ESPN's Seth Wickersham wrote a great piece on Jim Harbaugh that came out today. There were a ton of great anecdotes about him, but the one I loved the most was the that he renamed the Oklahoma drill the Stanford drill when he was in Palo Alto.
That little point sums up exactly what Harbaugh was trying to and did accomplish at Stanford. He wanted to establish an identity of toughness and that has been maintained, and possibly even enhanced, under David Shaw.
That toughness is developed and grown at Stanford, but it can't be grown unless they bring in the right players that fit the mold they are looking for. They aren't just looking for a talent. They are essentially looking for a Stanford type of football player in recruiting. It looks like they have a player who fits perfectly into that mold in their most recent commitment, linebacker Mustafa Branch out of Bellevue, Washington.
Bellevue High School has one of the best football programs in the nation and is also where former Stanford All-American guard David DeCastro went to high school. Obviously Branch plays a much different position than DeCastro, but he plays with the same kind of mentality. A Stanford mentality.
Branch is a 3 star prospect according to the 247Sports composite rankings. He's listed at 6'0" 215, but has a solid build with thick legs. He doesn't look like he has the frame to carry a ton of weight, but he plays much bigger than his size would indicate.
He's a downhill linebacker that is extremely physical when taking on blockers. He will meet the iso block head on and hits through when he tackles. He needs to improve his recognition skills, sometimes he takes a hop step that slows him down, but when he recognizes plays, he accelerates using his very good speed to get to the football in a hurry.
He uses that speed to shoot gaps and make plays from the backside and can be a sideline to sideline player in the run game. In pass coverage, he displays solid awareness and is a physical presence to any crossers who venture over the middle. There are going to be a lot of players with alligator arms when they know they are in his vicinity and this clip shows you exactly what I'm talking about.
That's the kind of physical play he brings on every down and that's why I think he's a perfect fit for Stanford's defense and their football program in general.
Stanford certainly lands it's fair share of highly ranked recruits these days, but they also never seem to stray away from their bread and butter. They want physical, tough football players and that's exactly what they are getting in Branch.