One of the many questions that Cardinalmaniacs™ are asking with Walt Harris now at the helm is how the offensive personnel will be employed under his watch. One of the lightning rods in discussions of offensive schemes in football today is the fullback, which has morphed or been minimized by several college and pro teams. Stanford has not enjoyed admirable production at the fullback since Casey Moore graduated two years ago and took his act to the NFL, so it made sense that the Card would recruit that position this year. They had made progress with Jake Behrens, a 6'1" 225-pound athlete from Omaha, Neb., but the recent coaching change on The Farm has at least temporarily derailed that train.
"It was all going really well with Stanford," Behrens explains. "I went down to camp last summer and they offered me. They were looking to use the fullback more and go to more two-back sets - run iso's and lead draws. But that all was kind of thrown out the window when Buddy Teevens was let go."
"Under Walt Harris, I don't know if they will run a one-back or two-back offense," the recruit continues. "I don't know if they will have a use for me or not. I'm still in touch with Tom Quinn and Steve Morton, but can't say anything for sure until Coach Harris gets to Stanford after New Year's."
Not one to stand by idly, Behrens has been proactive in his quest for information about Harris' designs on the fullback position by placing a call to Pittsburgh, where the new Cardinal head coach has been with his old team in preparation for the Fiesta Bowl. The Omaha fullback went right to the Panthers' running back coach, Wayne Moses, who ironically coached under Teevens for two years. Moses is one man on the Pitt staff who logically could make the move to Stanford in the new regime, with over a decade of Pac-10 experience as well as a year of service and loyalty with Harris.
"I am assuming that he might be a coach who would come to Stanford, but you never know," Behrens comments. "We talked briefly. He said Coach Harris will still run a two-back offense at Stanford, but he doesn't know too much."
One ancillary question Cardinal fans want to know, in addition to the recruiting outlook for the fullback target, is if Moses will be on the new Stanford staff. Only two assistant coaches are known at this time: Tom Quinn and A.J. Christoff, both holdovers from the Teevens staff. Moses would make sense for so many reasons, but even the best sources have not known if the running backs coach will be brought over by Harris. What did Behrens learn about that subject?
"He doesn't know for sure at all," the recruit replies. "He said he still can't do much [in a Stanford capacity] while he's still at Pitt."
Behrens is not operating in a vacuum while this tangled Stanford situation slowly unwinds. The Millard North High School senior also camped at his other three favorites (Nebraska, Notre Dame and Colorado) and has held an offer from the Buffaloes for more than six months. Conventional wisdom held that the Huskers would be a nearly insurmountable obstacle for the Cardinal or any other suitor, but Behrens and Nebraska never got on the same page.
"You grow up here and you can't help but be a huge Huskers fan," the Nebraska native allows. "But they have changed their offense a lot. I think other places are better suited for me. Colorado has used the fullback a lot, and Stanford has such a top education."
So for the second year in a row, the Card and Buffs are the top two finalists for a Midwest fullback recruit. Behrens is in limbo with Stanford, waiting to hear if Walt Harris will want him as part of his offense. The First Team All-State athlete took an official visit to Boulder, Colo. two weeks ago and enjoyed it. So why wait and not just pull the trigger?
"Colorado has a really good coaching staff and don't have too much depth at fullback," Behrens comments. "The visit went really well; I like the coaches a lot. The running backs coach calls me weekly."
"I'm not really sure what the situation is at Stanford, but I want my decision to be well-informed," he continues. "I'll hopefully hear from them right after the bowl game."
Another dimension of uncertainty for Behrens is his admissions status. With a 3.9 GPA and 1280 SAT score, he has a reasonable chance of gaining admission, but he says his completed application has yet to be pushed through at Stanford while the coaching transition takes place. The Millard North HS two-way standout is waiting to for a thumbs-up from Walt Harris, which would start knocking down the admissions and official visit dominos. January is right around the corner, and it will be an eventful one for the fullback recruit.
Jake Behrens played fullback on his high school team but touched the ball often in their wing-bone offense, averaging better than six yards per carry with his 4.6 speed. He ran the ball 203 times in his senior season for 1,280 yards and seven touchdowns. Behrens added one more score as a receiver and another on a kickoff return. As a defensive end, he recorded 64 tackles, 11 tackles for loss and four sacks. For his superlative season, Behrens was named the 2004 Nebraska Gatorade Player of the Year.
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