Stanford had their first down season in several years when they finished 8-5 and 5-4 in the conference. With that happening, it would figure to be more of a down year the following cycle in recruiting or at least a slow start until the Cardinal got rolling again.
Proving that recruiting is incredibly unpredictable, Stanford is off to a fantastic start with their 2016 class and already have three more blue chips committed before the start of this football season than they signed back in February for the last cycle.
As it always seems to be with Stanford, stars and rankings don't tell the entire tale as they do a great job of identifying and landing the right players who fit their scheme too. Here's some things that stand out to me about their class as it currently stands:
They hit a homerun in quarterback recruiting
With California having so much quarterback talent in the 2015 class, it did seem a little peculiar that David Shaw chose to not sign a quarterback. They more than made up for it by gaining a commitment from one of the best pro-style passers in the nation in K.J. Costello this time around. He can make every throw and is probably one of the most polished in terms of his mechanics out of any quarterback in the nation.
Even with that, he shouldn't have to see the field early and can take his time to learn the system once he gets to Palo Alto next year. USC really wanted Costello and it was a huge get for Stanford to beat them out for his commitment.
They hit another homerun at tight end
I saw Kaden Smith in person at The Opening and he looks like he could fit in if he walked into Stanford's locker room right now. He has a college ready body and showed great hands.
I think he is going to contribute immediately and has the talent to not only be a great receiver, but could end up being a dominant run blocker before he leaves The Farm. The recent tradition of great tight ends should definitely continue with Smith.
They continue to recruit to their identity
Unfortunately for the rest of the Pac-12 North, Stanford knows what works for them and they continue to target the same type of players that have made them a force in the conference. 4 star offensive tackle Clark Yarbrough and 3 star guard Nate Herbig fit the mold of mauling run blockers on the offensive line and both 3 star defensive tackle Bo Peek and 4 star nose guard Michael Williams are perfect fits for what Stanford wants to do on defense. Williams isn't going to be a dynamic pass rusher like some of the other top rated tackles in this class, but he should be a heck of a zero technique that is going to eat up double teams in the middle of the Cardinal defense. Whether he is playing running back or linebacker, Beau Bisharat plays like a Stanford football player.
They know what kind of players they want and then they go and get them.
Is there a dynamic playmaker on offense in the class?
Right now, this is probably what is missing. 4 star David Long could be that for them if he plays wide receiver, but I think he could end up being one of the best corners in the Pac-12 in a few years and that is where he should be playing at Stanford. 4 star wide receiver Simi Fehoko is a target with good size that should stretch the field by catching the deep ball, but I don't think he is a someone who can turn a hitch into a fifty yard gain like a Ty Montgomery could. It would be nice if they could add a player who is great after the catch in the next few months.
They do, however, have a potentially dynamic playmaker on defense in 4 star linebacker Curtis Robinson. He's different than others they have signed at the position in that he isn't as physical, but he is a big time athlete that can excel in coverage and give them an element of speed off the edge that they haven't really had. There have been some very good edge rushers at Stanford recently, but none of them were the athletes that Robinson is.