Since its debut in 2017, the Dec. 15 early national signing day has served as a source of either optimism or pessimism for college football fans everywhere, especially as it comes just a few short weeks after the close of the regular season. This year, Cardinal fans have good reason to be excited for the future. Head coach David Shaw ‘95 announced his 2022 recruiting class on Wednesday, which is currently rated No. 15 overall by 247sports.com and No. 1 in the Pac-12.
This year’s crop comes close to Shaw’s best ever class — the 2014 commits were No. 13 overall, carrying now-household names such as Christian McCaffrey and Solomon Thomas.
This year’s class features 20 signees, evenly split between offense and defense with 10 high school seniors on each side of the ball. Among the signees, three — outside linebacker David Bailey, wide receiver Mudia Reuben and tight end Sam Roush — will enroll early for winter quarter on Jan. 3. Stanford had its first ever early enrollees in last year’s recruiting class, quarterback Ari Patu and cornerback Jaden Slocum, but those two arrived on the Farm for spring quarter — so this year’s early enrollees will be Stanford’s first-ever winter enrollees for football.
The headliners of the ‘22 class are the trio of outside linebackers — Bailey, Ernest Cooper and Tevarua Tafiti. Hailing from prep-powerhouse Mater Dei (Santa Ana, Calif.), Bailey is the highest rated commit set to join the Cardinal. The No. 40 prospect in the nation recorded 14.5 sacks and 18.5 tackles for loss as he led his school to a California state championship this season.
“David Bailey right off the bat is a gamechanger. His quickness, his acceleration from the snap is pretty rare,” Shaw said in a Signing Day press conference. “So many guys are just pass rushers, but you see this young man in coverage, and he can run with those big and fast tight ends. He can run with running backs out of the backfield.”
Cooper is no slouch, either. The Arlington, Texas native finished his high school career with 17 sacks, 40 tackles for loss and six forced fumbles, earning four-star status.
Last but not least of the trio is Tafiti — the top ranked recruit out of his home state of Hawai’i. The Honolulu-native is a top-250 prospect overall.
The three outside linebackers have a chance to make an immediate impact when they get to Palo Alto, as the Cardinal are losing five players from that position group; sixth-year Jordan Fox is graduating, while fifth-years Gabe Reid and Thunder Keck and seniors Andres Fox and Tangaloa Kaufusi have entered the transfer portal as graduate transfers.
Another position group to highlight is tight end. Stanford is bringing in a pair of them: Roush and Tampa, Fla. native CJ Hawkins. Roush spent his senior year in Nashville, Tenn. at Lipscomb Academy but lived in San Jose prior. He is another four-star recruit and will compete for playing time right away.
“I know in my heart that this is the best tight end class in America,” Shaw said. “Sam Roush is a college football-ready tight end. He’s walking in the door at 250 pounds — a lean 250. He’s going to want to come in and play, and he’s going to have that opportunity.”
Hawkins is relatively new to football, only starting to play the sport his junior year of high school but quickly caught on in the football world — garnering scholarship offers from Alabama, Florida (where he was committed prior to Stanford), Georgia and Texas, among others. A lifelong basketball player, Hawkins will also have the chance to play as a walk-on on the hardwood for the Cardinal.
“CJ is kind of untapped potential,” Shaw said. “[I] went back and watched him [play basketball], and I said, ‘This guy could be a great tight end.’ What I love about his [football] film is, different than most basketball players, he was a physical blocker. Then you see him take off in the open space, as big and as long as he is, making big plays and catches down the field and being what we love our tight ends to be — which is a big red zone threat.”
It is clear that the coaching staff made a concerted effort to bring in numbers on both the offensive line and in the defensive front seven. Four offensive linemen will come to the Farm next summer – Fisher Anderson, Lucas Heyer, Jake Maikkula and Kenji Swanson. Anderson, from Franklin, Tenn., is the highest rated of the bunch, but all four were heavily pursued by schools across the country.
Filling out the rest of the defensive front seven, Stanford is bringing in three defensive linemen — Pat Caughey, Jaxson Moi and Zach Rowell — and two inside linebackers — Benjamin Hudson and Matt Rose. The help on the D-line is much-needed, as only four scholarship players are set to return to Diron Reynolds’s unit next year. Moi, a one-time Cal commit, is rated a four-star by ESPN and could make an immediate impact. Rowell comes from a family of Stanford alumni, as two of his great-uncles suited up for the Cardinal.
Rounding out the defense, defensive backs coach Duane Akina landed cornerback Joshua Thompson along with safeties Terian Williams and Scotty Edwards. Edwards was a 2020 signee but embarked on a two year Mormon mission and is set to return this summer. The 5-foot-11 Duluth, Ga. native Williams, who actively posts about Stanford Athletics on social media, received scholarship offers from a host of big name programs such as Florida, LSU, Michigan and Penn State. Collin Wright, a safety from Manvel, Texas, is verbally committed to Stanford but will not sign until February.
The days leading up to signing day did not come without intrigue, however, as the Cardinal lost one of their highest rated commits in safety Kamari Ramsey. Ramsey had been committed since Aug. 14 but reopened his recruitment on Dec. 12. On signing day, he signed with in-state foe, UCLA. Ramsey could have made an instant impact in Stanford’s secondary, but the Stanford class still remained intact everywhere else.
Back on the offensive side of the ball, the Cardinal have several signees at the skill positions. Ashton Daniels is the lone quarterback of the class. Coming from Georgia, he was lightly recruited until earning a Stanford offer after a workout with Shaw and offensive coordinator Tavita Pritchard ‘09 in early June. It did not take him long to commit, as he was a Cardinal pledge by the end of the month. Daniels had a decorated high school career, leading Buford High School to three Georgia state championships and winning the championship game MVP trophy all three times. With sophomore Tanner McKee entrenched as Stanford’s starter, Daniels will have time to develop and learn the Cardinal’s complex system before competing for the starting role later in his Stanford career.
Running back Arlen Harris Jr. is a four-star commit and son of a former NFL running back. He will arrive on the Farm after rushing for 5,309 yards in his prep career at Lutheran St. Charles in Missouri.
Rounding out the class, the Cardinal have two intriguing wide receivers on their way into the program. Elic Ayomanor is from Medicine Hat, Alberta, Canada but attends Deerfield Academy in Massachusetts. He burst onto the recruiting scene later than most but received a lot of attention once he did. At 6’3″, 210 pounds, Ayomanor has the size necessary to become a threat in the passing game. The other wideout, Mudia Reuben, is of a similar size. Like Hawkins, Reuben only started playing football in his junior year of high school after spending most of his life playing soccer. Despite being relatively new to the sport, he had a dominant senior season, grabbing 48 receptions for 1,008 yards and 14 touchdowns.
In addition to being one of Shaw’s highest ever rated recruiting classes, the ‘22 class is well-rounded and fills numerous needs on the current roster. There are a few highly ranked players who have a chance at making an early impact, and it will be interesting to see who the surprise of the class is, like freshman cornerback Jimmy Wyrick was this past season.
“We’re going to play the best players,” Shaw said. “We’ve got some highly skilled individuals coming in as freshmen, and we’re not going to shy away from playing true freshmen. We’re gonna be ready for these guys to come in and compete and we also have a great history here of playing multiple guys.”
This class is a great response by Shaw and his staff to the 3-9 season, as they will now turn to the offseason and hope to keep the recruiting momentum going with the 2023 class. The three early enrollees are set to report at the turn of the new year with the rest of the class coming in the summer. As always, there is still an opportunity for Stanford to add more recruits when the regular national signing period rolls around in February.