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Tuesday, January 31, 2012
Rankings aren't the end all, be all

By Kevin Gemmell

Last week we saw in an analysis by ESPN The Magazine and RecruitingNation that Stanford was the best school in the nation at getting the most production from out-of-state recruiting.

Well, there's a flipside to that coin.

As good as Stanford has been looking outside of the Golden State, it hasn't been too productive at landing California's finest. A similar analysis shows Stanford is the third-worst program at getting ESPNU 150 athletes from its own state.

From 2007 to 2011, Stanford landed just 2-of-73 ESPNU 150 athletes from California -- Anthony Wilkerson out of Tustin in 2010 and Josh Nunes from Upland in 2009.
Here's what LaRue Cook says about Stanford:

We gave Stanford props for its ability to go out of state to sign top prospects, but there's no ignoring the program's inability to create an elite pipeline in its state. (Meanwhile, UCLA has signed 12 in-state ESPNU 150 recruits over the last five years.) Sure, Cardinal fans can blame their program's struggles on academic constraints, but out of 73 players, surely more than two could qualify. In 2012, David Shaw doesn't have a single ESPNU 150 commit from California -- USC currently has four and UCLA has two -- but No. 4 OT Kyle Murphy (San Clemente) still has Stanford on his short list.

To which I say, so what? The analysis deals only with ESPNU 150 athletes. And I think we all know that whatever scouting service you trust, it isn't always bullet proof. Two-star players have gone on to greatness and five-stars have fizzled.

I say, consider some of the Stanford players who came out of California during that stretch who weren't ESPNU 150 prospects: Jonathan Martin (North Hollywood), Tyler Gaffney (San Diego), Levine Toilolo (San Diego), Zach Ertz (Danville), Delano Howell (Newhall). All remarkably productive and one who is expected to be drafted in the first round.

This type of analysis makes for great message board fodder, but read more into the results than projections -- and I think the Stanford coaching staff would agree. If you're looking strictly at the ranking numbers, then yes, Stanford hasn't been particularly successful as, say, USC, which has scored 33 ESPNU 150 recruits from California during that time span. By the way, what's Stanford's record against USC the last three years?

Stanford is a unique program that has to be examined with a different standard of criteria. The product on the field is what matters. The results are still out on Wilkerson since Stepfan Taylor has been carrying the load. And with Barry Sanders coming in, we might never know if Wilkerson could be a carry-the-load kind of running back.

It's an open quarterback competition next year, so we'll see who emerges and where Nunes lands.

This year's current crop of commits features just one player from California -- wide receiver Kodi Whitfield. So what? It also has four ESPNU 150 commits with the possibility of more.

The morale of the story: It shouldn't matter if they come from Los Angeles or Plymouth, Minn. (shout out to A.J. Tarpley), if they can play, they can play.

Like most regular readers of this blog, I live in California and was raised on Bay Area football and spent the early portions of my career covering Southern California high schools. There are only so many 6-4, 225-pound wide receivers that run 4.4 40s and only so many four- and-five stars that can be handed out. California is fertile ground, and fair game, for every school in the country.

My take: Stanford is doing just fine in California, and Texas, and Georgia and Arizona, and everywhere else they can find the athletes that fit the academic requirements, character and culture needed to be a football player at Stanford.