- Erik McKinney, ESPN Staff Writer
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Despite taking a smaller recruiting class this year, the Stanford Cardinal are still making an impact for some of the top prospects in the state.
Head coach David Shaw's newest addition to the 2013 class came this past Friday, when ESPN 300 defensive end Austin Hooper (Concord, Calif./De La Salle) committed to the Cardinal.
"It made me feel comfortable, it's close to home and it's a great school," Hooper said. "It's the best school and plays the best football in the Pac-12."
The 6-foot-5, 245-pound Hooper said he was focused on the Cardinal for some time, but was cleared by admissions on Friday night, which finalized his decision.
"I've loved it for a while," he said. "The more I got recruited, the closer I grew with the coaching staff. And it's a school that sets you up tremendously once you're done playing football."
Hooper's commitment is a big win for Stanford, which beat out Pac-12 rivals California, Oregon and Washington for the country's No. 260 player. Of the Cardinals' 11 verbal commitments, Hooper is the fifth ESPN 300 prospect.
A standout defensive end at De La Salle, Hooper estimated that he was recruited as a tight end by about half the schools that went after him. It's that position where he'll begin his career with the Cardinal. After turning the position into a tremendous weapon with a 2009 recruiting class that included Zach Ertz, Levine Toilolo and Ryan Hewitt, Stanford is looking to load up at the position again with the 2013 group. Hooper joins athlete Greg Taboada (Atlanta/Marist School) and Eric Cotton Jr. (Nampa, Idaho/Columbia) as players who will add depth to the tight end position.
"I like defense a lot, but with the tight end in the Stanford system, you get to make a lot of plays," Hooper said. "That's something that is really rare, especially at that position, because not too many schools base their offense around the tight end."
As a senior, Hooper caught 11 passes for 293 yards and three touchdowns. He added 39 tackles, including eight sacks, defensively.