Stanford footballWithout a large number of departing players from last year’s team, Stanford won’t claim a large recruiting class in 2013, and thus, won’t be highly ranked by most recruiting services.

Don’t let that fool you though; what the Cardinal may lack in quantity is more than made up for in quality. Coach David Shaw has pulled in yet another group of players that, at least on paper, looks to have outstanding potential.

In the past, the knock on Stanford has always been that they don’t have access to the same recruits that most other schools do; that their academic standards limit who they can pursue. The approach under Jim Harbaugh and now Shaw proves that with the right mindset that supposed weakness can become a strength.

For starters, Shaw and his assistant coaches have the ultimate trump card when they meet with recruits and their parents. The only question they really need to ask when offering a player is “if your playing career is cut short by injury, is there anywhere else you would rather be receiving a free education?”

And in most cases, the kind of athlete that can meet Stanford’s rigorous academic and acceptance requirements is mature and intelligent enough that many of the off-field issues that plague most programs don’t exist on The Farm. In short, the right coaches have eliminated the idea that the Cardinal are at a disadvantage during recruiting season, and this year they appear to have landed a class that can maintain their dominance in the Pac-12. It is as follows:

Sean Barton, ILB, North Salt Lake, UT; 6-3 220

David Bright, OG, Yorba Linda, 6-5 290

Ryan Burns, QB, Leesburg, VA, 6-5

Eric Cotton, TE, Nampa, ID; 6-6 235

Austin Hooper, TE, San Ramon; 6-4 245

Peter Kalambayi, OLB, Matthews, N.C.; 6-3 240

Thomas Oser, OG/C, Los Angeles, 6-5 290

Francis Owusu, WR, Oxnard, 6-3 193

Kevin Palma, ILB, Pixley, 6-2 240

Greg Taboada, TE Atlanta, 6-5 235

Taijuan Thomas, WR, Monroe, LA, 5-10 185

Mike Tyler, OLB, Brecksville, OH, 6-5 225

Shaw and his staff have made it no secret what they desire out of their players: smart enough to get into Stanford, tough enough to play Stanford’s brand of football. This class exemplifies that. Sure, they may have found Kevin Hogan’s heir apparent down the road in quarterback Ryan Burns, and Chris Owusu’s younger brother Francis could provide some fireworks in the coming years on offense and special teams, but the bulk of the class consists of big dudes that play hard-hitting positions.

The Cardinal maintained its emphasis on tight ends by signing three, plus another few prospects that played there in high school. If they live up to the recruiting service hype, linebackers Peter Kalambayi and Kevin Palma could be the main cogs of an all-time great linebacking corps on The Farm. Throw in a couple of big, athletic offensive linemen and it’s clear the power running game will not be abandoned any time soon by Stanford.

One thing that stands out from this class (and those that immediately preceded it) is that Stanford is truly a national brand in the world of college football.  Out of these 12 signees, eight different states from the West Coast to the East are represented. The Cardinal may  need to spread themselves out that far in order to find the kind of academic standouts they need in order to fill out their roster, but so far that is just fine—they are in demand nationally as well.

Considering the kind of talent that returns this coming season and who Shaw and his staff have brought in, Stanford appears poised to be a Pac-12 juggernaut for years to come.