The Harbaugh Watch: San Diego

The Harbaugh Watch: San Diego

We're back in the saddle after some difficulty tracking down the numerous recruits Jim Harbaugh visited in his old stomping grounds. The former San Diego Chargers quarterback and USD head coach knows the area well, which helped him to hit at least five confirmed high schools. San Diego is home to a top '08 wide receiver and '09 quarterback, but Harbaugh also saw a couple linemen and specialists.

The Harbaugh Watch: Phoenix
The Harbaugh Watch: San Antonio
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La Jolla Country Day School
(La Jolla, Calif.)

After hitting all of his PATs and a pair of 53-yard field goals this past fall, kicker Travis Golia was named Second-Team All-State Small Schools.  His active recruitment includes Stanford, Cal, UCLA, Michigan and Ivy League schools.  They are a different breed when it comes to college football recruiting, but as kickers come Golia has had more than his share of attention from coaches this spring.  That did not mitigate his surprise when Cardinal head coach Jim Harbaugh walked through the halls of La Jolla Country Day School recently.

"I was actually standing by my locker talking with some friends, and I saw Coach Harbaugh come through," the recruit replays.  "I kind of looked at him to make sure it was him.  I saw the Stanford shirt on him, and I knew it was him.  Then I saw a student point toward me.  We met by the junior lockers, and I told him how I'd be at the Stanford camp along with some of my summer plans.  I got to shake his hand, and that was really cool."

"I had no idea he was coming.  It was a big shock," Golia admits.  "I've always thought about Stanford with its great academics and wanted to go there.  When I saw Coach Harbaugh walking through the middle of my high school, it was definitely a big shock."

With the Cardinal signing the #1-ranked kicker in the nation in the Class of 2007, Golia has heard talk from other schools how he and Stanford cannot be serious about each other.  With this visit, however, the 6'0" 190-pound junior feels otherwise.

"I've gotten some handwritten notes and a couple of letters, but seeing Coach Harbaugh - the head coach - on my campus to talk to my coach was really a big deal for me.  It meant a lot to me," Golia offers.  "I definitely look forward to talking with Coach Harbaugh some more, going to their camp and contacting Stanford some more.  It definitely got my excited."

Francis Parker School
(San Diego, Calif.)

Harbaugh was not only hunting for a kicker while in San Diego, which is also home to one of the state's best punters.  Matt Zubyk recorded a 44.4-yard average as a junior, and that came while he also assumed the duties of the Lancers' quarterback.  His focus as a senior will come exclusively as a specialist, where he is receiving a good deal of recruiting correspondence.  That attention climbed to a new level when Stanford's head coach visited him.

"I've gotten just some random mail from Stanford, and I'm sure tons of other kids have gotten that," Zubyk says.  "It actually surprised me a little bit when Coach Harbaugh came down to the school.  Other schools have shown more interest than Stanford in me, but when I talk to him, he seems really interested.  I had a little bit of mail and an invitation to their camp, so I guess that's why the meeting with Coach Harbaugh really spurred my interest in the school."

"It definitely means a lot because it shows that they're interested in you," he continues.  "I've heard a lot about Coach Harbaugh because one of my best friends at school is Tyler Mabry, who signed a scholarship with Stanford last year.  It definitely means a lot when you talk to a coach because you can really get a feel and understanding for their personality, and vice versa, they can do the same for you."

The 6'4" punter however remains grounded in the realities of recruiting.  He is receiving attention from schools coast to coast, and he tentatively plans on camping at Stanford, Oregon, Northwestern and Virginia to earn scholarship offers.  Everything short of that goal is window dressing for Zubyk.

"Nothing is final until someone shows you a paper with a dotted line on it," he states.  "Recruiting is fun, and everybody is talking about how great you are and stuff, but you know a lot of it is not as real as some recruits tend to think it is.  It's never really an offer until you actually get the offer.  You can like all the interest that you're getting, but nothing is really final until it's all said and done."

St. Augustine High School
(San Diego, Calif.)

One of the more familiar faces in San Diego for Harbaugh is defensive end Chris Pousson.  He attended Stanford's first Junior Day in March and is a friend and teammate with the Cardinal head coach's son, Jay Harbaugh, who is completing his senior year at St. Augustine.  That connection gave Pousson a heads-up that the elder Harbaugh was coming to see him during the NCAA evaluation period, though it did not diminish the impact of the visit.

"Jay told me the previous week, so I knew that he was coming," Pousson explains.  "It was really exciting to have the actual head coach come in.  A lot of the schools have their West Coast recruiters or their area guys come in to talk to you, so it might not be your position coach or the head coach.  It's kind of a big deal and a special opportunity to have the head coach come by the school."

The defensive end recruit is developing a better understanding of Harbaugh, through his multiple meetings with the man.

"He seems to be pretty excited about turning the program around at Stanford," Pousson says.  "It seems like he's ready to do it.  He's doing all the recruiting for it.  I think it's headed in the right direction definitely."

Already enamored with the Cardinal, Pousson says that the visit has catapulted the Pac-10 suitor to commanding lead atop his leaderboard.

"Stanford has always been one of my top choices just because of their academic prowess, aside from any athletics," he states.  "But for the actual head coach to come by, that puts them more on the top of the list."

"I haven't had any offers yet, but I've had phone calls from University of Oregon and Washington State and discussed official visits.  That's exciting.  Those are the two besides Stanford who I've had the most direct contact with the coaches," Pousson updates on his recruitment.  "I'm for sure going to Stanford's camp.  I'm going to try to make it to either Washington State's or Oregon's.  Both if possible, but at least one of those.  I think there is a day camp in the beginning of June for USC.  I think I might be going to that.  And UCLA, maybe."

Scripps Ranch High School
(San Diego, Calif.)

Harbaugh saw another lineman while in San Diego, though Corey Page-Skolnik projects on the other side of the line.

"It was the first time I met Mr. Harbaugh," says the center recruit.  "It was good.  It was definitely a privilege to meet him.  I know he played at Michigan, and I know about his NFL experience.  I was honored to meet him."

"I'm mostly being recruited for offense.  I do play both ways, but center is my stronger point," explains Page-Skolnik.  "He said that my body is a great center body, and they can use some size like I have.  They need some size."

Though he is an inch or two shorter than some Pac-10 centers, the 6'1.5" 285-pound Page-Skolnik has a powerful frame and low center of gravity.  He squats 550 pounds and has a max bench of 385.

"My strength is my mental ability on the football field and knowing my position well.  I have that feel for the game," he offers.  "Also, it's being a leader at center and knowing what other positions are doing.  I am able to call out calls and tell who has who to set the play up and make sure it's run the way it's supposed to be.  Definitely my technique and my mobility.  I'm very agile for my size.  My mobility and strength are real strong points."

The Cardinal were not the only Pac-10 program to make a splash with their top man at Scripps Ranch to see Page-Skolnik.

"I just had the USC recruiter come out and look at me.  Then he brought back Pete Carroll," the recruit reports.  "I had a conversation with him, and he watched me work out and run for about 20 minutes.  He liked what he saw.  Pete Carroll told me he was very interested.  It was also a pleasure to meet him."

Stanford's package, however, has them currently atop his favorites list.

"Now that Stanford has moved into the picture, I would say that academically Stanford moves to my top," Page-Skolnik says.  "Next would be Cal-Berkeley.  Then USC.  Then UCLA.  There's also Oregon, SDSU, UNLV and Boise State."

"I didn't think I'd be talking to him anytime soon.  It was great meeting him," he says of the Harbaugh visit.  "I had been wanting to go to Stanford because of academics.  I've been hoping for a scholarship there because I will choose a school for its academics.  Stanford has always been in my head because of the education you receive from that school.  They would have been on the list, but I probably would have had UCLA or Cal-Berkeley first.  Now that he's made contact with me, that definitely bumps them to the top."

Still looking for his first offer, Page-Skolnik plans on camping this summer at Stanford, USC, UCLA, Cal, San Diego State and UNLV for at least a day each.

Harbaugh hoped to also see sophomore quarterback Tate Forcier will visiting the Falcons' campus.  The Class of 2009 recruit is one of the elite signal callers in Southern California, but he was away when the Cardinal coach came through.

"I wasn't there because I was actually at the doctor getting my arm checked," Forcier recounts.  "My coach texted me and told me, 'Coach Harbaugh was here to see you. You weren't here, so give him a call.'  My dad also gave me a call and told me to call him.  I guess he was also at the school checking out our center.  Our center is a D-I recruit."

"I called him, and he wanted to see how I was doing," the quarterback continues.  "He told me that he was giving me an offer to Stanford University.  Wow, I was surprised."

The 6'1" slinger is the third brother in a family that has already produced two of the top quarterbacks nationally in their respective classes.  Jason Forcier was ranked #8 by Scout.com in the Class of 2005, signing with Michigan and recently announcing his transfer to Stanford.  Chris Forcier this past year was slotted #19 in the Class of 2007 and is headed to UCLA.  Both brothers had heated recruitments, but the race for Tate Forcier is moving in entirely different gear.  He picked up an offer from not only Stanford this month but was quickly followed by a scholarship from Arizona.

"I'm the first one in my family to get an offer my sophomore year," says the youngest Forcier.  "That's a big thing for our family.  Not only to get the offer, but also to get the offer from Stanford.  The education you can get there is huge.  If you come out of Stanford with that education, you're set for life."

Though they did not connect in person, Harbaugh's swing through Scripps Ranch to see and offer Forcier reinforced the bond between the coach and recruit.

"I love Coach Harbaugh," the quarterback comments.  "We've known him.  He's a family friend.  His kid actually played at St. Augustine with my brother, so I actually had talked to him at games last year when he was at USD.  I like the way he coaches.  His style fits me.  I know he is kind of the hard-ass type of coach, which is what I think I need to be the best I can be.  I like him as a coach.  I like him as a person.  They are definitely one of my top five choices."

Forcier names UCLA, Alabama, Oregon and Florida in rounding out his list of favorites.

El Camino High School
(Oceanside, Calif.)

Harbaugh's whirlwind tour through San Diego had another missed connection, when he tried to visit the elusive Nelson Rosario.  The 6'6" wide receiver recruit may be the top overall prospect in San Diego County this year, though you won't find him on a football field today.  Rosario is an elite track & field performer in the jumping events, where he has placed his time and focus this spring.

"He did come to our school, but I didn't get a chance to see him since I've been busy with track and school," Rosario says of Harbaugh's visit.  "I think he met with my coach, but I didn't get a chance to meet him."

Track commitments have also kept Rosario from attending either of Stanford's Junior Days this spring, so he has yet to meet the Cardinal head coach.

"If I have any chance to meet a coach and don't get to do it, it's disappointing," offers Rosario.

Thus far having scant communication with Stanford or his other suitors, Rosario is feeling his way somewhat in the dark during this time of his college recruitment.  The interest from schools is substantial, with offers already on the table from half the Pac-10 as well as two across the country in the ACC.  Soon Rosario and his parents will trim his school list, and he says that Stanford, UCLA and Oregon are three who are probable to survive the cut.  Harbaugh's visit to the high school may have helped the case for the Cardinal.

"The fact that a head coach and not just an assistant came by is a positive," Rosario says.  "That lets me know that the school is really interested in me.  That's a real plus right there."


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