•  Register
17

2016 Fierce 40 Previews: #8 Stanford

by DJ Boyer on Aug. 17, 2016

#8 Stanford Cardinal

2015 Recap:
This team was left for dead right out of the gate when they dropped their opening game at Northwestern 16-6. Stanford then ran off eight victories in a row before falling to Oregon to take them out of the BCS Playoff picture. The Cardinal did win the Pac-12 and then mopped up Iowa in the Rose Bowl 45-16 for a 12-2 campaign.


Coaching:
54 wins in five years is a testiment to just how good David Shaw is and why he is one of the best coaches at the FBS level.  Shaw has prepared his players as well for the NFL as any coach at the NCAA level today. We are surprised quite honestly that Shaw is still at Stanford as he seems like the perfect candidate to take his talents to the NFL and we love his work on the NFL Network on Draft weekend.


Offense

Gone is four year starter Kevin Hogan and the battle between Keller Chryst and Ryan Burns looks to be too close to call. We think Chryst will end up with the spot but there could be a pair of quarterbacks running things for a while. There are plenty of receiving targets but most are a little thin on experience. Dalton Schultz looks to be the latest in a line of tight ends that play at Stanford and go on to bigger and better things. Michael Rector is the only returning starting wide receiver. The top retruning pass catcher is none other than Mr "I Do Everything" Christian McCaffrey. McCaffrey had nearly 4,00 all purpose yards as he ran for over 2,000 yards while catching 45 balls for another 645 yards in addition to serving as the teams primary return man. What makes things even easier for McCaffrey is the line he gets to run behind, the offensive line play is always high at Stanford. Casey Tucker looks to be the next Stanford lineman that looks to be bound for the professional level. Right guard Johnny Caspers is the only other returning starter and the only senior among the five listed starters in the group.
 

Best Draft Prospects: Christian McCaffery RB 2nd Round 2017 (Early Declaration).

                                       Casey Tucker OT 2nd Round 2017 (Early Declaration).


Defense

The Stanford defense seems to go through cycles where they lean on the defenisve line or the linebackers based on experience. Last season the cardinal was led by Pac-12 leading tackler Blake martinez. With Martinez now gone it looks like the defenisve line will carry the unit. The line is very deep and led by sophomore Solomon Thomas, who registered 10.5 tackles for loss in limited duty during 2015.  Stanford will use Harrison Phillips and Dylan Jackson as starters alongside Thomas up front in their 3-4 set. Eric Cotton is another player we will see frequently off the bench for the Cardinal. Kevin Palma and Peter Kalambayi will ensure there is plenty of talent still at the linebacker position while Bobby Okereke will replace Martinez in the middle. The Stanford pass defense ranked 5th in the Pac-12 placing it in the middle although the secondary didn't force as many turnovers as the team is accustomed to seeing. Stanford is a team that has relied heavily on turnover differential in years past but last year finished at a modest +1.

Best Draft Prospects: Solomon Thomas DE 3rd Round 2018 (Early Declaration).

                                       Peter Kalambayi LB 4th Round 2018.


Special Teams:

Special teams made the difference in a few games for Stanford last season, especially the win against Notre Dame. Christian McCaffrey is the triple threat as he not only runs and catches the football but he averages close to 30 yards per kickoff return and is the primary punt return man. Expect to see McCaffrey a bunch as he makes a push for the Heisman Trophy. Conrad Ukropina was one of the most accurate kickers in the conference at 90% on field goals (18-20) and converting all of his PATs. Jake Bailey will be the punter.


Schedule:

Stanford is at home to start the season hoping to avoid the Northwestern debacle they started with in 2015. Kansas State comes to town to open the campaign. The next five games will be USC, UCLA, Washington, Washington State and Notre Dame. I challenge you to find a team playing a more difficuly schedule in the first half of the season.



Draft and Overall Outlook:

Stanford has been one of the leading NFL talent producers over the last 6-7 years and they have had a number of students leave early. With McCaffrey and Casey Tucker we see a few on offense who could keep that trend going. Standford has just become a machine and it is no fluke that they have won the Pac-12 in three of the last four seasons.

DJ Boyer