Pac-12: Brandon Simmons

STANFORD, Calif. -- Stanford coach David Shaw knew for two days that four-star defensive end Solomon Thomas would give a pledge to Stanford on ESPNU to open national signing day coverage.

He didn't know Thomas, the No. 4-ranked defensive end in the country, would do it by pulling a tree out from under a table and then conduct the rest of the interview in nerd glasses. It was a pleasant surprise and a fitting start to a day in which the Cardinal signed the country's No. 15 class, which ranked only behind USC in the Pac-12.

"The fact that nerd is not necessarily a negative word anymore," Shaw said. "It says a lot about our kids that are bright, that our kids are smart. Our kids want to accomplish something also in the classroom and beyond Stanford and beyond football. It says a lot about who those guys are and what they want to accomplish."

[+] EnlargeSolomon Thomas
ESPNSolomon Thomas brought some style to his Stanford announcement.
In Thomas' opening statement there was no mention of spending the next three, four or five years on the Farm. Instead, he chose to focus on what Shaw and his staff have made a priority.

"I'll be playing college football and I'll be graduating from Stanford University," Thomas said.

Key word: graduating.

Of Stanford's 20 commits, seven were ranked in the ESPN 300 and 11 were given four-star grades. Quarterback Keller Chryst, offensive tackle Casey Tucker, tight end Dalton Schultz and Thomas were the headliners, while running back Christian McCaffrey, offensive tackle Reilly Gibbons and safety Brandon Simmons were also in the ESPN 300.

Shaw wouldn't specify which players had the best chances to earn early playing time, but Schultz, the nation's top-ranked tight end, figures to be the best bet. After sending four tight ends to the NFL over the previous three seasons, the Cardinal were largely without a tight end in the receiving game this past season.

“[Schultz] is a kid that all the recruiting services had as the No. 1 tight end in America,” offensive coordinator Mike Bloomgren said. “When we evaluate kids and put them on our board, we are going to agree with them and sometimes we are not. In Dalton’s case, we absolutely did.”

Stanford's recruiting efforts took a big hit in late December when it was announced recruiting coordinator Mike Sanford would leave to become the offensive coordinator at Boise State following the Rose Bowl. A few weeks later, defensive coordinator Derek Mason took over at Vanderbilt and inside linebackers coach David Kotulski went with him to become the defensive coordinator.

"We talk about being a national recruiter," Shaw said. "Well, we felt it after those guys left because you're starting with 10 and you're busy then you have seven guys to canvas the nation. It was taxing.

"It was for the first time really in my career here at Stanford that I was gone for eight days straight. We all had to cover a lot of ground."

The class is made up of players from 12 states, with California (5), Arizona (3), Florida (2) and Texas (2) providing multiple players.

However, not everyone required a plane trip. In fact, in the case of Chryst, there was no need for a vehicle at all. The son of 49ers quarterback coach Geep Chryst literally has the arm strength to throw a football from his Palo Alto High campus to the Stanford campus, which are located across the street from each other.

Chryst's addition should make for an interesting competition down the line. Starter Kevin Hogan still has two years left of eligibility and Ryan Burns was one of the prizes of Stanford's recruiting class a year ago.

On Chryst's ability, Shaw said: "There are things you can teach playing the quarterback position and things you can't. You can't teach 6-4, 235 and athleticism that can throw the ball 70 yards. You just can't teach that stuff. You see a young man with ability and physical tools and toughness. Best thing for us is that we don't feel the need to rush his development."

Shaw said he had met the elder Chryst a few times while coaching in the NFL, but didn't develop a real relationship with him until the recruiting process began.

Recruit and return: Stanford Cardinal 

January, 1, 2014
Though the season ended on a sour note, with a 24-20 loss to Michigan State in the Rose Bowl presented by VIZIO, 2013 was another tremendously successful season for the Cardinal. Stanford posted an 11-win season and defended its Pac-12 crown. Heading toward signing day, it's doubtful this loss will damage any of the momentum the Cardinal have built on the recruiting trail. On the heels of a small recruiting class in 2013 -- Stanford signed just a dozen prospects -- Shaw and his assistants will be able to go after more recruits in the 2014 class, though this group still likely won't approach the maximum allowable limit of 25. At this point, Stanford's 2014 class ranks No. 28 in the nation and No. 4 in the Pac-12.

Pac-12 recruiting roundup

May, 29, 2013
The Pac-12 teams have been busy, with more than half of the squads adding at least one commit in the last two weeks. Here's where things stand.


2014 verbal commitments: 4
Spotlight: Running back Jonathan Haden (Washington, D.C.) is the latest to commit after passing up offers from more than 10 schools, including Ohio State. Here's his highlight reel. (Some pretty good-looking runs).
ESPN 150 members: 1 (Athlete Cameron Denson, Tucson, Ariz.)

Arizona State

2014 verbal commitments: 3
Spotlight: Defensive end Korey Rush (Salt Lake City) gave his commitment earlier this month. He's an undersized defensive lineman with an explosive first step. That should sound familiar to Sun Devils fans.
ESPN 150 members: 0


2014 verbal commitments: 3
Spotlight: Running back Tre Watson (Corona, Calif.), who gave a verbal commitment last week, passed up offers from Washington State, Utah and BYU in favor of the Bears.
ESPN 150 members: 0


2014 verbal commitments: 1
Spotlight: The Buffaloes got on the board last week with their first commit for the 2014 class -- offensive tackle Isaac Miller (Longmont, Colo.). Washington State also offered the 6-foot-7, 255-pounder, who has some room to grow.
ESPN 150 members: 0


2014 verbal commitments: 3
Spotlight: No commits from the Ducks in the past couple of weeks, but dual-threat quarterback Morgan Mahalak (Kentfield, Calif.) is intriguing. He backed up Jared Goff while playing wide receiver.
ESPN 150 members: 0

Oregon State

2014 verbal commitments: 1
Spotlight: Quarterback Nick Mitchell (Snoqualmie, Wash.), is still the lone commit for the Beavers. Typical Mike Riley pro-style quarterback. Tall and accurate. Here's his scouting report.
ESPN 150 members: 0


2014 verbal commitments: 3
Spotlight: No commits from Stanford since the last roundup, but safety Brandon Simmons (Arlington, Texas) returns punts and -- from his highlight reel -- has pretty good instincts reacting to the ball.
ESPN 150 members: 0


2014 verbal commitments: 2
Spotlight: Wide receiver Dionte Sykes (Chandler Ariz.), who committed last week, is a good-sized target at 6-2 who could emerge as a solid possession and red zone target. Here's his highlight reel, with a pretty good catch at the 41-second mark.
ESPN 150 members: 0


2014 verbal commitments: 5
Spotlight: Four-star defensive tackle Tashon Smallwood (Fresno, Calif.), sought after by the likes of Alabama and Oklahoma, is a space-eater with room to grow in his 6-foot, 290-pound frame. He looks like he could be a 3-4 nose, but you can see from his highlight reel that he's also got a good first step and pursues well.
ESPN 150 members: 0


2014 verbal commitments: 5
Spotlight: Wide receiver Raelon Singleton (Crosby, Texas), who committed earlier this month, fits the mold of wide receiver Utah is going to want as it moves fully into the spread offense. Tall, can stretch the field and has tremendous upside.
ESPN 150 members: 0


2014 verbal commitments: 4
Spotlight: Cool fact about tight end Chase Blakley (Coeur D'Alene, Idaho) -- it's been more than 15 years since someone from his school has played at the Pac-12 level, per the Coeur D'Alene Press. You can see his highlight reel here.
ESPN 150 members: 0

Washington State

2014 verbal commitments: 5
Spotlight: The Cougars have picked up two commits in the past couple of weeks, including a verbal commitment Tuesday from wide receiver Zaire Andre (Inglewood, Calif.). He's a quick, elusive receiver who could fit in nicely as a slot receiver/kick returner. Had offers from Nebraska, Nevada and San Jose State.
ESPN 150 members: 0