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2015 Fierce 40 Previews: #23 Stanford

by DJ Boyer on Aug. 13, 2015

#23 Stanford Cardinal

2014 Recap:

A down season from recent Stanford standards as the Cardinal finished 8-5 after disposing of Maryland 45-21 in the Foster Farms Bowl. The Cardinal went 5-4 in the Pac-12 North which was tied for 2nd. The usually reliable Stanford running game was not present, and the team paid the price with a largely ineffective offensive display for most of the season.

Coaching:

David Shaw is a staggering 42-14 in four years at Stanford. Shaw remains one of the premier coaches at the NCAA level and is often mentioned as a coach that could make the leap to the NFL level. Mike Bloomgren is the offensive coordinator and will try to improve an offense that was 70th running the football and 65th throwing it. Lance Anderson seems to have little to worry about on defense. Stanford was 2nd in scoring defense and 3rd overall. Stanford has a chance to be a top 10 unit overall once again with consistent quarterback pressure.

 

Offense Analysis

Quarterbacks/Running Backs:

Kevin Hogan is a 5th year senior that has an impressive 24-8 record as a starting quarterback. Hogan has all the experience you are looking for and if you are searching for quarterbacks in the upcoming graduating class that are mechanically sound than look no further than Mr. Hogan. Hogan is a mobile quarterback that won’t run for a ton of yards, but you can use a of of designed rollouts or use motion and play to his strength. In two and a half years as a starting quarterback Hogan has thrown for over 6,500 yards, and many of his targets from last season will be back aside from Ty Montgomery.

The real issue was the running game a season ago, and Stanford will likely use three running backs regularly, as they don’t have a “true” starter. Ramound Wright had twice as many carries as any other runner a season ago but look for Barry Sanders Jr. And Christian McCaffrey to come closer to Wright in total number of carries. Wright averaged 4.5 YPC while Sanders and McCaffrey averaged 5.3 and 7.1. Stanford is returning 80% of the starting linemen, so there is experience up front. Stanford is one of the few college teams that really keeps their fullbacks true to form, and they utilize them frequently. Daniel Marx is back and will start as a sophomore, and his blocking will be key to getting the running game back on track.

Best Draft Prospect: Kevin Hogan QB 5th Round 2016.

 

Wide Receivers/Tight Ends:

Stanford spread the wealth a season ago in the passing game, as only a pair of players had over 500 yards receiving, and there were six players with at least a pair of touchdown catches. Most of the players we have just talked about are back so depth looks to be the key to success with the 2015 passing attack. Devon Cajuste led the team with six touchdown catches during 2014 with 557 total yards. The real key here is Cajuste has experience at tight end, and at nearly 6’5” and 230 pounds he is built like one. Michael Rector had 24 catches last season, and he will step into the starting spot vacated by Ty Montgomery.

Aside from Cajuste the best target on the team looks like tight end Austin Hooper. We have Hooper projected as a 3rd round pick for 2017, but with a big season and another tight end class that looks weaker, we could see an early declaration. Hooper doesn’t run like an ordinary tight end, and a 50-catch season with at least six touchdowns is not asking too much of the junior. We mentioned Christian McCaffrey above, and he will be used just as often catching the football as he will running it.

Best Draft Prospect: Austin Hooper TE 3rd Round 2017.

 

Offensive Line:

While the running game gets most of the attention regarding the Stanford offense, it wouldn’t be possible without the stellar play up front of the lineman. One can make a case that over the last five years there hasn’t been another school at the NCAA level that has produced more star NFL players along the line then that of Stanford. Four starters are back from 2014, with the only exception being Andrus Peat, a player that declared a year early and was selected 13th overall during the first round of this past draft. Kyle Murphy will move to the left side of the line where Peat played last season, and Murphy could easily be all Pac-12 this season at the position. All five players slated to start along the line this season are seniors, so Stanford has an impressive balance of athleticism and experience. If Stanford cannot run behind this offensive line then there is some sort of problem, in the backfield. Joshua Garnett is likely the 3rd-most talented guard in the entire conference behind the starting duo in Arizona State that we recently profiled. Graham Shuler is a terrific center which should mean that in true Stanford form we will see most of the running along the interior of the line vice bouncing things along the outside beyond the tackle box.

Best Draft Prospect: Kyle Murphy OT 4th Round 2016.

 

Defense Analysis

Defensive Line:

The way things normally work for the Cardinal on defense we see a few interchangeable prospects along the line that are drafted in the middle to later rounds. Stanford uses a 3-4 defensive front with larger defensive ends that see action as defensive tackles depending on the team that drafts them at the next level. There were three Stanford defenders that posted double digit tackles for loss, and unfortunately for Stanford, all have moved on to the NFL this season. Aziz Shittu and Brennan Scarlett seem to be the starters at defensive end for this season. Scarlett is back after starting nine games during 2014 but missing most of last season due to injury. Both players are seniors and will have other ends like fellow senior Torsten Rotto and incoming freshman Dylan Jackson there to help with some snaps. Jackson could be redshirted, but he seems to be the next big recruit for the future of Stanford football along the end. Harrison Phillips is a capable defensive tackle, and he will be the primary starter at the position. Expect to see Aziz Shittu move into the middle during some formations or to spell Phillips

Best Draft Prospect: Harrison Phillips DT 4th Round 2018.

 

Linebackers:

Linebacker is easily the area of the defense where the Cardinal has the most returning talent for 2015. Blake Martinez is one of the middle linebackers and is the most complete linebacker of the prospects on the team. Kevin Anderson plays the outside and looks to be the most dangerous pass rushing option in uniform heading into the season. Blake Martinez actually led Stanford with 102 total stops a season ago with seven for loss, 4.5 sacks, three interceptions and a pair of forced fumbles. Anderson got to the quarterback 5.5 times and added another six quarterback hurries to show that pressure is something he can provide. Peter Kalambayi will play outside with Anderson, and he actually totaled 6.5 sacks in a non-starting role. Anderson will command more attention and open things up for the teammates around him but Kalambayi can make big plays himself despite being limited in stopping the run. Senior Noor Davis looks like he has the other inside linebacker spot sewn up and has been a special teams standout in years past along with his reserve linebacker play. This will be a strong unit, and Stanford will be sure to mix in enough youth for depth purposes throughout the season.

Best Draft Prospect: Blake Martinez LB 5th Round 2016.

 

Secondary:

The Cardinal lost a lot of pieces from the secondary, a unit that ranked #8 nationally against the pass. It wasn’t only graduation and the NFL that came calling, Wayne Lyons transferred as a graduate student and should be starting for the Michigan Wolverines. Opposition completed only 56% of their passes against Stanford, and that was under 10 yards a completion, both numbers that put the Cardinal at the top of the Pac-12. There are two starters coming back in the secondary but from a player standpoint we feel the best current prospect on the roster is sophomore cornerback Terrence Alexander, who was not a starter a season ago. Alexander showed plenty of promise in his limited role a season ago, patiently waiting his turn after the more experienced players moved on. Alexander will be joined by fellow corner Ronnie Harris who has 29 tackles and five stops for loss in 2014.

The only concern at corner is the fact that both starters are listed at 5’10” during an age where taller corners are becoming increasingly regular. Zach Hoffpauir made 44 tackles and broke up five passes at safety last season and this senior wants to play at the pro level…baseball that is. Hoffpauir was drafted by the Arizona Diamondbacks, and it looks like he will play as a senior despite announcing baseball will be the sport he pursues at the next level. Kodi Whitfield is a bigger strong safety type that can play some linebacker when asked. Whitfield played safety for the first time last season after making a successful transition from wide receiver.

Best Draft Prospect: Terrence Alexander CB 3rd Round 2018.

 

Special Teams

There is a lot of turnover along special teams as the Cardinal will have a new punter and kicker. The question is who will fill these roles? These were unsettled positions heading into the spring game and nobody stepped up and claimed any of the positions. Ty Montgomery is now in the NFL, and he was one of the best return men in America, so the return game is also a bit muddled. The special teams coverage units were outstanding a season ago, especially on punts where Stanford had one of the best coverage units statistically in the country. We don’t anticipate a large dropoff in the special teams game, as Stanford always seems more than ready.

Best Draft Prospect: N/A.

 

2015 Schedule

In the third game of the season Stanford will take to the road for the first time, and they will be taking on USC. USC dropped Stanford during a defensive struggle a season ago. Stanford should be near the top of the conference standings when they go into the twilight of their schedule which has three home games to close the schedule. Opponents in this home stands are Oregon, California and Notre Dame.

 

Draft Prospects & Outlook

There may not be as many prospects available this year near the top of the boards, but the offensive line will be the focus again. Kevin Hogan should prove to be a tough and reliable backup somewhere, while Blake Martinez could be the next great linebacker at Stanford that gets NFL attention. The last area of focus will be on Austin Hooper, and whether the tight end will declare in what looks to be a weaker tight end class.D

 

DJ Boyer