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KEEPING TRACK / JASON REID

Draft Stays in Constant Motion at Stanford

October 27, 1994|JASON REID

Adjusting to college courses and dorm life is enough to freak out the most mature freshman, so imagine a guy's psyche after dealing with all that and four position changes in his first seven games of major Division I-A football.

Now that's a full schedule.

Fortunately for Stanford's Chris Draft, versatility is something he possessed long before he arrived in Palo Alto. Draft is playing all over the field as a true freshman for the Cardinal, at various times lining up at inside linebacker, outside linebacker and strong safety.

But get this: Stanford recruited the former Valencia High standout to carry the ball. It all makes for a dizzying early college experience--one Draft revels in.

"That first week (of practice) was tough because I had a lot to get used to," Draft said. "(Playing defense) was a big adjustment for me because (the coaching staff) told me I was only going to play offense when they recruited me, and I expected to play offense, but it's going all right."

Actually, Draft is being modest.

Stanford relies on many freshmen and sophomores, partly explaining the 376.3 yards per game it allows. Stanford's defense is seventh overall in the Pacific 10 Conference and ninth against the run (187.9 yards per game).

However, Draft's play has been mostly solid. He's 6 feet 2, 215 pounds, and as swift and powerful as his frame leads one to suspect.

Draft has started two games, one at strong safety and one at outside linebacker, and he has played in every game for Stanford, 2-4-1, 1-3 in the Pac-10. He is seventh on the team in tackles with 25 (18 solo, seven assists), has two sacks and is an integral member of the special teams unit.

"The feeling was that Chris is so precocious we needed to get him in the lineup," Stanford defensive coordinator Fred vonAppen said. "That's not the ideal scenario for a freshman, obviously, but our needs dictated we move him around into a variety of places."

Stanford's coaches have switched him to inside linebacker for Saturday's game against UCLA at the Rose Bowl. He's No. 2 on the depth chart at right inside linebacker.

Draft had a fine high school career at Valencia, rushing for 3,038 in three varsity seasons. He helped the Tigers win consecutive Southern Section Division VI championships (1991-92) and shared The Times 1993 Orange County player of the year award with Tony Gonzalez of Huntington Beach, now a tight end at California.

As a senior, Draft rushed for 1,338 yards and scored 24 touchdowns. On defense, he finished third on the team in tackles and had nine sacks.

Draft could have received a free education from almost any school, but choose Stanford partly because of the advice of a friend.

Leon Vickers, then a freshman, encouraged Draft to attend Stanford when Draft visited Palo Alto on a recruiting trip. Vickers, a standout at Rancho Alamitos, has since left school to devote time to a controversial Garden Grove church.

"It was shocking," Draft said of Vickers' departure. "He was one of the guys telling me how great it was here."

Draft, though, plans to stick around.

"I like my classes," he said. "There are a lot of cool people in my dorm and the social life is a lot better than I thought it would be.

"We've been losing a lot, and that's hard, but we've got a good team. We just haven't clicked yet."

*

Setting the pace: Before this season, Mike Maceranka hadn't taken a snap from center since the fourth game of his senior year at Laguna Hills in 1991, but his timing has been great for Pace University.

In his first start at quarterback, Maceranka helped Pace, a Division II school in Pleasantville, N.Y., break a 15-game losing streak with a 28-24 victory over Division I-AA Iona on Oct. 8. Oh, how they partied at Pace.

"It was crazy," Maceranka said. "I mean, really, it was just like we won the Super Bowl around here."

Said Coach Greg Lusardi: "It was huge."

Maceranka, a redshirt sophomore transfer from Boise State, fractured his left collarbone three times in 1991. The final break occurred when Maceranka, playing safety, intercepted a pass to seal Laguna Hills' 35-28 victory over Trabuco Hills in the 1991 Division VII title game.

A starter at strong safety all season, Maceranka pleaded with Lusardi to let him play quarterback after the Setters' third game. At that point, they were 0-3 and had been outscored, 77-0.

Maceranka completed six of 10 passes for 102 yards and no interceptions. He ran the Setters' complicated wing-T offense better than, well, anybody had in the previous 15 games, rushing for 51 yards and setting up the team's four touchdowns.

What's more, Maceranka started at strong safety. He intercepted a pass, returned it 13 yards and made four tackles.

"It's hard to put in numbers what he meant to the team that day," Lusardi said. "He definitely led us to that victory. His play was the key to the game."

Keeping Track is a regular column in The Times following the progress of former Orange County athletes competing at colleges elsewhere.

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