Sports

Stanford football signs up a talented class

One of the nation's top quarterbacks and plenty of offensive linemen headline Cardinal's 18-player recruiting class

Sam Schwartzstein, a 6-foot-3, 270-pound offensive guard out of Southlake, Texas, proved to be a savvy seventh-grader.

Watching the 2002 NBA draft, in which Stanford grad Casey Jacobsen was drafted in the first round, Schwartzstein took note of Jacobsen's fancy clothing and the beautiful woman at his side.

"He told his mother he realized that is what a Stanford education can get you," Assistant Athletic Director of football operations Mike Eubanks said.

On Wednesday Schwartzstein took the most important step as one of 18 athletes to officially sign their national letter-of-intent.

The offensive line grew some bulk in a matter of hours. Schwartzstein was joined by center David DeCastro (6-5, 295) and offensive tackle Jonathan Martin (6-6, 271), giving Cardinal coach Jim Harbaugh a pretty good supply of protection for the quarterback.

The quarterback position is open for grabs, to be determined perhaps as late as fall camp.

Harbaugh can say luck is on his side now in the form of Andrew Luck, a 6-foot-4, 215-pound quarterback out of Stratford High in Houston. He could become the surprise of the fall as he headlines a class of 18 athletes who made their commitments official on national signing day.

"Andrew Luck is one of the top quarterbacks in the nation," Harbaugh said. "He has tremendous instincts, work ethic and character. Andrew is an extremely hard-worker, has excellent leadership qualities, a great demeanor, and is extremely competitive and exceptionally talented."

While Tavita Pritchard remains the leading candidate to take the starting job, Harbaugh said he'll throw the competition wide open and with any Luck, he'll get a chance to earn the job. He has the blood line, as he is the son of former NFL and West Virginia quarterback Oliver Luck.

"He's the highest rated player in the class," Harbaugh said. "I had a chance to watch him in person in football and basketball. He has great leadership skills. He's a real star. The ball comes out easily and quickly and he really follows through, getting his right side into the target."

Luck has been ranked as high as fourth among the nation's high school quarterbacks, and the 47th overall recruit in the nation. Rivals.com rated him the most accurate quarterbacks in the country after he completed over 59 percent of his passes in a three-year prep career.

He threw for 7,139 yards and 53 touchdowns on 488-of-824 passing. He also rushed for over 2,000 yards.

"He's a guy who can definitely get the job done," Harbaugh said.

Pritchard may have the edge, but Luck will also be in competition with L.D. Crow, Jason Forcier and Alex Loukas, all of whom were in the program last season.

Crow was ranked as high as No. 27 at his position coming out of high school, while Forcier transferred in last fall after playing two seasons at Michigan, where he was a reserve quarterback. Loukas was ranked as high as No. 12 at his position.

The other confirmed recruits are safety Johnson Bademosi (6-1, 190); safety Harold Bernard (6-2, 180); linebacker Fred Craig (6-2, 210); linebacker Alex Debniak (6-2, 220); cornerback Quinn Evans (5-10, 175); running back/defensive back Delano Howell (5-11, 190); wide receiver Chris Owusu (6-2, 185); tight end Konrad Reuland (6-6, 260); wide receiver Warren Reuland (6-5, 210); defensive tackle Padric Scott (6-1, 300); defensive end Chase Thomas (6-4, 210); cornerback Marcus Turner (6-0, 180); and punter Daniel Zychlinski (6-3, 215).

Luck, DeCastro, Howell and Owusu were high school All-Americans.

"This staff does a phenomenal job evaluating players," Eubanks said. "The 18 guys they found will make us better. You've heard coaches come through here talking about a limited pool. This staff has been proactive in creating a larger pool."

Debniak became the first to join the program, delivering his signed letter at 4:01 a.m. PST. It was three hours later in Hudsonsville, Mich., where he finished his high school career with 153 tackles and 26 sacks. He also rushed for 1,387 yards and 18 touchdowns on 167 carries as a senior.

"We got 18 guys who can graduate from Stanford and play BCS football," Harbaugh said. "I feel we touched a lot of bases with this class. We got nine offensive players, eight defensive players and a punter, which we desperately needed. We didn't have a punter on the roster until today. We need him to be good."

Harbaugh also said that he's already sent out a few offers for the class of 2009.

"It's a 1 1-2 to 2-year process," he said. "We've announced this class and we're already six months into recruiting the next group."

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