He verbally committed to BYU back in February, but Austin Holt still has heavy recruiting attention. That is due in part to his talent. The 6'6" athlete is ranked by Scout.com as the #2 tight end in the nation, the #13 overall prospect in the West region and the #64 overall recruit in the nation.
Holt has also kept the flames burning with a trio of offer schools who have maintained their pursuit. None of this is secretive, of course. The South Jordan (Utah) Bingham High School standout has been public with his continued interest in Stanford, UCLA and Florida. Last month, Holt and his parents attended Stanford's Junior Day while in town for the Stanford Nike Camp. The four-star tight end walked away sufficiently impressed with what he saw and heard.
"That program is on a definite rise," Holt declares. "The coaches are completely different from what they had before. These coaches are more of a get-after-it type. They're going to have their players playing for them. It's going to be a little bit different."
One of the most impactful portions of the Junior Day was the players panel, available for questions from the recruits and their families.
"The players sat down with us for a personal session. All the parents asked questions, and the coaches weren't in there," Holt describes. "The players seem to love the coaches a lot more. They'll play harder for them. I think Coach [Jim] Harbaugh is going to be a good coach to get that program turned around. He's doing a really good job with what he's got right now."
"One of the questions I remember was asked was what had gone wrong last season," he adds. "The players talked about the coach and how the whole program was kind of in disarray. Coach Harbaugh has it right back where it's supposed to go. Stanford Football is going to be back. It's really cool."
One of the hot topics parents asked during the players panel surrounded the difficulty of Stanford's classes while balancing the high demands of a football student-athlete. This was also the number one focus for the Holt family to probe while exploring The Farm.
"By far, our biggest question was the academics and the support - how you can do football and academics at such a high standard they have at Stanford," Holt explains. "I think I got that all answered. At the players panel, they did a really good job answering our questions. The coaches were really good about it, too."
"They basically said that if you can get in there, they don't let you fail," he adds. "Stanford's academics are hard, but they don't let you fail. I felt really good about that. Most of the questions were about academics and classes - how many people were in each your classes and stuff like that."
Holt and his parents also enjoyed touring the Cardinal campus.
"It's a huge campus," the recruit remarks. "The academic part of the campus was really kind of cool. It's like you're stepping into, I don't know, a European style. It's a pretty cool looking campus - all the buildings. Since I'm LDS, we actually went and talked to the student bishop [Rob Daines], who is a law professor. We talked to him and checked out the law building."
It was not a minor point for Holt to examine the support Stanford will offer for his Mormon faith. He has already found comfort in that commonality with the Cardinal's recruiting coordinator and his area recruiter, Lance Anderson.
"That's really good. Coach Anderson is actually LDS, which fits with me," Holt explains. "We looked at all the schools originally, and we didn't really go to the schools that didn't support me and my choice. All the schools where I got offers have supported me. We look at that and how things fit for other LDS people on the team or coaches affiliated. That's a big part."
"Sione Fua walked us around and talked to us. He took us to the bishop. Coach Anderson set that up for us to go around with Sione," the recruit continues. "He showed us all the buildings, where all his classes are and where the dorms are at. It was pretty nice. He's a nice guy."
Fua was a freshman this past season at Stanford, and he too enjoyed a heated recruitment. One of the important factors for Fua in his college decision was the acceptance of the Cardinal coaching staff toward his taking his Mormon mission, which he begins this summer.
"The academics at Stanford are by itself in the country, to play football and get these academics," Holt heard from Fua on his decision. "He was looking at BYU, but he's from California. At Stanford he could stay home and have coaches who are okay with his mission and being Mormon. Ultimately for him, it was the academics and being close to home. That's what he told us for why he chose Stanford."
The timing of Holt's Mormon mission is also an important talking point in his recruitment. While Fua played one year for the Cardinal on the defensive line before departing, Holt's contributions at tight end may not start until 2010.
"If I end up going on one, which I plan right now on going on my mission, I'll be leaving when I turn 19," he explains. "I'm almost 18 already - in September - so I will leave right after I graduate. I won't even play a season. That's actually better, so I don't have to redshirt a year and then leave. I can go, get out, and then have four years and my redshirt year right when I get back. It works out pretty good with my birthday."
"Sione said the coaches are really good with it," Holt says. "They actually look at him that when he gets back, he'll be older and more mature. He's not going to be homesick because he'll have already been two years away from his family. He'll have to live on his own sacrifice with basically nothing. Ultimately, a mission is not even a bad thing. You lose two years of football, but you gain two years of things you can't do through college. It's a little different, and they're fine with it."
While a number of the insights for Holt and his parents came from the Stanford players, he was also in close contact throughout the visit with the Cardinal coaches.
"They were usually around us the whole time we were there," he says. "When we ate lunch at the stadium, Coach Anderson, Coach [Tim] Drevno and Coach Harbaugh all sat with us and my teammate, Derek Tuimauga. He has an offer from Stanford. Anyway, they sat with us at the table. We asked them questions, and they answered everything. Coach Drevno has been in contact with me the whole time since they were hired. I think my high school was the first he came to. I've known Coach Drevno for a while. It was one of the first times I had met Coach Harbaugh - he came to our high school a couple weeks before. It was pretty cool. He's a nice guy, and I think he has that program going in the right place."
"He's definitely a players coach. Very competitive," Holt offers on Harbaugh. "I think that's what is going to get that program turned around. The players actually said that: He's a players coach. Whatever is best for the players, he will do for them. He's not a 'my way or the highway' type... They told me that he is doing stuff in practices with them. He competes with them. That's really cool to have a coach who will compete with you, and not just sit there and talk the talk. He's out there walking and doing everything with you guys except playing the games."
The visit by Holt to Stanford for their Junior Day was not a one-off venture. He is deliberately conducting a tour of his top four schools. The BYU commit camped for three days recently in Provo and previously this month attended a one-day camp at UCLA. He will visit Florida in July, combining the trip to Gainesville with a visit to his grandfather.
"I really liked it," Holt assesses of Stanford. "I think it's a really good thing to visit the campus. If you're ever going to make a college commitment, you need to go to the college and definitely to see things yourself. You maybe even go to a camp and see how the coaches coach. If you go to a college, don't know the coaches and just like what they show with the facilities, then you might wind up with a coach who isn't a good fit. I'm glad I went out there and was involved with the coaches. If I love the facilities but don't like the coaches and how they coach, then I'm probably not going to be happy there the next four years. Stanford was really good, and the coaches were really good. I think they're going to be pretty good the next couple years."
Is Stanford then a serious and viable option for the nation's #2 tight end?
"Very much. They're at the top with me," Holt states. "They offered me barely when I was into my junior year. When Coach Harbaugh came in, I called him like a week into his coaching job. We talked for a while, and it was good. They have still recruited me, and I still get text messages from all the coaches - Coach Harbaugh, Coach Anderson and Coach Drevno - a couple times a week. I keep in good contact with them."
"BYU has to be number one for me right now," he maintains. "They were the first ones to offer me; they did all that stuff. I committed to them. The other three that I have, they are all right there. I don't really have a specific order for those three right now. I really liked UCLA when I was there. I did a one-day camp at UCLA; it was really nice. The coaches are doing the same thing Stanford is. I really like the academic part about Stanford. By far, it's the best in the country. I'm just looking at all those three schools equally right now. When I get home from Florida, I'll reevaluate all that stuff."
Holt is also navigating Stanford's admissions application process, which will require some work on his test score in the fall.
"My GPA is perfect. I have a 3.9 GPA," he shares. "I just need to get two points higher on the ACT, or I need to take the SAT. I might see which one. It's not going to be very hard. I just need to study a little for it [laughs]. I'll do that right when school starts. I want to take the summer off and let my head get a little break."
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