Lost in all the hoopla of this coaching search was the first multi-visitor weekend of this 2005 class for Stanford. Each year we see the Cardinal bring in a small but very talented crew the opening weekend of December. More attention is often paid to the all-star January weekend visit groups, but keep in mind some of the big hitters that Stanford has hauled in from recent years' December visit weekends: Trent Edwards, Jason Evans, Ray Jones, Patrick Danahy, Ben Muth, Wopamo Osaisai and more.
Four prospective student-athletes graced The Farm this past weekend for official visits. Three had already given verbal commitments to Stanford long before the trip: Chris Marinelli, Ben Ladner and Fred Campbell. Cardinalmaniacs™ have celebrated all three of those commits, but understandably, there is more mystery and attention paid to the fourth and final visitor. Big Ayanga Okpokowuruk is the man you want to know about, but we regrettably don't have answers to all your questions. The North Carolina native attends a boarding school in Tennessee, where there reportedly are no phones in the dorm rooms. That explains why there has been so precious little information on him this year on recruiting services. Trust me when I say that the dearth of reporting is not indicative of his abilities. There has been buzz throughout the Southeast since last spring on this rangy and athletic tight end/defensive lineman, and Stanford has steadily been on his case. His offers include Tennessee, Alabama, Georgia Tech and South Carolina. The Charlotte (N.C.) man recorded 72 tackles, 12 tackles for loss and five sacks this year on defense in his recently concluded senior season, earning Lineman of the Year honors for Tennessee's renowned private school "Super Seven" division.
Okpokowuruk was reportedly joint-hosted this weekend on The Farm by Pannel Egboh and Udeme Udofia. The answer to your question, as you look at the McCallie School senior's surname and then recognize the two Card's who hosted him, is yes - this is another prospective member of the Stanford Nigerian connection. The great twist in this story is that Okpokowuruk already gave his verbal commitment to Duke after his official visit to Durham in November. The recruit also took an official trip to North Carolina in October.
Okpokowuruk's soft commitment to the Blue Devils will be tough to break with the Cardinal absent a head coach at this time, but I believe that the DL/TE recruit will likely go ahead and apply to Stanford. The 6'4" 240-pounder has a strong academic reputation, so I would not at all be surprised to see him gain admission. At that point, it would be a battle of in-home visits between the Duke staff and the yet-to-be-named Stanford staff. The Card hope that this visit enthused him enough to keep him on life support while Ted Leland continues the head coaching search.
A good deal of information says that Okpokowuruk has a tight-knit family and came into the weekend at least a little uneasy with the idea of going to school so far from home. The Stanford visit will have to have hit a home run to convince him and his parents that he should travel 3,000 miles from home for his college years, rather than just a couple hours away on I-85. Distance is not just an issue, but instead is the issue in this recruitment. Not just for the recruit, but particularly for his mother, who has been separated the last four years from her son while he has attended boarding school.
We will try to get in touch with the prized two-way jumbo athlete to give you his comments on his Stanford visit and his prognosis for how his recruitment may play out in the coming weeks.
Ben Ladner was hosted jointly by Nick Frank and Chris Horn. Chris Marinelli was hosted by Alex Fletcher. Fred Campbell was hosted by Carlos McFall. From what we've heard, this was an atypical weekend in that the coaching staff deliberately reduced their interactions with the recruits. This was a weekend where the players played the lead role in face-time with the recruits, and that only makes sense. The assistant coaches are still under contract with Stanford and are still out on the road during the week making in-home visits, but they all know that their future on The Farm is uncertain. They will be interviewed by the new Stanford head coach and given consideration for that staff, but there is a real possibility that several or all of the coaches could be blowing whistles on other campuses next fall. Recruits don't want to fall in love with the assistant coaches because they won't necessarily hold over. The Stanford players are the constant, so this recruiting weekend was put primarily in their hands.
In Cardinal coaching news, we are hearing that quarterbacks coach Bill Cubit has been offered and accepted the head coaching job at Western Michigan, where he was the offensive coordinator from 1997-99. Cubit will have the chance to coach his son, Ryan, for the second time in college. Ryan Cubit was at Rutgers his first two years but transferred to WMU at the end of his sophomore season, right as his father was fired. We also hear that the new Cubit-led Broncos staff will include George McDonald, who coached the tight ends one year in 2004 at Stanford. Insiders believed that Cubit and McDonald were two of the least likely coaches who could conceivably be held over in 2005 by any new Cardinal head coach. Reportedly, the other finalist for the Western Michigan job was another assistant coach on a deposed staff: Greg Mattison, the defensive line coach and recruiting coordinator at Notre Dame.
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