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Nebraska made a pitch to Stafford sight unseen. Turns out he came with a solid recommendation.
Freshman quarterback Taylor Martinez knows him well, as the two battled it out at rival high schools — Martinez at Centennial and Stafford at Norco. They even lived in the same neighborhood for a while, and Martinez was the one to let Stafford know that NU was interested.
Stafford considered offers from Iowa State, New Mexico, New Mexico State, with Florida and USC coming on strong with late offers (USC was even rumored to have swayed Stafford its way in December). He still described the Huskers as an easy pick.
"Pretty much, I liked Nebraska from the day I heard about (the offer)," Stafford said. "They’re known as a powerhouse. Their defense was at the top last year. I want to be a part of that.”
He is a four-star prospect by both major recruiting services and No. 14 in the juco Top 50 by rivals. Barton Simmons of 247sports.com ranks him the sixth-best junior college prospect and writes of Stafford: “The most complete defensive back in the junior college ranks last season, Stafford brings size, speed, range and a heavy hammer.”
As a freshman at Chaffey, Stafford registered 85 tackles and four interceptions. He picked off five passes this season despite offenses rarely throwing his way. Stafford added punt and kickoff return duties. That kind of versatility is what he prides himself on.
“He plays hard. He is a player, and he loves to play. And he’s a big-play guy," Chaffey coach Carl Beach said. "Given the opportunity, he’ll make a big play.”
Beach didn’t stop there. Of Stafford’s mind-set on defense, the coach said: “He plays ferocious.”
Stafford and Beach say he can handle the rigors of playing close to the line of scrimmage, the kind of player NU will be seeking.
Our take: Stafford has perhaps the most potential to make an immediate impact in the 2011 class. Special teams could be his ticket to early playing time. If Stafford can pick up the defense relatively quickly and adjust to the Division I level, Nebraska may have scored a gem.
Photo Credit: The Press-Enterprise
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