Recruiting Update: Cal Rises, Stanford Struggles; Herbstreit, Harris Shine
The balance of power in Bay Area college football may be shifting east.
Last year, you'll recall, Cal went 8-5, including a 24-20 victory over Stanford in the Big Game and a win over Illinois in the Redbox Bowl. The Cardinal finished 4-8, its first losing season after 10 years with 102 total wins and 10 straight bowl appearances.
Justin Wilcox has turned things around in Berkeley, and the Bears' program is definitely on the upswing.
Stanford has had great success under David Shaw, but a disastrous 2019 season, several years of poor attendance and a stampede of graduate transfers have Cardinal fans concerned.
Now come 2020 recruiting updates that indicate Cal is rising and Stanford is struggling.
According to 247 Sports, a respected college football blog, Cal is having a very good year and Stanford is having a very bad year.
In the latest recruiting rankings, based on commitments to date, the Cardinal ranks 86th nationally and 11th in the Pac-12, ahead of only Oregon State. When you consider that there are 65 Power Five teams (if you include Notre Dame), that means Stanford ranks behind at least 20 teams from the lesser Group of Five conferences.
The Bears, on the other hand, rank fourth in the conference and 22nd nationally.
Oregon leads the Pac-12, followed by USC, Arizona State and Cal. Nationally the Ducks rank 5th, the Trojans 10th, the Sun Devils 21st, with Cal one spot behind. Oregon and SC each have 18 commits overall, with 13 of them either 4 or 5 star prospects. By comparison, Stanford has 9 commits, all 3-stars or less.
Despite the highest academic requirements and most rigorous admissions process in major college football, Stanford has recruited extremely well under Shaw, typically ranking in the top 25 nationally.
There is still time to turn things around before early signing day, but according to a number of reports, the Cardinal is not in the hunt for any of the uncommitted top 4 and 5-star prospects at this point.
Herbstreit Emotes: I've always been a big fan of Kirk Herbstreit, but never more so than Saturday, when he broke down while discussing social justice during ESPN's College GameDay.
Herbstreit said he'd had a long talk with Stanford’s Coach Shaw, who reminded him of this quote from Benjamin Franklin: "Justice will not be served until those who are unaffected are just as outraged as those who are."
Then, fighting back tears, Herbstreit continued (three dots here do not indicate words omitted, but pauses while he tried to collect himself):
"The black community is hurting. If you've listened...the words empathy and compassion…over these last 4 months...how do you listen to these stories and not feel pain? And not want to help? Wearing a hoodie and putting your hands at 10 and 2 and...'Oh, God, I better look out because I'm wearing Nike gear?' Like...what? What are we talking about?
“You can't relate if you're white, but you can listen and you can try to help because...this is not okay. It's just not. We gotta do better man. We got to, like...arm in arm and be together. In a football locker room that stuff is gone. Those barriers are gone. We got to do better."
Colleagues Maria Taylor and Desmond Howard, both black, were visibly moved by Herbstreit's remarks, dabbing away tears.
So was I.
Najee Marches: Bravo to Alabama running back Najee Harris, the former Antioch High School star and No. 1 recruit in the country three years ago, who last week organized a march by Alabama players and coaches, including head coach Nick Saban, from the football facility to the historic schoolhouse door at Foster Auditorium in Tuscaloosa.
Back in 1963, Alabama Governor George Wallace, a fierce opponent of desegregation, stood at the door of the auditorium to block two black students from entering.
Harris, wearing a T-shirt with the words, “Defend Black Lives,” removed his mask after last Monday’s march and spoke to the crowd.
“This is not a problem that will simply come and go in a news cycle,” he said. “It is not a problem that will eventually dissipate without action. Being here today is a huge step, but I ask you: What’s next?
“We can’t let this momentum die. This has to be an ongoing movement until change happens. We must do more as a team and as individuals to keep this movement going.”