Stanford University is one of the toughest schools to get into anywhere in the world and to think how many 4.0+ GPA high school students get denied every year is insane but that is what makes Stanford so comparable to Ivy League schools such as Harvard and Yale and yet so unique because it's on the West Coast and to the surprise of many, is a great athletic school as well.
In the last 30 years, Stanford has won 95 national championships in sports ranging from baseball, women's basketball, volleyball, soccer, golf, gymnastics, etc. As well as Stanford has done for itself in the classroom and on the field, court, pool, etc. the one national championship that has eluded Stanford for the better part of the last century is also the one that most people feel makes you an athletic powerhouse and that is a football national championship. If you don't believe it coming from a pro-Stanford point-of-view, just ask someone with UCLA ties how many people take them serious with all of those national championships and having only one football national championship which was back in 1954.
Now back to my point, this isn't about national championships per say but it is about being about to recruit national championship material in football. Many people may look at the current recruiting rankings and just assume that Stanford will do well because the team is doing well but recruiting at Stanford is more than being just black and white; the grey area surrounds them.
As Stanford enters the 2016 National Signing Day on Wednesday, barring any (possibly several) last minute decommittments, David Shaw will have locked up another top 25 class with the potential to be a top-10 class. Shaw has had 5 recruiting classes now and has averaged a top-25 class in his time as head coach. If you take out the 2013 year where Stanford had little room for incoming freshman, Shaw has maintained a top-15 class with 2012 being his best year ranking as high as 5 on some recruiting networks that had the likes of Andrus Peat, Aziz Shittu, Joshua Garnett, and Michael Rector among other big recruits.
That 2012 year wasn't just a huge accomplishment for David Shaw to show he can get out of Jim Harbaugh's shadow; it was to show Stanford can be great at football and that is something that hadn't been said since the 1940's-50's. To continue piling on how well Stanford has recruited of late, we will look back as far as we can since recruiting classes have been rated and see how the last 5 years have compared. We will look back on different recruiting websites such as Rivals, Scout, 247sports, and even ESPN to compare and contrast.
ESPN has been the toughest on the Cardinal recruiting classes and go back to 2006. From 2006-2010, ESPN gave Stanford a top-25 class just one time and that was in 2010, which was Jim Harbaugh's last season and fully had a grasp on how to recruit at Stanford. It's easy to look back now on which players were ranked lower than they should have been but this is not a debate as you can only hope your 2-3 stars were overlooked and your 4-5 stars play the way they were ranked. The highest rated player in that span was Andrew Luck who was rated an 82. Stanford currently has 4 players rated 82 or above in the 2016 class with a chance to add to that.
According to 247sports which rated players as far back as 1999, Stanford's best overall player from a rankings position was ..... GULP Kwame Harris who was considered the 6th best overall recruit in the country. He was a good player but he was not a great player and unfortunately, he was terrible in the pros. 247sports also rated former players Michael Craven, Trent Edwards, Julian Jenkins, and J.R. Lemon as 5-star recruits. Of those players, only Trent Edwards truly had 5-star talent but would not have the line that Stanford has had of late and would go on to have an injury-ridden college career during the dark days at Stanford.
And now we look at the overall rankings from the recruiting services of Scout and Rivals and average them out. From 2002-2010, Stanford had averaged a recruiting class of 33 with its highest being 15 in 2009 with Scout and Rivals gave Stanford an average of 48 with 2009 also being the highest rank coming in at 20. In these 9 seasons with Buddy Teevens, Walt Harris, and Jim Harbaugh, Stanford had five 5-star commits and 32 4-star commits. Now I understand once again that 4-5 star commits don't always pan out but of the last 5 national championship teams, Alabama, Florida State, and Ohio State have all had #1 recruiting classes. I also understand that any coach at Stanford has restrictions that those schools do not have nor would those schools put those restrictions on each and every recruit like Stanford does. And yet, David Shaw might be even more dangerous now that he has proven on a national stage that you can get a 4.3 GPA and still run a 4.3 40-yard dash. I'm sure after Coach Shaw and company look at a potential recruits grades, they see if that student understands that SAT isn't short for Saturday, it's a Scholastic Aptitude Test that not only needs to be taken to get into Stanford but you need to do well on it.
It's not hard finding a potential college football superstar and it's not hard finding a 4.0 GPA student but it is hard finding about 20 each year that have both of these genes in their blood. David Shaw seems to be doing that as in his time, he's recruited the same amount of 4-star recruits in almost half the time and six 5-stars. Going into National Signing Day, Stanford has a unanimous top-15 class with the potential to make a couple of huge splashes that will definitely draw more attention to the program. Just a few years ago, Stanford would have taken a top-25 class with a few blue-chips. 3 conference championships and a top-5 recruiting class in the last 5 years will change that. Stanford has turned into a bully off the field as well and that is what leads to championships on the field.