Signing Day 2013: Small Class, Big Talent

January/February 2013

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Signing Day 2013: Small Class, Big Talent

Photo: David Gonzales/

Here’s one way to measure the improvement in Stanford’s football reputation: The families of potential recruits don’t peer at the coaching staff wondering if that S on their shirts signifies Syracuse or North Carolina State.

So noted head coach David Shaw during a Wednesday afternoon press conference announcing the 2013 recruiting class, which includes three tight ends and a quarterback in a group of 12 players from eight states.

It’s a relatively small contingent—the domino effect of a small graduating class—but the latest to reflect the influence of Stanford’s four straight bowl appearances. Shaw, '94, reflected on the early years of the team’s turnaround, when he was an assistant to Jim Harbaugh and recruiting meant kicking doors open. “Those doors are open right now."

What Shaw and his coaches extracted exemplifies the on-field personality that has carried the Cardinal into national title contention: Players with size plus attitude. The new class averages 6-foot-4, 235 pounds—and there’s not a defensive lineman in the dozen. Shaw defines attitude as mental and physical toughness, and he credits those characteristics as the pivotal ingredient in last season’s victories, seven of which came by a touchdown or less.

The tight ends are arguably crucial, given that two departing players at that position, seniors Zach Ertz and Levine Toilolo, were linchpins as blockers as well as pass catchers. The incoming trio: 6-foot-6 Eric Cotton from Nampa, Idaho; 6-foot-4 Austin Hooper from San Ramon and Concord’s famed De La Salle High, and 6-foot-5 Greg Taboada from Atlanta.

The quarterback is Ryan Burns, from Leesburg, Va., who attended camp at Stanford two years ago, said Shaw, and “from the first drill, blew us away.” Shaw refused to saddle the 6-foot-5, 225-pound Burns with any comparison to recent great Andrew Luck, ’12, but talked about his ability to be coached “very hard” and “pick things up quickly.”

“We don’t recruit to redshirt,” Shaw stressed at one point, saying that the recruiting strategy was to bring in players able to earn game time from the outset. “We’re all about competition. We play as many freshmen, we play as many total players, as anybody in the country.”

The most immediately recognizable name may belong to wide receiver Francis Owusu, of Oxnard, Calif., whose brother Chris, ’12, was a dynamic receiver and kick returner for the Cardinal until limited by a series of concussions. “Very similar,” said Shaw. “Both quick and explosive.”

There are four linebackers: Peter Kalambayi from Matthews, N.C., who arrives as the most highly touted of the group, and Mike Tyler from Brecksville, Ohio, are outside ’backers; Kevin Palma from Pixley, Calif., and Sean Barton from North Salt Lake, Utah, play the inside. Barton, who also starred on offense in high school, will not enroll until 2015, after a two-year Mormon mission in Africa.

Shaw said he has not used every available scholarship but declined to state how many remain. He and his staff are already six months into their planning for the 2014 class, Shaw added.

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