"The Lance Anderson Sessions": Part II
Just when you were starting to process the first segment of our three-part sit-down with Stanford Football's recruiting coordinator and outside linebackers coach Lance Anderson back we are with Part II. Read on to discover how the staff tries to build a recruiting class, hear which incoming freshmen might have a chance for early playing time, find out about Coach Anderson's experience with the Stanford Admissions department, and learn the current schedule for QB Taysom Hill's mission!
The Bootleg: Coach, do you now have a pretty good idea of how many recruits you will take for the class of 2011?
Lance Anderson: It always changes a little bit because we're trying to look at which fifth-year guys will come back and which won't, or if other scholarships open up because of injuries or things like that. But probably somewhere 20-22, something like that. I don't think we'll get to 25. It's probably going to be in the low 20's.
TB: Heading into each recruiting cycle when the staff meets to discuss the composition of the future class, do you have a set number you want to take at each position, or do you kind of play it by ear, depending on the talent available?
LA: It's usually somewhat of both. We usually start out with some general numbers, like we'll take two quarterbacks in this class, we'll take four offensive linemen, we'll take five defensive linemen, or whatever it might be. But that starts to fluctuate a little bit, especially as you get towards the end of the cycle and you have maybe three offensive linemen committed, three defensive backs committed, and then it becomes a question of who is the best player available? Is that a fourth defensive back or is it that fourth offensive lineman? Who's the best player?
What we've said since the very beginning, and what I think we've done a good job of since we've been here is that we don't want to "take guys just to take guys". We want to make sure they are legitimate BCS-level football players who can help us win the in Pac-10 championship. We start out with those numbers, but they might fluctuate a little bit depending on what our pool looks like and who appears available to us. We might have three offensive linemen committed and only want to take four, but if there are two other great ones, then we'll probably find a way to take those guys.
TB: Speaking of theoretical situations, let's say you only have one spot left and you need a defensive tackle. But the only defensive tackle on the board is a marginal Pac-10 player and you have a stud quarterback who is also interested in committing. Do you take the player who fills need or the higher-rated player on your board?
LA: That's an interesting question. A scenario involving whether we'd take another quarterback or take a defensive tackle... Again, it would probably depend on which player we felt ultimately could help us the most. If the quarterback was very similar to other quarterbacks we already had in the program or other QBs we already had committed, then maybe we'd take a chance on the defensive lineman. But really, at that point it comes down to who's the best player that could end up helping us the most.
TB: But at times, that strategy could result in the excessive stockpiling of players at a certain position. Do you ever run into that problem, where you're speaking with a running back recruit who you really want, but is skeptical of committing to Stanford because Scout.com or Rivals.com says there are already four other running backs committed?
LA: That is an issue. Kids, they keep track of all this and they know exactly who is committed to you and what positions they play. A lot of times those questions come up about other guys that you have committed and what they're going to play and where you see a particular prospect fitting in. We just try to be honest and up front with those guys on where we see them fitting in and sometimes that means explaining to them "Hey, we want to bring more guys in, we want to cultivate the competition."
Other guys may end up playing other positions. Coach Harbaugh has always been really good about when guys first come in, letting them play whatever position they wish. If a guy wants to play wide receiver or if he wants to play running back we'll let them play that position and we'll give them plenty of practices there, plenty of opportunities to see where they stack up. What usually happens if they start to see that they're behind other guys and they're not going to get in the mix but they might help at another position, they become ready and willing to play the other position. Like I said, we're trying to recruit good football players and most of them are pretty confident that "Hey, all I need is an opportunity. You give me an opportunity and I'll win that job at running back, wide receiver, linebacker, or whatever it might be."
TB: All right, let's talk about everybody's favorite recruiting topic, "admissions". There is a school of thought that already high admissions standards had crept so high before your staff took over that it had become exceedingly difficult to get solid players into school. But then it seems over the last few years the standards may have settled back to the tough, but more realistic standards that had been prevalent 10 or 15 years ago. Do you think that's accurate?
LA: That may have happened. I know the standards are still very high. Since we've been here, Rick Shaw has been the Dean of Admissions and that is whom we've dealt with. They've kept those standards pretty consistent. I don't know exactly what went on before, but I've heard some of the same rumors and I've seen some of the GPAs and test scores and it seems like there was a time when they made some exceptions, let some guys in, and then all of a sudden the standards went way up for a while where they were awfully high. I think they're still up there, but maybe they've made it a little bit easier. They've pretty much been the same since we've been here and the admissions office has been very good to work with. There is some flexibility. They try to look at the person as a whole and they want to make sure the recruit is going to be successful here. That's the bottom line. That's our job is to find those guys who meet those requirements and who are going to be able to make it here academically. We've had a couple kids who have struggled but overall all the guys who we've brought in have made it academically.
TB: You often hear that one of the reasons for your staff's success is because of your positive and productive working relationship with the admissions office. Is that because you are now targeting better students, or getting on them earlier, or are more clear in communicating what the Stanford entry requirements are, or is it a mix of things?
LA: I think there's definitely a mix. It's hard to say it is just one thing. Number one, I think the relationship with the admissions office has been very good. We meet with them regularly, almost on a weekly basis. Sometimes we communicate even more than that. They want us to be honest, up front with them all the time and we expect the same thing from them. We're not trying to pull the wool over their eyes or sneak someone in the back door or things like that. I think they appreciate that honesty and forthrightness and I think that's definitely helped us in our relationship. In terms of the kids, it's getting to them early, making sure they're getting into the right classes, having them take those tests early and continuing to take them if they need to.
What we've tried to do as well, on the application itself, is when a recruit gets the application, we've tried to do a very thorough job of explaining the application to them, letting them know that "Hey, this is a very serious thing that you need to invest some time and effort into. You can't just rush through it, fill it out, and turn it in and just because you're a great player you're going to get in". And we explain to them the need to proofread their essays, put some serious time, effort, and thought into it. Just simple things like that, trying to point those things out to them that they need to emphasize and put some effort into it.
TB: You mention the importance of going over the application with recruits – it seems like most, if not all of your 20 commits for 2011 have been on campus at some point. How helpful is it to get kids on campus and actually go over the application in person?
LA: I think it's huge. It goes back to our whole recruiting philosophy of identifying guys early and getting them on the right track. Another big part of that is getting them here. That really seems to make a difference because once they've here, it's real. They understand what Stanford is about. They see how great it is and they feel that this is a place they want to be. It's a lot easier to be able to sit down with someone one-on-one or in a small group to explain to them what they are going to need to do to get into school here, show them what the application looks like, and explain what the admissions office is looking for in a prospective student-athlete. That really helps.
It's hard just over the phone or through emails sometime to say "Hey, take these two AP classes, write these five essays, and fill out all this information". If you look at the application, it can appear a little overwhelming when you have all that information there. If you can sit down with someone and go through it with them and tell them "These are your sections, these are the teacher recommendations, these are the counselor recommendations, then it's not as overwhelming."
TB: Again changing gears, with your expertise as recruiting coordinator, I'm sure you are keenly aware of the talents and abilities of the recruits in the 2010 class, of those who are already enrolled in school. Are there any incoming players in particular Stanford fans should keep an eye on, who might be legitimate contenders to play early?
LA: Boy, it's kind of difficult to say. All those guys are here for summer school. The problem is, we can't work with them during summer school, it's just the strength coaches. Obviously, guys we think may help just because of need at the position may be Devon Carrington or one of those other guys in the secondary who might have an opportunity. We're a little thin on the offensive line. Usually it takes time for those guys to develop, but Cameron Fleming is a guy we were really high on that might be able to come in and contribute early. With Toby being gone there's a lot of competition at running back and those guys did a tremendous job in the spring, but we think very highly of Anthony Wilkerson and Ricky Seale and maybe those guys can come in and find a role.
It'll be really interesting to see the competition for that backup quarterback spot behind Andrew. There was a lot of good completion in the spring between Robbie Picazo and Josh Nunes, but then you add Brett Nottingham and Darren Daniel to the mix and it'll be real interesting to see how that plays out this fall. So it seems like there's always some surprises, but those are some of the guys we think might have an opportunity to help us early.
TB: Is David Olson also in the mix for that No. 2 job?
LA: No question. We think he is a real quality walk-on. He's going to be right in the mix there as well. Robbie Picazo who is another walk-on was right there for the No. 2 spot in the spring so that's why someone like Olson might be able to come in and get that spot as well.
TB: On the topic of quarterbacks, are you aware of Taysom Hill's updated mission plans?
LA: He ended up leaving this past December, December of 2009, so he should be back in December in 2011. He could come back maybe a little bit earlier than that, but probably that spring of 2012 is when we'd try to get him here.
Stay tuned for the forthcoming, stunning conclusion of "The Lance Anderson Sessions".
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