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Pac-12 Football Recruiting Profiles: Stanford Cardinal

Part 4 in in our look at the 5-year recruiting trends of each Pac-12 program

NCAA Football: Stanford at Southern California Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Welcome to a series in which I am profiling the recruiting trends and habits of each team in the Pac-12 conference over the past five seasons. That includes the 2014-2018 classes ending with the incoming freshmen for this upcoming season.

The data I used does not include every single offer and commit for every program but it does include the vast majority. The cuts I made were deliberate. To see more information about what specifically is in the data set and an explanation of any metrics I used, please check out this article which has all the information you could want and more.

You can also look at the previous editions profiling: Arizona, Arizona State, and California. With that out of the way, let’s look at the Stanford Cardinal.

Program Overview

Stanford has been one of the models of consistency in the Pac-12. David Shaw came to Stanford as Jim Harbaugh’s offensive coordinator and took over for him as head coach in 2011 following his jump to the NFL. The Cardinal were one of the premier programs in the conference under Harbaugh and Shaw has sustained that success with a dedication to smashmouth football. Stanford is 73-22 (.768) under Shaw with 3 conference championships in that time. The Cardinal have used their academic profile as a strength rather than a weakness by recruiting nationally and often times having their pick of the best prospects in the country who put a premium on education.

General Recruiting Statistics

Average Offer: 3.8 stars, 0.918 composite rating (2nd in conference)

Average Commit: 3.48 stars, 0.891 composite rating (3rd in conference)

Average # of Offers: 69 (12th in conference)

Recruiting Style: Offers- Selective, Quality- High Roller

Stanford routinely has among the fewest offers handed out of any program in the country. They won’t hand out an offer unless a recruit meets their standards both athletically and academically. The combination of those two eliminates 95% of potential players. But when they go after that 5%, they rarely miss.

Stanford has had particular success on the offensive side of the ball at QB, TE, and OT, bringing in an average of two recruits per year at those three positions with a composite rating of 0.95 or higher (very high 4-star). Recruits at those positions know with a pro-style offense dedicated to running the football that there’s a good chance that going to Stanford will result in making it in the NFL.

Best Recruiting Win: Class of 2017 Solomon Thomas, SDE. 5 stars, 0.9885 composite rating.

“Stanford’s best recruiting wins are probably Solomon Thomas and Christian McCaffrey, since they were both incredible in college and had a million offers. So those are some easy ones to pick, especially because Arkansas went really hard after Solomon Thomas.”

-Jack Blanchat at Rule of Tree

Worst Recruiting Loss: Class of 2016 Demetris Robertson, WR. 5 stars, 0.9905 composite rating.

“Demetris Robertson was a big recruiting miss, since he waited for a long time after signing day to pick a school... and then picked Cal. He immediately had an impact for Cal as a true freshman, racking up 767 yards and 7 touchdowns, which would have been helpful for Stanford to have.”

-Jack Blanchat at Rule of Tree

Recruiting Map Profile

Stanford has the least conventional recruiting profile of any program in the Pac-12. They’ve offered players in 39 different states over the last five years, tied with Arizona State. However, they offer less than half as many prospects as ASU so the offers are even more widely distributed. California gets the plurality of offers but that’s still only 17% (fewest of any Pac-12 program). They actually target the southeast more than the rest of the West Coast as their next three highly targeted states are Texas (15.7%), Georgia (12.8%), and Florida (8.8%). Stanford also gets it done in the Midwest and Northeast with commits from Connecticut, Illinois, Indiana, Massachusetts, Maryland, New Jersey, Ohio, and Pennsylvania in the last five years.

Highest Success States

California: +8.65%, Utah: +4.28%, Arizona: +2.4%

It’s very common for a school to have its home state #1 in this category, and even Stanford isn’t an exception here. Slightly over a quarter of incoming Cardinal recruits hail from California. They’ve also been great in Utah, bringing in 7 of 12 offers, as well as Arizona with 4 of 7.

Lowest Success States

Georgia: -5.05%, Florida: -4.3%, Texas: -3.52%

Players from these three states combined make up almost as many total commits as from California but it has taken significantly more offers to get them. Stanford has brought in 23 out of 58 recruits in California compared to a combined 22 of 128 in Georgia/Florida/Texas. Still, getting 17% of their commitments from those fertile southeast states is a much better hit rate than almost any other Pac-12 school.

Out of Conference Profile

Non-Conference Rival- Notre Dame Fighting Irish, 51.22%.

This is one of the few times that you can point to a non-conference rivalry both on and off the field. Stanford and Notre Dame have had 41 different players with an offer from both schools that chose to go to one or the other and the split has been 21 to Stanford and 20 to Notre Dame. It doesn’t get much more even than that. The Cardinal can also hold their heads up high that they won both such contests for 5-star prospects in Foster Sarell and Solomon Thomas.

Non-Conference Big Brother- Texas Longhorns, 40.91%.

It’s just about impossible to find a program that Stanford hasn’t been able to recruit against successfully under David Shaw. He won’t hand out an offer unless there’s a very good chance that kid is coming to Palo Alto. But Texas also has a built-in advantage within these metrics as they rarely go after guys outside their own state. Despite some coaching upheaval in the recent past the Longhorns hold a 13 to 9 edge and all but 3 of those commits came from Texas.

Non-Conference Little Brother- Nebraska Cornhuskers, 90.0%.

Go back in time 15 years and try telling a Nebraska fan that they would get out-recruited this badly by Stanford and see their reaction. It has been utter domination by Stanford since 2014 as they hold a 27-3 advantage. They’ve almost all been high profile as well as 22 of the 30 were a 4-star or higher recruit. The three wins for Nebraska? From South Dakota, Delaware, and Oklahoma. I think the pattern is they have a shot if the person is from an area where Nebraska is actually a step up as a state.

Stanford Pac-12 Recruiting Win % (2014-2018)

Year Conf H2H % Conf. Rank
Year Conf H2H % Conf. Rank
2014 28.57% 1
2015 22.64% 2
2016 26.67% 1
2017 23.73% 1
2018 25.00% 1
Overall 25.37% 1

Being selective with your offers helps these metrics and Stanford has been an absolute monster in recruiting battles against the rest of the conference. The Cardinal end up with a recruit about 1/4 of the time they go up against another Pac-12 school. For most schools in the conference, if Stanford offers a recruit then it means that dude is not coming to your school. Either he’s going away from the West Coast or he’s going to Palo Alto. They’ve ripped elite prospects out of Washington (Foster Sarell), Arizona (Casey Tucker), Colorado (Christian McCaffrey), and Utah (Dalton Schultz). Being the hometown school won’t save you when Stanford comes after your guy with their full recruiting clout.

Stanford Pac-12 Weighted Recruiting Win % (2014-2018)

Year Conf H2H % Conf. Rank
Year Conf H2H % Conf. Rank
2014 88.72% 2
2015 57.14% 3
2016 73.33% 1
2017 85.42% 2
2018 45.00% 3
Overall 69.92% 2

The weighted numbers actually drop Stanford a bit although they’re still clearly one of the recruiting powers in the conference. The biggest reason for the drop is that this metric only takes into account how many Pac-12 offers a player has. Beating Alabama and Clemson is more impressive than Wazzu and OSU but the latter scenario counts for more here. Stanford is much more willing to eschew the traditional Pac-12 recruiting grounds which means they go up against conference rivals much less frequently.

The Cardinal had stellar classes in 2014 and 2017 but fell to earth in 2018 as Washington made up ground and USC stayed up there. The Cardinal reeled in just one of the top-25 prospects that they offered according to 247’s composite ranking in 2018. And they only offered 50 total players that met the inclusion criteria so basically they reeled in just 4% of the top half of their targets. In 2017, they reeled in 4 of their top-25 including a pair of 5-star offensive linemen. David Shaw has a lot of advantages but Stanford might be advised to have another double digit win season to remain right alongside USC as the recruiting kings of the Pac-12 and keep Washington and UCLA off their back.

Early Outlook for 2019 and Beyond

Stanford has already offered more players than they did for all of the 2018 class so they may be making an adjustment after a down recruiting year. The average offer numbers are in line with every other year except 2017 which saw a notable spike. 43 of the 63 prospects that they’ve offered are either a 4 or 5-star guy. David Shaw already has 2 in the boat for 2019 and both are 4 star prospects.

It doesn’t look like Stanford is suddenly going to turn local as their 63 offers are out to 22 different states. There’s still a heavy concentration around California, Texas, Florida, and Georgia but they’ve shown a much higher percentage of offers in Tennessee than they have traditionally.

There’s really no reason to think that Stanford won’t continue to be one of the two or three best programs in the conference as long as David Shaw is still there. He’s proven at this point that he can get it done without Jim Harbaugh. But if he does decide to give the NFL a shot then who knows with whoever takes over. Until then, expect to see the Cardinal offer fewer players than anyone in the conference and end up somewhere between 10th and 20th in the team recruiting rankings rather than top-7 only because they don’t take as many commitments as the recruiting blue bloods.


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