.