Henry McKenna

Stanford: Pac-12's Best Recruiting Class?

Created on Feb. 06, 2014 6:09 PM EST

Stanford's new talent is heading to positions of hallowed lineage: offensive line, quarterback and defensive back.

Perhaps the best recruit, however, is defensive end Solomon Thomas, the 37th-best prospect in the nation according to Rivals.com. He made headlines by donning the glasses of nerd nation like Shayne Skov did after games. While he won’t be taking Skov’s spot at linebacker, he may someday have Skov’s role as emotional leader of the defense. The Texas native could be on the field getting snaps next year across from Henry Anderson.

"He's a complete player, a guy that likes to be a technician,” defensive line coach Randy Hart said of Thomas on Stanford’s website. “He has a great motor and has the ability to be a great football player." 

Junior quarterback Kevin Hogan likely was thrilled to see tight end Dalton Shultz’s commitment. Shultz is the third-ranked tight end according to Rivals, but he was the undisputed No. 1 of the Stanford coaching staff.

“When we evaluate kids and put them on our board, we are going to agree with them and sometimes we are not," said offensive coordinator Mike Bloomgren according to Stanford's website. "In Dalton’s case, we absolutely (all) did.”

Shultz, the pass-catching tight end, is huge at 6-foot-6 and 233 pounds. The resulting loss of Zach Ertz and Levine Toilolo dropped tight end involvement in the passing game last season. Shultz provides a top-level talent that the position desperately needed.

Quarterback Keller Chryst, who signed in July, likely is excited about Shultz as well. Chryst has the potential to be even better than Hogan. Don’t get me wrong, he won’t start while Hogan is at Stanford — head coach David Shaw values experience too much — but Chryst has all the physical tools to be the next great Stanford quarterback.

The offensive linemen are big and well rated. According to Rivals, Stanford locked fifth-ranked lineman Casey Tucker, 19th-ranked Reilly Gibbons and 41st-ranked Austin Hall. Like Chryst, these mountainous men will have to sit behind the strong classes ahead of them and may not see the field, but they provide depth to the Stanford's offensive line, the Tunnel Workers' Union.

Late signee Terrence Alexander will join fellow touted recruit Alijah Holder in Stanford’s defensive backfield. Running back Christian McCaffrey will join Stanford’s offensive backfield.

Considering the key losses in the coaching staff like Derek Mason, Mike Sanford and David Kotulski, this 20-commitment class spanning 12 states is impressive. Nine of them are Prep-Star All-Americans. This may be the best class in the Pac-12.

"As usual, the 2014 Stanford class starts up front," Shaw said on the website. "We added four big, physical and athletic offensive linemen, the best all-around tight end in the nation, two penetrating defensive lineman and one of the most athletic and versatile linebacker classes in the country. This year's class of defensive backs is also comparable to the most athletic groups in the nation. Our skill positions on offense have both toughness and game-changing speed and it also helps to add the No. 1 quarterback in the class."

Stanford values experience more than most big programs. Last year, the Cardinal didn’t start a single freshman, and few got snaps. This class is particularly strong, but don’t be surprised if you forget their names until two years from now when they suddenly become household names. 

All recruitment stats taken from Rivals.com. Quotations from Stanford's sports website GoStanford.com. 

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