STANFORD, Calif. (AP) -- Stanford already had one of the Pac-12's best recruiting classes lined up before high school players began sending in national letters of intent Wednesday.
The Cardinal added to that with a major surprise on signing day.
Riding the wave of a second straight conference championship, Stanford received a big boost when Solomon Thomas - one of the most sought-after defensive ends in the country - committed to the Cardinal. The 6-foot-3, 255-pounder from the Dallas suburb of Coppell selected Stanford over Arkansas and UCLA on national television by pulling out a small tree and putting on black ''nerd'' glasses with white tape over the bridge.
''I thought it was awesome. I thought it was fun,'' said Stanford coach David Shaw, who found out from Thomas two days earlier. ''The nerd is not necessarily a negative word anymore.''
The decision put the finishing touches on a class that showed just how much the Stanford brand has expanded in Shaw's first three seasons.
Stanford had secured most of its recruits well before signing day after they academically qualified weeks and - in some cases - months ago. The program sealed up a 20-player class coming from 12 different states Wednesday, the first day players could sign national letters of intent.
The group includes quarterback Keller Chryst, one of the most decorated pocket-passers in the country and the son of San Francisco 49ers quarterback coach Geep Chryst, from across the street at Palo Alto High School; top tight end Dalton Schultz (South Jordan, Utah); offensive tackle Casey Tucker (Gilbert, Ariz.); and running back Christian McCaffrey (Castle Rock, Colo.), the son of former Stanford and NFL wide receiver Ed McCaffrey.
Cornerback Terrence Alexander from New Orleans also joined Thomas as one of the late signees.
Shaw was especially proud that the class held together after losing three key recruiters and assistants since the season ended: defensive coordinator Derek Mason (Vanderbilt head coach), quarterbacks and wide receivers coach Mike Sanford (Boise State offensive coordinator) and defensive assistant David Kotulski (Vanderbilt defensive coordinator).
''You talk about being a national recruiter, we felt it after those guys left,'' Shaw said. ''It was taxing.''
National rankings (Rivals 14; Scout 15).
Best in class: Thomas.
Best of the rest: Chryst, QB, Palo Alto (Calif.); Schultz, TE, Bingham (South Jordan, Utah); Tucker, OT, Hamilton (Gilbert, Ariz.).
Late addition: Thomas.
One that got away: Uriah Leiataua, DE, Dominguez, Compton, Calif. (BYU).
NOTE: Stanford filled a major hole on its defensive line with Thomas. The Cardinal also made their biggest marks at the most important offensive positions with Chryst, Schultz, Tucker and McCaffrey. The only real downer on the day was losing Leiataua, who had been verbally committed to Stanford for a month until signing with BYU.
Antonio Gonzalez can be reached at: www.twitter.com/agonzalezAP