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2013 Fierce-40 Previews: #2-Stanford

by DJ Boyer on Aug. 22, 2013

2013 Fierce 40 Previews

 

#2 Stanford Cardinal

 

2012 Recap:

An upset by Washington and a controversial loss to Notre Dame (that game should have gone to overtime, where they may have won) is all that was in the loss column for Stanford. Stanford was smelling roses after they defeated Wisconsin to claim the Rose Bowl and showed there is life after Andrew Luck.

 

Coaching:

At 23-4 it has been a remarkable start for David Shaw, the University may have to ensure they keep him really happy because the NFL will come calling soon. It worked for his predecessor Jim Harbaugh (who went to the Super Bowl a year ago with the 49ers).

 

Offense

Quarterbacks/Running Backs:

If there is any team at the NCAA level built to contend with or beat Alabama it is Stanford. Stanford utilizes the power running game with a very physical style of play up front to set up the passing game. The passing game uses the tight end heavily and goes for the big play with the wide receiver down the field or the quick hitch or screen with a back coming out of the backfield trying to get a mismatch on a linebacker or lineman. The added dimension came late in the season as Kevin Hogan took over at quarterback and went 5-0 with all but one of the wins coming against top 25 teams. Hogan was very efficient completing a whopping 71% of his passes and running for 263 and getting a pair of rushing touchdowns on the ground. Hogan had a 3-1 TD to INT ratio with 9 touchdowns to only 3 interceptions. At 6’4” 225 Hogan has an NFL build and has very solid mechanics so he doesn’t have to throw for 300 yards every game to get the attention of NFL scouts at the next level.

The battle will be on for the running back position as Stepfan Taylor left for the NFL after posting 1,530 yards and 13 touchdowns rushing and 2 more touchdowns on 40 catches. Anthony Wilkerson seems to have the advantage over Tyler Gaffney for the starting running back role. Wilkerson averaged 4.5 YPC last season and can pound the ball inside or take it around the corner. Stanford is one of the few teams near the top of the polls that will use a fullback in a true sense and they use the spot heavily. Ryan Hewitt has a future in the NFL and is a nice safety valve catching the ball in the open field.

Best Draft Prospect: Kevin Hogan QB 3rd Round 2016.

 

Wide Receivers/Tight Ends:

Zach Ertz was a 2nd round pick and his 69 catches led the way last season. Luke Kaumatule is the new starting tight end and the dropoff will not be considerable as Kaumatule will establish himself as one of the best in the conference right out of the gate. 6’6” 265 ensures that Kaumatule already has the NFL to go along with playing in the physical NFL offense.

Ty Montgomery is the top receiver for this team and don’t let the fact that he has only caught 50 passes in his first two seasons fool you. Montgomery had 24 catches as a freshman and showed good open field speed and burst. Montgomery hauled in 26 passes as a sophomore but was hobbled by a few different injuries which limited his effectiveness after the catch. Montgomery has a clean bill of health and he should catch about 40 passes and will be a threat deep and in the red zone for the Cardinals. I have Montgomery listed as a 7th round pick for 2015 and I am sure Kaumatule will be chosen in the first three rounds when eligible if he is anywhere close to advertised. We have three receivers battling for one more starting spot . All three have experience but will not be used as a main pass catching threat, but more than likely as an extra blocker who will contribute a catch or two a game. Devon Cajuste has the most upside of the three players and looks to be the favorite to start. Again, look for Ryan Hewitt to be a big threat catching passes from the fullback position along with backup runner Tyler Gaffney who looks more fluid catching passes than Anthony Wilkerson.

Best Draft Prospect: Ty Montgomery 7th round 2015.

 

Offensive Line:

Reading this preview thus far you may look and say with all the question marks at receiver and a new running back how could this team possibly start the season at #2? It’s all about the offensive line at Stanford. When you run a power running game and utilize the tight ends the way Stanford does, blocking is at a premium. Stanford has the best offensive line in the Pac-12 and possibly the nation. Four starters return and the only non-returning starter is sophomore Andrus Peat at left tackle and he looks like a future first round pick who may be the best of the lineman when all is said and done and his college career is over. Peat is 6’7” 315 and is amazingly nimble on his feet for a man his size. There may be a few growing pains now that he will be a starter at potentially the most important position along the line, but there is so much help and talent around him that Peat should blend right in and be one of the gang early on. Beside Peat will be left guard David Yankey who will be battling Cyril Richardson of Baylor to be the top guards taken in the draft. Yankey also has experience as a tackle, and at 6’5” 310 the team that selects him will have the luxury of seeing where they need him most because he looks like he would be very comfortable as a starting right tackle or anywhere at the NFL level. Khalil Wilkes, Kevin Danser and Cameron Fleming are the other starters. Wilkes and Danser have the looks of late round picks while Fleming is projecting as a solid 3rd rounder for 2015 and that could be a 2nd rounder before the season is through. The casual football fan doesn’t tune into a game to watch offensive line play but if you are one of the few that really enjoys seeing games won and lost in the trenches, then do yourself a favor and watch as many Stanford games as possible this season.

Best Draft Prospect: David Yankey OG 1st Round 2014 and Andrus Peat OT 1st Round 2016.

 

Defense

Defensive Line

The Stanford defense was ranked #20 overall last season but they led the nation with 57 sacks. They were tied for second in tackles for loss, and were #5 stopping run while the scoring defense ranked #11 giving up 17.2 PPG. Stanford uses the 3-4 and Ben Gardner and Henry Anderson have some terrific numbers combining for 17.5 tackles for loss and 13 sacks. When you look at the overall scheme from an individual talent and prospect standpoint these two are afterthoughts and not the stars of the defense. That is how stacked this team is as they have players that can come at you from every conceivable angle and direction. I have Trent Murphy listed as fringe 1st round pick as a defensive end although he plays as a linebacker in the Stanford scheme. He could be an end at the NFL level or go to a 3-4 team that utilizes him as a linebacker at the next level. David Parry will be the defensive tackle and he made 28 tackles and started 3 games last season so Stanford is not green at any position along the line. Gardner is listed as a 4th round prospect on my board for this season and that could improve if teams really focus in on Murphy and some of the linebackers, so he could be the beneficiary and have a monster season. Josh Mauro is a key backup who saw action in every game last year and while he made no starts, he still had 7.5 tackles for loss and 5 sacks. Again, depth is unbelievable with this unit.

Best Draft Prospect: Trent Murphy DE/LB 1st/2nd Round 2014.

                       

Linebackers:

When you throw Trent Murphy in with Shayne Skov and another returning starter in A.J. Tarpley you have the best linebackers in the PAC 12 and what I believe t be the 2nd best unit in the nation (trailing only the team #1 in the Fierce 40 poll). I have Skov listed as a 2nd rounder here but again Murphy is up top at defensive end and has 1st round potential. Murphy had 18 tackles for loss with 10 sacks and 56 total tackles. Skov posted a team leading 81 tackles with 9 coming for loss and 2.5 sacks. The only knock on Skov is overall speed which could push him down the board and maybe into the 3rd round overall. The other inside linebacker A.J. Tarpley had 66 tackles and 7 tackles for loss, numbers that would make him the talk of the defense on most other teams at the FBS level. Here he is seen as a supporting cast member for Murphy and Skov. Tarpley is currently projected as a 4th/5th rounder for 2015 and will most certainly stay for his senior season to show NFL teams his moxy with his teammates both gone after this season. James Vaughters should be the other outside linebacker to complete the unit, but look for incoming youngsters Peter Kalambayi and Sean Barton to get some time so they are prepared to move into starting roles next season.

Best Draft Prospect: Shayne Skov 2nd Round 2014.

 

Secondary:

As good as the linebackers are the starting safety duo may be even better as Ed Reynolds and Jordan Richards are both returning starters and juniors who could leave early for the draft. Reynolds is listed as a fringe 1st rounder for next season who could leave if he returns half his picks for scores like he did last year (6 pics and 3 went back for touchdowns). Jordan Richards led the team in passes defenses and pass breakups while hauling in 3 interceptions himself. This means the safeties had 9 of the teams 15 interceptions last season. Alex Carter is back after starting as a freshman at cornerback and he has a bright future ahead of him. Carter stands 6’0” and 210 pounds with deceptive speed and he can tackle as well as he plays the pass, Carter could wind up being taken somewhere in rounds 1-3 when his time comes for moving on. Wayne Lyons should be the other starting corner and he did start one game last season while playing as the primary nickel back for the Cardinals. Lyons sands 6’1” so the defense also mimics the NFL as Stanford has their starting corners both standing 6’0”, something we see more and more of in the NFL with size becoming a bigger factor at the wide receiver position. This secondary is as good as it gets and Stanford will need it with many top flight quarterbacks in the conference.

Best Draft Prospect: Ed Reynolds S 1st/2nd Round 2015 (Possible early entrant for 2014).

 

Special Teams:

The return game and coverage units were solid for Stanford a year ago, and with Ty Montgomery healthy again he will bring 1 or 2 back for touchdown on kickoffs. Jordan Williamson has been up and down as the kicker but the junior ended the year on a strong note and could be a key factor if he rides the momentum.

Best Draft Prospect: Ty Montgomery KR/WR UFA 2015.

 

Schedule:

UCLA, Oregon and Notre Dame are all home games this season so things may line up very nicely for Stanford. I think right now the winner of the SEC and the winner of the Oregon/Stanford game are the odds on favorites for the BCS title game. Oregon State and USC look to be the toughest road games.

 

Draft Outlook:

Stanford may not have as many prospects as an Alabama, Florida State, LSU etc etc. but the number of 1st and 2nd round picks is comparable. Stanford is battling Oregon for West Coast supremacy and you can see the amount of talent they churn out on draft day.

 

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