Oh, and he'll be playing football, too. According to GoStanford.com, running back Tyler Gaffney, who left after the 2012 Fiesta Bowl to pursue a professional baseball career, will return to school on April 1st for the spring quarter. "This is the ideal time for me to return to the Farm and complete the work toward my degree from Stanford University," said Gaffney. "As a freshman at Stanford in 2009, I had three goals: play football and baseball at Stanford and receive my degree. Two of the three have been accomplished; I eagerly look forward to completing the third."
You should definitely listen to David Lombardi's exclusive (and free) interview with Gaffney over at The Bootleg, in which Gaffney explains that he's eager to strap on the shoulder pads again this coming fall. But what will this mean for the team when he does?
Senior Anthony Wilkerson tops all current Stanford backs with 914 yards and seven touchdowns in his three-year career, and after that there's a huge drop-off to sophomores Kelsey Young, Remound Wright, and Ricky Seale. Beyond those four, of course, lurks a redshirt freshman named Barry J. Sanders, a player that David Shaw described as the best running back recruit in America on signing day in 2012.
Last week it looked like the 2013 Stanford backfield would resemble the Jackson 5 -- four talented backs destined to be outshone sooner or later by a dynamic youngster -- but now the narrative has changed.
Let's assume that there are 500 carries to go around in 2013. Stepfan Taylor had 322 carries in 2012, but no one will approach that number this fall. No one on the roster has ever carried the ball more than 89 times in a single season (that was Wilkerson's freshman year), and I bet we don't see anyone with more than 200 carries this season. Maybe we end up with something like this:
Gaffney will likely end up with somewhere around 125 carries, but even more important than that could be the veteran leadership he'll provide.We can't be sure whether or not Gaffney will simply be able to pick up where he left off after a year of riding busses from one minor league city to the next, but he'll certainly contribute.
The last time the Stanford coaching staff pulled a recruit out of the prestigious Harvard-Westlake School in North Hollywood, it was offensive tackle Jonathan Martin. That worked out pretty well, as Martin earned All-Pac-12 and All-America honors before being drafted into the NFL.
This year they've signed Thomas Oser, a 6'4" guard who earned a three-star rating from Rivals.com and turned down scholarship offers from Oregon, Colorado, Washington State, and Vanderbilt, amongst others. After last year's historic haul of offensive linemen, the Cardinal would appear to be stocked at that position, but that will give Oser time to develop. With that in mind, it will likely be at least three years before we know whether or not Oser has lived up to the standard set by Martin (or fellow H-W alums, Jaron and Jason Collins), but we'll be watching.
The name is definitely familiar, and most Stanford fans know that Francis Owusu is the younger brother of the recently graduated Chris Owusu, an All-Pac-10 performer and one of the most explosive receivers in Stanford history.
Because of this connection it had been widely assumed that Francis would be following in his brother's footsteps and signing with the Cardinal, but the younger Owusu maintained throughout the process that Stanford was simply one of the schools on his list. After a visit to campus last June during which he watched his brother Chris receive his Stanford diploma and listened to another former Cardinal receiver (Cory Booker, the mayor of Newark, New Jersey) give the commencement speech, the younger Owusu ended the suspense. Francis committed to Stanford the next day.
As always, I maintain that the list of schools offering scholarships to a player is probably the best barometer with which to judge that player's potential, and Owusu's list matches the four-star evaluations he's received from both Scout.com and Rivals.com. Owusu turned down schollies from fourteen other schools, including Arizona, Arizona State, Oregon State, UCLA, and Washington State from the Pac-12 and Florida, Nebraska, and Notre Dame from elsewhere around the country.
At 6'3" and 195 pounds, Owusu has the size necessary to compete physically with Pac-12 defensive backs, and enough speed to develop into a deep threat. Combined with fellow signee Ryan Burns, Owusu could stretch defenses significantly. Not surprisingly, Owusu's intelligence is listed as a strength, as he often outthinks defenders, but scouts saw him as something of a project physically entering his senior year, citing concerns about his route running. As you'll see in his 2012 highlight package, Owusu may still have some issues in this area, but he more than makes up for this with pure speed and athleticism. Don't be surprised if he makes an impact this fall.
When John Elway left Stanford in 1983, he left more than a legacy and a stack of school records. His departure created a void that his predecessors would never be able to fill. Sure, there would be other good quarterbacks, some of whom would even top a few of his records, but it took more than twenty-five years for someone to rise to Elway's level.
It will probably take another quarter century for that comet to come back around the sun again, but if there's one thing we've learned over the past year or two, Palo Alto has become a desired destination for elite high school football players, so we can expect to see some talent at the quarterback position as well.
As good as Stanford's 2012 recruiting class was, there was no passer in the group. During his Signing Day press conference, head coach David Shaw made it clear that bringing in an elite quarterback would be a priority heading into the 2013 recruiting cycle. Less than a month later, Virginia quarterback Ryan Burns gave his verbal commitment.
Burns is an interesting recruit, because early on his statistics were terribly unimpressive. In his first year as a starter for Stone Bridge High School in Ashburn, Virginia, he completed just 90 of 206 passes for 1,801 yards with 13 touchdowns and 14 interceptions.
Those mediocre numbers weren't just a result of inexperience (Burns missed his sophomore season with an injured (non-throwing) shoulder). He was playing in Stone Bridge's run-oriented single-wing offense, so his numbers were much lower than you might expect from an elite quarterback. For his senior season, however, head coach Mickey Thompson installed a spread offense, and Burns responded with much better numbers.
At 6'5" and 218 pounds, Burns looks the part of the prototypical quarterback, and according to recruiting expert Tom Lemming, he has all the necessary tools to excel at the next level. "He has impressed everyone at camps with his height, arm strength, and overall athletic ability. He's very accurate in short to intermediate passes, he reads defense and shows a coolness under pressure." All of that translates to some high recruiting rankings: #47 by Rivals, and a top-100 ranking by MaxPreps.
David Shaw has demonstrated that his staff can recruit at least as well as Jim Harbaugh's, but this is his first quarterback commitment. Just as Harbaugh's success was linked to his recruitment and development of Andrew Luck, Shaw could find the early years of his tenure defined by the success of his first quarterback. Skyline High School's Max Browne, the top-ranked quarterback in the nation, had long listed Stanford as his dream school, but insiders have said that the Stanford coaches liked Burns better and didn't bother offering Browne a scholarship. Browne will sign with USC today, and he and Burns will likely be compared to one another for the next four years.
Burns doesn't have to become the next Andrew Luck, and he doesn't have to develop into a Heisman finalist -- but he does have to be good. Instead of the standard highlight package, check out this video profile. This is a good kid.
Since the Stanford defense switched to a 3-4 scheme a few years ago, the team's defensive identity has been forged through the strength of some of the best linebackers in the conference. Shayne Skov, Jarek Lancaster, Trent Murphy, James Vaughters, and A.J. Tarpley will form the best linebacking unit in the country this fall, and we can probably expect to see sophomores Noor Davis and Blake Martínez in the rotation as well.
Building on this strength, the Cardinal have now signed one of the top linebackers in the nation, Peter Kalambayi.
Checking in at 6'3" and 229 pounds, Kalambayi has the size to play inside linebacker, but is also fast enough on the edges (4.6 in the 40) to chase down running backs or rush the quarterback as an outside linebacker. As usual, there is some disagreement amongst the various recruiting services as to where he ranks compared to other linebackers (Rivals #7, Scout #6, ESPN #17, 247 Sports #8), but the offer list tells you all you need to know. In committing to the Cardinal, Kalambayi turned down twenty-three scholarship offers from places like Florida, Michigan, Ohio State, Oklahoma, Oregon, Penn State, and Virginia Tech. That's a serious group.
As dominant as he's become on the gridiron, football was not Kalambayi's first love. His family hails from Trinidad, and he has grown up playing soccer. That overall athleticism will likely help him find the field relatively early in his Stanford career. For proof, check the video...
When David Shaw and his coaching staff signed six elite offensive linemen last February, beneath the overwhelming chorus of approval was an undercurrent of quiet concern: How, some wondered, would all these players coexist? It's beginning to look like a similar question might apply to the Class of 2013, this time in reference to the linebackers.
Stanford already appears comfortably stocked with linebackers on the current roster, but now they've added Peter Kalambayi and Sean Barton, a freakish athlete from Woods Cross High School in Utah.
Barton measures out at 6'3" and 225 pounds with an impressive 4.48 forty time, and it's that speed that likely precipitated his move from linebacker to safety last season. When he suits up for the Cardinal, however, it will be at linebacker. Because of this position change, his ratings are a bit murky. Rivals.com measures him as a safety, and gives him four stars as the 22nd-ranked safety in the nation. Scout.com, however, correctly projects him as a linebacker, but gives him just three stars as their 48th-ranked outside linebacker.
Regardless of all that, Barton's commitment is significant. He fielded scholarship offers from Boise State and BYU, as well as PAC-12 schools Arizona State, Cal, Colorado, Oregon State, Utah, and Washington.
You'll have to wait a while before seeing Barton in Cardinal and White, however. It's been known throughout the recruiting process that Barton would embark on a two-year Mormon mission following high school graduation, and he recently learned that he'll be spending that time in Benin Cotonou, Africa. He won't set foot on the Stanford campus until the fall of 2015.
There are two reasons why this is a good thing. First, Stanford has a limited number of scholarships this year, but Barton will technically be a part of the recruiting Class of 2015, allowing the Cardinal staff to bring in an extra player this year. Second, he'll be twenty-three years old when he's a junior, a fact that will bring with it an advantage in size, strength, maturity, and leadership. All of those are good qualities to have in a linebacker.
By the time Barton arrives, he will be stepping into a legacy that will include Thomas Keiser, Chase Thomas, Shayne Skov, Jarek Lancaster, James Vaughters, and Noor Davis. As he drives up Palm Drive he won't only be enrolling at Stanford University, he'll be coming to Linebacker U.
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