STANFORD — Stanford began reaping the rewards from its efforts on the recruiting trail at 4:13 a.m. Wednesday. That's when Terrence Stephens, a four-star defensive tackle from Maryland, became the first player to fax a letter of intent to the Cardinal football offices.
When Bellarmine College Prep running back Usua Amanam sent his in about 6½ hours later, Stanford's day was done. All 22 of the players who had committed to the Cardinal followed through on their word, signing with the school.
"This shows that really good football players will choose Stanford," coach Jim Harbaugh said. "We promised them that they will win — they will win championships. This group will be part of a championship football team in the Pac-10."
Stanford filled needs at running back and wide receiver, added depth at tight end and quarterback and bolstered its defense with four-star players on the line and at linebacker.
Typically, the Cardinal has signed classes that the two most noted recruiting services — Scout.com and Rivals.com — have ranked in the 40s and 50s. Stanford's class this year was ranked No. 14 (Scout) and No. 19 (Rivals). Only USC and UCLA had higher rated classes in the Pac-10.
"This '09 group will be a cornerstone going forward and will build upon what has already been laid," Harbaugh added.
Linebacker Shayne Skov of Piedmont did more than provide Stanford with his blue-chip talents. The highest-rated player in the class orally committed the first day he officially could — Sept. 1, 2007 — then put forth what Harbaugh called a "grass roots" effort to get other top players to follow.
The class includes standout running back Tyler Gaffney of San Diego, a superbly talented tight end in 6-foot-8 Levine Toilolo of La Mesa and a big-play receiving threat in Jamal-Rashad Patterson of Georgia.
"These guys won't come in having to size each other up," Harbaugh said of the class. "They won't come in having to shake hands with each other and getting to know each other. They're six steps beyond that. This is a class that knows each other. It's a tight-knit class and that's something that was their idea."
Taysom Hill, one of two quarterbacks in the class, will take a two-year mission and won't enroll in school until 2011. The class' two offensive linemen — Khalil Wilkes of New Jersey and Kevin Danser of Bellarmine — will redshirt this season, Harbaugh said.
Harbaugh noted after last season the importance of finding running backs. Wednesday, he raved about the ones who signed, calling Gaffney a "phenomenal player," Amanam "a game-breaker" and Stepfan Taylor of Texas multi-versatile.
Other four-star recruits, according to scout.com, are quarterback Josh Nunes of Upland, wide receiver Jemari Roberts of Long Beach and Monte Vista High School tight end Zach Ertz.
Skov, who transferred from Piedmont to Trinity-Pawling, N.Y., is listed as the third-best middle linebacker recruit in the nation by both scout.com and rivals.com. Gaffney rushed for 2,856 yards and 48 touchdowns last season at Cathedral Catholic-San Diego and added eight touchdown catches. The 56 total scores tied the fourth-best mark in state history. Gaffney, who also is expected to play baseball for Stanford, turned down offers from USC and Notre Dame among others.
Patterson had offers from powers such as Florida and LSU. Roberts is ranked as the 18th-best receiving prospect by rivals.com. and Drew Terrell, another top-50 wide receiver, rounds out a stellar pass-catching class.
Staff writer Jonathan Okanes contributed to this story. Contact Darren Sabedra at email@example.com.