Stanford Football: Walt Harris

We continue our look at Stanford's top-5 impactful recruiting classes of the past decade.

No. 3: 2007

Credit for the 2007 signing class should be spread around. Walt Harris and his staff laid the groundwork for what eventually became Jim Harbaugh's first class, but the baton was first passed to former athletic director Bob Bowlsby in the interim.

The weekend after Harris was fired, Stanford hosted a group of recruits that helped change the program's direction. TE Coby Fleener, WR Doug Baldwin, OLB Thomas Keiser and DL Matt Masifilo -- all of whom are now in the NFL -- were part of that group and later committed after Harbaugh was hired.

Two other players from the class also ended up in the NFL -- FB Owen Marecic and RB Jeremy Stewart, both of whom were unheralded recruits. Of the 10 players that verbally committed after Harbaugh was hired, five went on to the NFL. The only NFL player from the class that committed to Harris was Keiser.

As Harbaugh's first class, the group gets a lot of credit for changing the culture of the program. Marecic, in particular, is a player who embodied the physical brand of football the Cardinal is now know for.

There were two losing seasons after the group arrived, but the Cardinal turned the corner in 2009 with an 8-5 season -- the program's first winning season since 2001. In their fourth year, the class helped Stanford to a 12-1 record, a No. 4 national ranking and a win in the Orange Bowl. For Fleener, Masifilo, Stewart and others who played a fifth year, an appearance in the Fiesta Bowl followed the next season.


No. 4: 2010

No. 5: 2006
We begin a look at Stanford's top-5 impactful recruiting classes of the past decade.

No. 5: 2006

[+] EnlargeToby Gerhart
Harry How/Getty ImagesToby Gerhart helped turn Stanford's program into one of the nation's best.
Bring up the name Walt Harris on the Stanford campus, and there's a decent chance it will elicit a blank stare.

His stint as the Cardinal's head coach was about as memorable as The Sandlot 2 and, for those who remember him, his name still carries a He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named vibe. It can be argued that the most positive part of Harris' tenure was that he was so bad so quickly that it allowed former athletic director Bob Bowlsby to fire him after just two seasons and bring in Jim Harbaugh.

That's not to say Harris didn't leave some lasting positive contributions. His final recruiting class checks in at No. 5, and the 2007 class, which he laid the groundwork for, will appear later this week.

As far as star power goes, few classes will ever rival the two names that headline the Class of 2006: Toby Gerhart and Richard Sherman.

Gerhart finished second in the Heisman Trophy balloting in 2009 and led the Cardinal to its first winning season since 2001. Perhaps more than any other player, he helped develop the program's current reputation for toughness.

Sherman's impact at Stanford doesn't match what it has been in the NFL, but the one-time receiver's association with the program is still paying dividends. He's a regular at Stanford games during Seahawks bye weeks and a frequent visitor in the offseason.

Gerhart wasn't around for a fifth year in 2010, but his remaining classmates were a part of one of the best Stanford teams of all time. The Cardinal finished 12-1 and routed Virginia Tech 40-12 in the Orange Bowl, which began a string of four straight appearances in BCS bowls.

Other notable players from the class include DT Sione Fua, a second-round NFL draft pick in 2011, DE Brian Bulcke, now in the Canadian Football League and OL Derek Hall, who spent a year on the 49ers practice squad.

Best case/worst case: Pac-12 bowls

December, 13, 2012
Our assignment is to pose a best-case and a worst-case scenario for every Pac-12 bowl team.

So here goes.


Gildan New Mexico Bowl, Albuquerque, N.M., Dec. 15: Arizona (7-5) vs. Nevada (7-5), 1 p.m. ET, ESPN

Best case: Arizona rolls 40-28, as quarterback Matt Scott goes out with a bang that raises NFL eyebrows, and running back Ka'Deem Carey rushes for 195 yards to sew up the national rushing title.

Worst case: Scott gets knocked out of the game early and backup B.J. Denker looks overwhelmed, raising questions about the future at QB. Carey rushes for 35 yards and loses the rushing title as Nevada rolls 42-21. Michigan fans hit the message boards with a litany of "I told you so" about Rich Rodriguez.


MAACO Bowl Las Vegas, Las Vegas, Dec. 22: Washington (7-5) vs. Boise State (10-2), 3:30 p.m. ET, ESPN

Best case: In a "Welcome back!" performance, QB Keith Price throws for 295 yards and three touchdowns -- matching the total TD passes the Broncos have yielded all season -- and runs for another score as the Huskies end 2012 with a statement victory that bodes well for 2013. The Huskies' hot offseason topic is how high the preseason ranking will be.

Worst case: Washington starts slowly as it has much of the season, then gives up a double-digit fourth-quarter lead as Price throws multiple interceptions. Boise State wins going away 38-17, and the Huskies' hot offseason topic is whether coach Steve Sarkisian has plateaued.


Bridgepoint Education Holiday Bowl, San Diego, Dec. 27: UCLA (9-4) vs. Baylor (7-5), 9:45 p.m. ET, ESPN

Best case: That the Bruins score 45 points is not unexpected. That Baylor is held to just 17 points is unexpected. UCLA dominates on both sides of the ball, and quarterback Brett Hundley looks like a budding Heisman Trophy candidate. After the game, linebacker Anthony Barr and guard Xavier Su'a-Filo both announce they are returning for the 2013 season. Says Barr, "Unfinished business? Naaah. I just like playing with these guys."

Worst case: Baylor rolls over UCLA in a 55-30 win, as the Bruins' defense can do nothing to slow the Bears, while Hundley throws three picks. Barr and Su'a-Filo opt to leave for the NFL, as does coach Jim Mora, who is hired by the Philadelphia Eagles.

Oregon State

Valero Alamo Bowl, San Antonio, Dec. 29: Oregon State (9-3) vs. Texas (8-4), 6:45 p.m. ET, ESPN

Best case: Oregon State throttles the Longhorns 31-13 with stifling defense, but the big story is Cody Mannion -- or is it Sean Vaz? -- throwing four touchdown passes and making a strong case to be the 2013 starter.

Worst case: The Beavers become the only team that couldn't run on Texas this year, and Sean Mannion and Cody Vaz both throw two interceptions in a 30-10 defeat. Meanwhile, Oregon State makes both Case McCoy and David Ash look like superstars. "Well," say all the national commentators. "This makes a strong case for the Big 12's superiority over the Pac-12. But we've still got to see the Fiesta Bowl."

Arizona State

Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl, San Francisco, Dec. 29: Arizona State (7-5) vs. Navy (7-4), 4 p.m. ET, ESPN2

Best case: Arizona State uses its superior speed on both sides of the ball to throttle Navy 48-17. After the game, consensus All-American defensive tackle Will Sutton announces he's returning for his senior year.

Worst case: Navy's triple option wears down the Sun Devils in a 28-17 victory. Even worse, the Sun Devils turn the ball over five times and commit 12 penalties for 105 yards, including two personal fouls. They look like the 2011 team, not the 2012 version under new coach Todd Graham.


Hyundai Sun Bowl, El Paso, Texas, Dec. 31: USC (7-5) vs. Georgia Tech (6-7), 2 p.m. ET, CBS

Best case: Matt Barkley looks like, well, Matt Barkley, throwing five touchdown passes as the Trojans roll 40-10. As for the defense, coordinator Monte Kiffin goes out in style, with the Trojans holding Georgia Tech's option to just 225 total yards. Head coach Lane Kiffin announces after the game that he has hired Bob Diaco away from Notre Dame to be his defensive coordinator.

Worst case: Barkley tries to play but reinjures his shoulder, and the Trojans fold thereafter, ending a horribly disappointing season with a 38-17 loss. After the game, receiver Robert Woods, running back Silas Redd and cornerback Nickell Robey announce they will enter the NFL draft. Lane Kiffin also announces the hiring of Nick Holt to run the Trojans' defense.


Rose Bowl Game presented by Vizio, Pasadena, Calif., Jan. 1: Stanford (11-2) vs. Wisconsin (8-5), 5 p.m. ET, ESPN

Best case: Stanford dominates on both sides of the ball in a 30-10 victory, holding the Badgers to just 79 yards rushing and 210 total yards. Quarterback Kevin Hogan throws two touchdown passes and runs for another, while running back Stepfan Taylor rushes for 145 yards and a score. After the game, linebacker Shayne Skov, defensive end Ben Gardner and tight end Zach Ertz announce they will be returning for their senior seasons.

Worst case: Montee Ball rushes for 197 yards and two scores as Wisconsin pushes the Cardinal around in a 24-17 win. The Badgers sack Hogan four times, overwhelming the Cardinal's offensive line. After the game, Skov, Gardner and Ertz announce they will enter the NFL draft. Coach David Shaw is hired by the Philadelphia Eagles, and Walt Harris is rehired.


Tostitos Fiesta Bowl, Glendale, Ariz., Jan. 3: Oregon (11-1) vs. Kansas State (11-1), 8:30 p.m. ET, ESPN

Best case: Oregon starts fast and never lets up in a 51-20 blowout, with running back Kenjon Barner rushing for 187 yards and two scores and quarterback Marcus Mariota throwing for three TDs. The Ducks sack Collin Klein five times and grab two interceptions. "I'm sure glad we didn't play them in the regular season," Kansas State coach Bill Snyder says afterward. Shortly after the game, Ducks coach Chip Kelly signs a lifetime contract, opens practices and promises to be more patient with hypotheticals and other sorts of irritating questions.

Worst case: The Kansas State defense throttles the Ducks' offense, and Klein throws three TD passes in a 30-13 victory. The Ducks rush for only 101 yards. "Oregon struggles in these big games," say the national commentators afterward. "And this really makes the Pac-12 look bad." Kelly is hired by the Philadelphia Eagles. Mariota quits football to become a professional surfer. John Mackovic is hired to replace Kelly.


David Shaw Talks Stanford Signing Day
Stanford coach David Shaw joins ESPN's Matt Schick to discuss the Cardinal's 2015 recruiting class and its top positional needs heading into the spring.