Our attention regarding last weekend's Stanford official visitors has been largely turned toward those prospects still uncommitted. But there was every bit as much eager anticipation for the Cardinal commits, who were looking forward to their first face-to-face meeting with new head coach Jim Harbaugh. Among that group, the longest standing commitment belongs to George Halamandaris, who back on May 1 gave his pledge. The Moorpark (Calif.) High School offensive tackle spent the next seven months solidifying his comfort and plans with the previous Cardinal coaching staff.
Even for a rock-solid commit like Halamandaris, the coaching transition can cause some anxiety. This past weekend marked a new and welcome beginning in his relationship and understanding of the Harbaugh regime.
"Yeah, I had a great time," Halamandaris beams. "All previous worries about how I was going to fit in, the academic side and the staff have all gone away. Even if I had offers from every single other school in the nation, I know I would still be coming here."
"There is such a buzz on campus because of Coach Harbaugh's arrival. It seems like losing is no longer an option, and the players seem to be excited and on a fast track to winning," he continues. "I just sort of feel bad for the prospects that passed up this place. I firmly believe this is going to be the place to be over the next four to five years."
Halamandaris' eyes were focused on Stanford's new coach during the weekend, and Harbaugh has the titanic tackle impressed and excited. Of particular note was a high-energy conditioning workout that had the head coach leading the pack.
"He is just dead set on winning. You can totally tell he will win, and he is going to win. And the whole staff is behind him," Halamandaris offers. "Just watching him run around and challenging the players, working them in practice was one of the more positive things on the trip. The players said one of the guys on the team does pushups after workouts as a tradition. Coach Harbaugh asked the players how many they thought he could do, and he willed out 60 pushups. Just things like that are going to make people buy in and get excited about Stanford Football. It really got me excited about the place, and I think the other recruits left with similar feelings."
During their one-on-one meeting, Harbaugh conveyed personal gratitude to the man who committed to Stanford more than eight months ago.
He just expressed that he is really glad that I am coming here and have realized a little more quickly than everyone else that this is a special place," the recruit repeats. "He also said during his chalk talk that this is going to be a place where there are going to be no excuses and there is going to be a total effort by everyone to win."
What else did Harbaugh describe during the 'chalk talk?'
"He just kind of walked us through his overall philosophy on the team, offense, defense, et cetera," Halamandaris answers. "He stressed a lot of special teams, ball control, forcing turnovers, having an aggressive defense, no excuses, no turnovers, team mentality - that kind of stuff."
The offensive tackle prospect also enjoyed his time with assistant coach Tim Drevno, who is currently slated to coach tight ends and tackles. Halamandaris had a chance to sit in on a film session between Drevno and senior linemen Mikal Brewer and Tim Mattran.
"He seems really excited to be there and really knows his stuff," he describes of Drevno. "Not just a superior understanding of the offense, but also on technique and the type of things that will make me a better offensive lineman."
Another member of the new staff who excited the Moorpark man was strength & conditioning coach Shannon Turley, who like Drevno coached with Harbaugh at San Diego.
"I was also really impressed by Coach Turley. He seems to really know his stuff," Halamandaris says. "Weightlifting and nutrition really interests me, and it was very educational hearing that man talk. He seems almost like a football scientist. He not only makes you stronger, but also specializes the program to apply it to the field."
Halamandaris is also quick to point out that an extraordinary event during the weekend was the renowned faculty brunch, a unique fixture at Stanford. He sat with Hans Ulrich Gumbrecht of the Department of Comparative Literature, who recently published the acclaimed book In Praise of Athletic Beauty.
"I was really impressed by the faculty breakfast. The faculty seem to really appreciate the concept of a student-athlete and are really supportive," Halamandaris praises. "The trust and appreciation they have is really comforting on the academic side."
Last but not least, the Class of 2007 tackle says he owes a good deal of his positive weekend experience to Class of 2006 tackle and current freshman John Kyed, who hosted Halamandaris.
"He was just a great guy. It seems like all the team really gets along," Halamandaris notes. "He did a really good job showing me around, and I had a lot of fun with him. He just kind of helped me feel more comfortable about adjusting to school life - away from your parents. And the academic load."
|Jim Harbaugh with (left to right) George Halamandaris, Taylor Skaufel and Brad Hallick.|
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