Stanford Daily » SPORTS http://www.stanforddaily.com 9/1/2015 Tue, 01 Sep 2015 09:00:00 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.2.4 Stanford releases depth chart for season opener against Northwestern http://www.stanforddaily.com/2015/09/01/stanford-releases-depth-chart-for-season-opener-against-northwestern/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=stanford-releases-depth-chart-for-season-opener-against-northwestern http://www.stanforddaily.com/2015/09/01/stanford-releases-depth-chart-for-season-opener-against-northwestern/#comments Tue, 01 Sep 2015 08:58:07 +0000 http://www.stanforddaily.com/?p=1102998 Stanford football released its depth chart for the Northwestern game on Monday night, clearing up the results of a few position battles but leaving most of the more significant battles undecided.

At least for the time being, senior Johnny Caspers has won the starting job at right guard, while sophomore Casey Tucker beat out an injured Nick Davidson to earn the starting job at right tackle. Senior Conrad Ukropina is also confirmed to be the Cardinal’s starting kicker.

However, the races for backup quarterback, cornerback, inside linebacker and punter will likely be clarified further through the Cardinal’s first few games, with no single player listed at any of those positions.

The most interesting development on the new depth chart is a shake-up at both starting wide receiver spots, where fifth-year senior Rollins Stallworth is listed ahead of senior Michael Rector at one spot and junior Francis Owusu has moved into a tie with fifth-year senior Devon Cajuste at the other.

It remains to be seen whether Rector’s move down the depth chart has anything to do with his recent suspension for unspecified disciplinary reasons and whether the wide receiver will play at all against Northwestern. Cajuste may reportedly still be dealing with the aftereffects of an injury, which may have influenced Owusu’s move up the depth chart.

The only freshmen listed on Stanford’s two-deep are safeties Justin Reid and Ben Edwards, backup nickelback Quenton Meeks and punter/kickoff specialist Jake Bailey. All four will likely see significant action this season due to Stanford’s lack of proven depth in the secondary and on special teams.

Quarterbacks

Kevin Hogan (5Sr.) / Ryan Burns (Jr.) OR Keller Chryst (So.)

Hogan being firmly entrenched at starter has always been a done deal, but it’s surprising that the backup quarterback situation still hasn’t been resolved at this late stage. Shaw has confirmed that whoever does eventually win the backup job will see a non-trivial number of snaps under center this season in order to prepare him to take over for Hogan once Stanford transitions at quarterback next year.

Running backs

Christian McCaffrey (So.) / Remound Wright (5Sr.) / Barry Sanders (Sr.)

McCaffrey is the starter and will definitely get the majority of the workload out of the backfield. However, his versatility will allow Stanford to often split him out wide as well, opening the door for Sanders to see a decent number of touches. Wright should also get a lot of touches in short-yardage and goal-line situations after he was incredibly successful in that role at the end of last season. If training camp was any indication, true freshmen Cameron Scarlett and Bryce Love could also factor into the picture in specialized packages.

Fullback

Daniel Marx (So.) / Chris Harrell (Sr.)

No team around the country develops fullbacks quite like Stanford, with two of the Cardinal’s former stalwarts at the position (Ryan Hewitt and Lee Ward) making big impacts for their NFL teams so far. Marx figures to be next on that list as the unquestioned next man up. With Patrick Skov gone to Georgia Tech, depth could be a question, but reports out of camp are that both tight ends Eric Cotton and Greg Taboada have been working out at the position as well. It also wouldn’t be a surprise to see a cameo from Reagan Williams, one of the Cardinal’s newest recruits at the position.

Wide receivers

Rollins Stallworth (5Sr.) / Michael Rector (Sr.) / Isaiah Brandt-Sims (So.)
Francis Owusu (Jr.) OR Devon Cajuste (5Sr.) / Dontonio Jordan (Sr.)

As mentioned above, Stallworth seems to be the primary beneficiary of Rector’s mystery-shrouded suspension, with the former walk-on jumping past Rector in the depth chart to become the only confirmed first-string wideout. Owusu was always likely to see a significant part in Stanford’s offense this season, but he’ll likely see a comparatively larger chunk of the snaps against Northwestern sharing first-string duties with Cajuste. It will be interesting to see if and how Stanford decides to work true freshman playmaker Trenton Irwin into the fray.

Tight ends

Austin Hooper (Jr.) / Greg Taboada (Jr.)
Dalton Schultz (So.) / Greg Taboada (Jr.)

Noticeably missing from the two-deep is junior Eric Cotton, who was the third of the new-generation “Tree Amigos” tight end group that was recruited in the 2013 class. Dalton Schultz, who was reportedly one of the best route-runners on the team as a true freshman last year, will finally get a chance to play a major role in Stanford’s offense, and although Taboada and Cotton will likely see time in certain packages and in Stanford’s three- and four-tight-end looks, Hooper and Schultz seem to have separated themselves from the pack and will be the next major players at the position to keep the “Tight End U” legacy going.

Offensive line

LT: Kyle Murphy (Sr.) / David Bright (Jr.)
LG: Joshua Garnett (Sr.) / Brandon Fanaika (So.)
C: Graham Shuler (Sr.) / Jesse Burkett (So.)
RG: Johnny Caspers (Sr.) / Brendon Austin (5Sr.)
RT: Casey Tucker (So.) / Nick Davidson (Sr.)

The legendary offensive line recruiting class of 2012 welcomes sophomore Casey Tucker to the fray to complete what should be a vastly improved line from last season and one of the best in the conference. Murphy sliding over to Hogan’s blind side should be a more-than-adequate replacement for the departed Andrus Peat, and the interior of the line, which struggled last season, should be improved if the end of 2014 was any indication. The Northwestern game should be a good litmus test, as the Wildcats have traditionally been strong in the front seven. The game should also provide more clarity as to which linemen will be subbed in with eligible numbers in Stanford’s heavy packages.

Defensive line

DE: Solomon Thomas (So.) OR Brennan Scarlett (5Sr.)
DT: Harrison Phillips (So.) / Aziz Shittu (Sr.) OR Solomon Thomas (So.)
DE: Aziz Shittu (Sr.) / Jordan Watkins (Sr.)

There’s an undeniable wealth of talent on this defensive line, but the lack of depth could prove to be a concern for the Cardinal down the stretch. An injury would force either Nate Lohn or Torsten Rotto into the rotation. The biggest thing of note here is Harrison Phillips winning the starting nose tackle job outright, with many having expected senior Aziz Shittu to take over for the departed David Parry. However, the other options in the rotation offer significant flexibility, and given the nature of Pac-12 offenses, Stanford likely won’t spend the majority of its time in the base 3-4 defense anyway.

Linebackers

OLB: Peter Kalambayi (Jr.) / Joey Alfieri (So.)
ILB: Blake Martinez (Sr.) / Craig Jones (Sr.)
ILB: Kevin Palma (Jr.) OR Jordan Perez (So.)
OLB: Kevin Anderson (5Sr.) / Mike Tyler (Jr.)

The inside linebacker spot alongside Blake Martinez is still an open contest between Kevin Palma and Jordan Perez, but the starters in the other three slots are essentially set in stone with three of Stanford’s most productive defenders from last season returning to anchor the unit. It likely won’t matter who wins the job, as both guys will see lots of snaps as the season goes on no matter what. Palma is one of the best physically-developed players on the team. Talented backups like Joey Alfieri and Mike Tyler should also get increased exposure this season to bolster the unit’s depth. The wild card in this position group is senior Luke Kaumatule, who weighs in north of 270 pounds and could play a hybrid defensive line-outside linebacker position in certain looks.

Defensive backs

CB: Alijah Holder (So.) OR Alameen Murphy (So.)
FS: Kodi Whitfield (Sr.) / Justin Reid (Fr.)
SS: Dallas Lloyd (Sr.) / Brandon Simmons (So.) OR Ben Edwards (Fr.)
CB: Ronnie Harris (5Sr.) / Ra’Chard Pippens (5Sr.)
NB: Terrence Alexander (So.) / Quenton Meeks (Fr.)

No huge surprises among the starters, although it’s surprising that neither Holder nor Murphy has separated himself from the other enough to be named the starter alongside Harris at cornerback. It also seems that Shaw and position coach Duane Akina aren’t going to hesitate to play true freshmen in a position group that was ravaged by departures at the end of 2014, particularly with the most talented defensive backs recruiting class in history set to make an impact. Reid, Edwards and Meeks should see plenty of action if this two-deep holds up. Taijuan Thomas is noticeably missing from the depth chart.

Specialists

K: Conrad Ukropina (Sr.) / Jake Bailey (Fr.)
P: Jake Bailey (Fr.) OR Alex Robinson (Jr.)
KO: Jake Bailey (Fr.) OR Conrad Ukropina (Sr.)
KR: Christian McCaffrey (So.) / Barry Sanders (Sr.)
PR: Christian McCaffrey (So.) / Barry Sanders (Sr.)
LS: Reed Miller (Sr.) / Torsten Rotto (5Sr.)
SS: C.J. Keller (So.) / Reed Miller (Sr.)
HLD: Dallas Lloyd (Sr.)

Although Ukropina doesn’t have a proven track record, special teams coach Pete Alamar is confident that Ukropina can be the next man up for Stanford at kicker, and although Conrad’s kickoffs left much to be desired two years ago, freshman Jake Bailey is said to have a dynamite leg and should compete for the kickoffs job immediately. The same long/short-snapping duo from last season returns, and Dallas Lloyd, who was the backup holder last year, will take over for Ben Rhyne as part of the battery. He should be one of very few non-quarterback or punter holders in the country. Barry Sanders provides depth at returner, and even behind him, Stanford has many guys (like Kodi Whitfield) who can also return kicks and punt adequately.

Contact Do-Hyoung Park at dhpark ‘at’ stanford.edu.

]]>
http://www.stanforddaily.com/2015/09/01/stanford-releases-depth-chart-for-season-opener-against-northwestern/feed/ 0
Stanford in the NFL: A look at the 2015 draft class http://www.stanforddaily.com/2015/09/01/stanford-in-the-nfl-a-look-at-the-2015-draft-class/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=stanford-in-the-nfl-a-look-at-the-2015-draft-class http://www.stanforddaily.com/2015/09/01/stanford-in-the-nfl-a-look-at-the-2015-draft-class/#comments Tue, 01 Sep 2015 08:05:30 +0000 http://www.stanforddaily.com/?p=1102992 Stanford football’s resurgence in the last decade has given the program several new traditions: major bowl games, conference championships and graduates playing for the Indianapolis Colts.

Henry Anderson ’15 and David Parry ’15 were the latest to make the move from Palo Alto to Indianapolis, where they have played their way into prominent positions on the Colts’ defensive line rotation.

Last year, Anderson and Parry were stalwarts for a Stanford defense that was one of the best in the nation. The Colts, who also play in a 3-4 base defense, are still recovering from a 41-7 defeat in the AFC Championship in which they surrendered 177 yards and three touchdowns on the ground.

Parry, a fifth-round selection, has impressed Colts head coach Chuck Pagano with strong play at nose tackle, a key position in the 3-4 scheme.

“He’s smart, he’s tough and he understands the scheme and he plays with really good technique,” Pagano said of the former Stanford walk-on.

Parry’s early successes have led to a competition with Josh Chapman for the starting nose tackle job. Both Parry and Chapman have taken first-team reps in practice and in the Colts’ preseason games against the St. Louis Rams and Chicago Bears.

Santa Clara, CA - December 30, 2014: 2014 Foster Farms Bowl between the Stanford Cardinal and the Maryland Terrapins at Levi's Stadium.  Stanford defeated Maryland 45-21.

Nose tackle David Parry ’15 (center) has found his way onto the Indianapolis Colts’ roster after being selected in the fifth round of the NFL Draft. Parry has drawn praise from head coach Chuck Pagano and will compete for the starting job at nose tackle. (BOB DREBIN/stanfordphoto.com)

Anderson, the Colts’ third-round pick, faces tough competition for playing time behind returning starter Arthur Jones and free-agent signing Kendall Langford.

During training camp, Anderson has displayed the same qualities that made him a defensive force for the Cardinal. His 6-foot-6, 300-pound frame makes him a two-gapping monster who can shore up the Colts’ run defense, while his agility and heavy hands allow him to rush the passer from the interior. Anderson replaced the injured Jones in the Colts’ preseason game against the Bears, leading all defensive linemen with 26 snaps played.

While Anderson and Parry may become key parts of a playoff-bound Colts defense, the team’s success will be driven by Andrew Luck ’12, Coby Fleener ’12 and a newly-upgraded offense. Luck’s arsenal of weapons now includes wide receiver Andre Johnson and running back Frank Gore, who recently referred to his quarterback as a “coordinator on the field” and “a football god.”

STANFORD, CA - NOVEMBER 15, 2014: Ty Montgomery during Stanford's game against Utah. The Utes defeated the Cardinal 20-17 in overtime.

As a result of Jordy Nelson’s season-ending knee injury, Ty Montgomery ’15 (left) figures to receive much more attention as an option in the Green Bay Packers’ receiving corps. The receiver and return specialist has featured primarily as a slot receiver in the preseason. (JIM SHORIN/stanfordphoto.com)

Although Indianapolis is the hub of Stanford’s Graduate School of Football, Cardinal rookies across the league are pushing for roster spots and playing time on Sundays.

Packers wide receiver Ty Montgomery ’15 will be one of the main beneficiaries of Jordy Nelson’s season-ending knee injury, which likely moves Montgomery into the third wide receiver slot behind Randall Cobb and Davante Adams. Montgomery, who many NFL scouts compared to Cobb, featured primarily as a slot receiver in Green Bay’s preseason game against the Eagles, catching two passes for 71 yards.

While Montgomery was a productive receiver for the Cardinal, he was perhaps more valuable as a kick returner, and Packers head coach Mike McCarthy has acknowledged the difficulty the team has had in employing all of the skills that the versatile rookie provides.

“This guy’s workload has been off the chart,” he said. “I’m going to take a hard look at it because he needs to be a contributor on special teams and he also needs to get ready for offense.”

Andrus Peat ‘15, the New Orleans Saints’ first-round pick, will likely start the season in an unfamiliar position: the bench. Saints GM Mickey Loomis employs the “best player available” drafting strategy, picking the top player on the board regardless of position. Unfortunately for Peat, this means sitting behind emerging star Terron Armstead and dependable veteran Zach Strief.

Peat has spent the preseason on both the left side, where he played his entire high-school and college careers, and the right side, a position he will need to master in order to become the Saints’ swing tackle. While he remains the Saints’ tackle of the future, Peat’s first playing opportunities will come as an injury replacement or in 6-lineman jumbo packages.

Like Peat, Jordan Richards ’15 is behind entrenched starters on the depth chart, but the Patriots’ second-round selection has impressed the normally-unflappable Bill Belichick with his keen football instincts.

“Jordan’s a really sharp kid,” Belichick said. “He’s very into football, has a very good understanding of the game.”

Although Richards is unlikely to displace starting safeties Devin McCourty and Patrick Chung, his awareness has been on display on special teams, where he has recorded eight tackles and recovered a fumble.

Contact Sanjay Srinivas at ssri16 ‘at’ stanford.edu.

]]>
http://www.stanforddaily.com/2015/09/01/stanford-in-the-nfl-a-look-at-the-2015-draft-class/feed/ 0 David Parry Santa Clara, CA - December 30, 2014: 2014 Foster Farms Bowl between the Stanford Cardinal and the Maryland Terrapins at Levi's Stadium. Stanford defeated Maryland 45-21. Ty Montgomery STANFORD, CA - NOVEMBER 15, 2014: Ty Montgomery during Stanford's game against Utah. The Utes defeated the Cardinal 20-17 in overtime.
Stanford dominates Boston College in home opener http://www.stanforddaily.com/2015/08/31/cardinal-dominate-boston-college-in-home-opener/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=cardinal-dominate-boston-college-in-home-opener http://www.stanforddaily.com/2015/08/31/cardinal-dominate-boston-college-in-home-opener/#comments Mon, 31 Aug 2015 08:59:44 +0000 http://www.stanforddaily.com/?p=1102982 No. 3 Stanford women’s soccer improved to 2-0 after demolishing Boston College 4-0 Friday evening in the team’s home opener at Laird Q. Cagan Stadium.

Michelle Xiao (BOB DREBIN/stanfordphoto.com)

Michelle Xiao (5) scored two goals, the first goals of her collegiate career, during the Cardinal’s game against Boston College.  (BOB DREBIN/stanfordphoto.com)

The Cardinal completely dominated possession, maintaining the ball for two-thirds of the game, and played aggressive offense, taking 25 shots and nine corners.

On the defensive end, Stanford suffocated Boston College’s offense: the Cardinal only allowed three shots from the Eagles the entire game and did not give up any corners.

“I think you could see the team was hungry to play,” head coach Paul Ratcliffe told GoStanford. “We were disappointed we couldn’t play the second game in Hawaii [the Cardinals’ second game on their Hawaii road trip was cancelled due to inclement weather] and we traveled back and then we’re here and we’re rearing to go.”

Freshman midfielder Michelle Xiao had an impressive performance in her home debut, scoring the team’s final two goals during the 34th and 46th minutes.

“Michelle is a dynamic player, so technically gifted. [She] can score goals [and has] one of the best shots of the team,” Ratcliffe said.

After a handball from Boston College’s Coco Woeltz, sophomore midfielder Andi Sullivan notched her second goal of the season, and the first goal of the game, off of the ensuing penalty kick at the 24:33 mark of the first half, while junior defender Stephanie Amack scored the Cardinal’s second goal just seven minutes later.

Five of the team’s six goals so far this season have come from underclassmen. While Sullivan and Xiao combined for three against Boston College, Sullivan and freshman Alana Cook were responsible for Stanford’s two goals against Hawaii in the team’s first game of the season.

Forwards Ryan Walker-Hartshorn, a junior, and Haley Rosen, a fifth-year senior, contributed five and three shots, respectively, and Rosen earned the assist on Amack’s goal.

Junior goalie Jane Campbell collected two saves before being subbed out of the game in the 55th minute. Redshirt freshman Alison Jahansouz and senior Sarah Cox both got over 15 minutes of playing time and were untested in the goal.

The Cardinal next face Cal Poly in San Luis Obispo this Friday, September 4 at 7 p.m.

Contact Alexa Philippou at aphil723 ‘at’ stanford.edu.

]]>
http://www.stanforddaily.com/2015/08/31/cardinal-dominate-boston-college-in-home-opener/feed/ 0 Michelle Xiao Michelle Xiao (BOB DREBIN/stanfordphoto.com)
Cardinal split home openers against top-ranked opponents http://www.stanforddaily.com/2015/08/31/cardinal-split-home-openers-against-top-ranked-opponents/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=cardinal-split-home-openers-against-top-ranked-opponents http://www.stanforddaily.com/2015/08/31/cardinal-split-home-openers-against-top-ranked-opponents/#comments Mon, 31 Aug 2015 08:41:12 +0000 http://www.stanforddaily.com/?p=1102983 After a highly difficult opening weekend, the No. 6 Stanford field hockey team (1-1) split games against Syracuse (2-0) and Duke (1-1), falling to the Orange in overtime on Friday before overcoming a two-point deficit to beat Duke in overtime on Sunday.

Casey Deeds (left) (RICHARD ERSTED/isiphotos.net)

Junior midfielder Casey Deeds (left) scored the game-winning goal in overtime against Duke to win the Cardinal the game after the team came back from a 2-0 deficit. (RICHARD ERSTED/isiphotos.net)

On Friday, the Cardinal fell to an experienced No. 4 Syracuse team 2-1 in overtime. In the eighth minute of regulation, the Syracuse Orange converted on a well-executed short corner. It was a slip left from graduate student midfielder Alma Fenne to sophomore defender Roos Weers, who swept a rocket into the back of the goal.

The Cardinal struggled to maintain possession for the majority of the game but showed a very resilient defensive effort despite being out-shot 22 to five. Syracuse also had 16 short corners to Stanford’s one, a huge offensive advantage for the Orange.

Stanford weathered the Orange’s shots (13 of which were shots on goal) and corners led by senior goal keeper Dulcie Davies, who had 11 saves. Davies’ instincts and reactions kept Stanford in the game until the end.

Late in the second half, senior midfielder Maddie Secco intercepted a Syracuse outlet and took off towards goal. She charged into the circle on a dangerous line through defenders and saw senior attacker Lauren Becker, who was open on the end line. Secco, off a give-and-go to Becker, was able to get behind the goalie and slot the ball into the goal. She tied the score 1-1, taking the game into overtime.  

However, Syracuse won the game on their 16th short corner with less than two minutes left in the first overtime period. Junior forward Emma Lamison was able to capitalize off of a rebound after Davies’ initial save. 

Stanford did not let the early setback define its opening weekend. The Cardinal improved in their second game and made a tenacious comeback against No. 5 Duke to win 3-2 in overtime.

Stanford played with much grit and energy, which paid off when the team tied the game 2-2 in regulation with just 30 seconds left and again when the Cardinal scored the game-winning goal with just 14 seconds left in the first period of overtime.

“Today we used our strength of being gritty and hard-working,” senior midfielder Maddie Secco said, something the team will look to “use to [their] advantage going forward.”

Duke got the upper hand early after scoring two goals within eight minutes in the first half. Both goals were off rebounds from Davies’ saves.

At the half, Duke, who had secured a 2-0 lead, had out-shot the Cardinal 7-4. However, Stanford came out and ground patiently through the second half. Stanford capitalized on its opportunities and put Duke’s defense under a lot of pressure.

With less than 20 minutes left in regulation, the Cardinal earned a short corner. Sophomore midfielder Millie Stefanowicz sent in a sweep hit towards goal, and Secco got a well-angled tip to send the ball into the back of the net, making the score 2-1.

In a clutch play with just 30 seconds left in regulation, junior attacker Fran Tew beat two defenders going to the goal. She sent a hard ball into the middle and junior attacker Kristina Bassi tipped the ball at the near post into the goal, tying the game 2-2.

In overtime, Davies kept the Cardinal alive, making two huge saves before junior midfielder Casey Deeds scored the game winner with 14 seconds left in the first overtime.

Junior defender Caroline Beaudoin, using her speed and strength, charged up the field beating three Duke defenders. As she got into the attacking circle, she connected with Deeds and slotted her a perfect ball to the near post. Deeds laid it out and made a great tip through the legs of the Duke goalie to seal the 3-2 victory.

“It was surreal to score, and we’ve been doing a lot of tipping drills in practice so I felt prepared for that one,” Deeds said.

“[I am] so happy that Casey Deeds was the one to put it in,” said Secco. “She’s been working hard and committing to the attack and I’m glad she was rewarded.”

The Cardinal wrap up their opening weekend on a strong note and have a lot of momentum going into their next games. Secco says the Cardinal “made good improvements in the Duke game, but will continue to progress next week and through the season.”

At The Farm this week, the Stanford field hockey team will take on Indiana on Friday, September 4 at 3 p.m. and Miami of Ohio on Sunday, September 6 at noon.

Kristina Bassi is a junior attacker on the field hockey team.

Contact Kristina Bassi at kbassi ‘at’ stanford.edu.

]]>
http://www.stanforddaily.com/2015/08/31/cardinal-split-home-openers-against-top-ranked-opponents/feed/ 0 Casey Deeds Casey Deeds (left) (RICHARD ERSTED/isiphotos.net)
Park: No matter what happens in 2015, know that Stanford is built for the long haul http://www.stanforddaily.com/2015/08/31/park-no-matter-what-happens-in-2015-know-that-stanford-is-built-for-the-long-haul/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=park-no-matter-what-happens-in-2015-know-that-stanford-is-built-for-the-long-haul http://www.stanforddaily.com/2015/08/31/park-no-matter-what-happens-in-2015-know-that-stanford-is-built-for-the-long-haul/#comments Mon, 31 Aug 2015 07:48:58 +0000 http://www.stanforddaily.com/?p=1102980 In a way, the preseason is the most hopeful time of year for most college football fans. Call it optimism, call it willful ignorance, call it whatever you will — but for the time being, while every team in the country is still undefeated, it’s easy for fans to have confidence in their teams’ perceived strengths and to assume the best-case scenarios regarding their weaknesses.

But for most of those fans, it’s all downhill from here. After all, every week sees half of the teams in the country lose.

A lot of fan bases can reasonably expect to know where on the ladder their teams will realistically fall during the course of a season, but going into 2015, Stanford is shrouded in a lot of tantalizing mystery.

I wouldn’t be surprised if the inconsistency of the past continued and Stanford finished 8-5 again. I also wouldn’t be surprised if it all finally came together and Stanford ran the table and won the national title.

After last season, the nation was quick to preach Stanford’s downfall and assume that Jim Harbaugh’s success was finally starting to wear off — just a couple of years later than everyone expected. If the Cardinal have another down season, the naysayers’ voices will re-double and more Stanford fans will likely join the fray.

I’m here to tell you not to fall into that trap — whether or not Stanford has a successful 2015.

Let’s make one thing abundantly clear: The Stanford program isn’t fading away any time soon.

The foundation for Stanford’s continued success starts and ends with the coaching staff; even as players shuffle through in five-year cycles, the coaches are the constants that hold the program down. And luckily for Stanford, it has one of the most talented and proven staffs in the nation to lean on moving forward.

I firmly believe that David Shaw is committed to the Cardinal for the long term, and unlike many, I think that’s a huge blessing. Whereas programs like Oregon State, Washington and USC have had to adjust their systems and styles to match the whims of new coaching hires, there’s no question of what Stanford’s team will look like year after year after year.

Consistency in a system means that younger players will never have to trash everything that they’ve learned while on the bench waiting for their turn to match the style of a new hire. It means that for whoever Stanford loses, there will always be a man to step up that’s familiar with the system and the goals of the program.

That consistency also shows recruits that Stanford is a destination program for a proven coach like Shaw and not just another stop with higher aspirations in mind. It shows those recruits that these coaches and players all want to be on The Farm and part of a program that has established a winning culture with all of the pieces that are still in place.

It also helps that Shaw’s assistants all fully buy into Shaw’s style of football and have proven to be exceptional at developing collegiate talent, regardless of the pieces that they have to work with.

And those pieces are only getting better and better.

Stanford’s success over the last few seasons was built on the blood, sweat and tears of two-star and three-star recruits, with the occasional four-star guys that came along to headline a recruiting class.

That shows that Stanford’s success was predicated not on incredible physical talent or star performances, but on a fundamental system and smart play on the field. Stanford’s coaches have gotten incredibly good at squeezing every last ounce of potential from their players and fitting them into a plug-and-play system, particularly on defense, that’s stood the test of time (and hordes of frustrated Pac-12 offenses).

Now, those two-star and three-star recruits have been replaced by four-star and five-star recruits. Stanford’s 2015 class brought one of the most ridiculously loaded defensive back classes in school history, and the 2016 class is already shaping up to be, by far, the best in program history.

That’s not an anomaly. Success turns heads; sustained success starts a paradigm shift. Recruits don’t just come to Stanford because they “value their education” or “life after football” anymore — they also come because they can play for an elite football team and compete for a national title year after year.

And for those that come play their college ball on The Farm, the pro-style system that Stanford runs and the physical mentality that is ingrained in the players translates to the NFL perfectly. That’s a good reason why Stanford, despite its lofty admission and recruiting standards, is third in the Pac-12 and 14th in the nation in number of active NFL players.

If they don’t go to the NFL, players still get a friggin’ Stanford diploma as a consolation prize.

It’s not exactly a hard sell. And Stanford’s coaches are excellent salesmen.

Is it tough, as a coach, to say no to some talented players because they can’t meet admissions standards at a school like Stanford? Absolutely. That’s part of why Jim Harbaugh left for the NFL and why Gary Andersen got frustrated with the head coaching gig at Wisconsin. But as a Stanford man, Shaw has much more patience for that standard — he himself had to adhere to it when he played on The Farm, after all.

And while that standard may have been a problem before, for every player Stanford now has to turn away, there are two or three more to take his place.

Now that Stanford is firmly on the radar, for as long as it can maintain even a moderate level of success, there’s no reason Stanford won’t keep reloading its big, bad intellectual brutality juggernaut machine of doom.

Stanford could lose a few games in 2015. It probably will. Kevin Hogan could fail to live up to his potential in a few crucial games. He probably will. The defense could be a question mark and get gashed a few times. It… maybe will. David Shaw could punt from the opposing 35-yard line a handful of times. He definitely will.

It’s okay to get frustrated by those things at the time, but never lose sight of the big picture. Every failure that Stanford sees from here on, no matter how big it may seem at the time, is just a blip on the radar.

No matter what happens, the Cardinal’s big, bad intellectual brutality juggernaut machine of doom will keep chugging on.

After years of carrying The Daily as a former two-star recruit from Minnesota, Do-Hyoung Park must now fight for his job amidst the swarm of five-star recruits now taking over The Daily. To offer Do suggestions on how to keep his job, contact him at dpark027 ‘at’ stanford.edu and bug him on Twitter @dohyoungpark.

]]>
http://www.stanforddaily.com/2015/08/31/park-no-matter-what-happens-in-2015-know-that-stanford-is-built-for-the-long-haul/feed/ 3
What we learned from Stanford women’s volleyball in Week One http://www.stanforddaily.com/2015/08/30/what-we-learned-from-stanford-womens-volleyball-in-week-one/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=what-we-learned-from-stanford-womens-volleyball-in-week-one http://www.stanforddaily.com/2015/08/30/what-we-learned-from-stanford-womens-volleyball-in-week-one/#comments Sun, 30 Aug 2015 23:25:08 +0000 http://www.stanforddaily.com/?p=1102977 No Inky, no problem.

Stanford’s women’s volleyball team swept both Texas A&M (25-19, 25-19, 25-15) and Minnesota (25-15, 25-23, 25-18) in its opening weekend without its top two middle blockers from 2014. Here’s what we learned from the No. 2 Cardinal (2-0) in Week One:

Veterans will be veterans

As expected, a disproportionate number of Cardinal attacks came from their outside hitters: 53 percent of their attacks came from the outside, compared to just 46 percent last season. That worked in Stanford’s favor, as seniors Jordan Burgess and Brittany Howard impressed in both matches this weekend. Burgess hit .385 in the Cardinal’s first two matches, with 24 kills and four errors over 52 attacks combined, while Howard hit .340 (22-6-47) over the two matches.

Senior outside hitter Brittany Howard impressed in Stanford's season-opening weekend, hitting .340 with 22 kills combined over the Cardinal's two matches. (FRANK CHEN/The Stanford Daily)

Senior outside hitter Brittany Howard impressed in Stanford’s season-opening weekend, hitting .340 with 22 kills combined over the Cardinal’s two matches. (FRANK CHEN/The Stanford Daily)

Two-time Pac-12 Setter of the Year Madi Bugg found her classmates often and distributed the ball well despite the lack of offensive presence at middle blocker that the Cardinal have been known for during Inky Ajanaku’s time. Bugg combined for 54 assists over the weekend’s matches.

Hayley Hodson is for real

The nation’s top recruit, opposite hitter Haley Hodson, looked like a veteran on the court this weekend for the Cardinal. (It’s no surprise considering the experience she has had with the U.S. Senior National Team and as a captain of a gold-medal-winning Junior National Team.) Hodson had 19 kills on 52 attacks combined over the two matches, and her numbers only figure to improve over the course of the season as she and Bugg get more comfortable together on the court. By the way, she also picked up five blocks against Minnesota on Sunday afternoon.

Hodson’s classmate, middle blocker Tami Alade — another of the six total freshmen on the team — filled in for junior Merete Lutz, who was out with a finger injury. While Alade had limited attacking opportunities, she showed her potential on defense, finishing with a match-high six blocks against Minnesota.

Lutz needed back at middle blocker for upcoming matches

It was odd seeing so few attacks coming from Stanford’s middles, as that has become their brand in recent seasons. Going into the Big Ten/Pac-12 Challenge in State College, Pennsylvania next weekend, the Cardinal will certainly need Lutz back at middle blocker to reclaim some of the balance that has led to so much success in the past.

Lutz is back at practice and hopes to be ready in time for the matches against current No. 8 Illinois and a Final Four rematch against No. 1 Penn State. Last season, the Cardinal upset the defending champion Nittany Lions early in the season to claim the No. 1 overall ranking. The same set-up goes for this year’s early matchup — only this time, the match is in enemy territory.

Contact Jordan Wallach at jwallach ‘at’ stanford.edu.

]]>
http://www.stanforddaily.com/2015/08/30/what-we-learned-from-stanford-womens-volleyball-in-week-one/feed/ 0 SPO.041515.wvb.FC Senior outside hitter Brittany Howard impressed in Stanford's season-opening weekend, hitting .340 with 22 kills combined over the Cardinal's two matches. (FRANK CHEN/The Stanford Daily)
Despite loss of Ajanaku, yin-yang of youth and experience provide hope for Cardinal http://www.stanforddaily.com/2015/08/27/despite-loss-of-ajanaku-yin-yang-of-youth-and-experience-provide-hope-for-cardinal/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=despite-loss-of-ajanaku-yin-yang-of-youth-and-experience-provide-hope-for-cardinal http://www.stanforddaily.com/2015/08/27/despite-loss-of-ajanaku-yin-yang-of-youth-and-experience-provide-hope-for-cardinal/#comments Fri, 28 Aug 2015 05:04:00 +0000 http://www.stanforddaily.com/?p=1102969 When she was at a doctor’s appointment back in June, Madi Bugg got a call from her teammate Inky Ajanaku. Earlier, Ajanaku had told her teammates that she hurt her knee while playing in the Pan American Cup with the U.S. National Team, but Bugg did not know the severity of the injury and how bad the forthcoming news would be.

She called Ajanaku back 15 minutes later, heard the news that Inky had torn her right ACL and started to cry.

KAREN AMBROSE HICKEY/stanfordphoto.com

The Cardinal will have to play without star middle blocker Inky Ajanaku (12). In 2014 Ajanaku notched a team-best 438 kills and hit .428. (KAREN AMBROSE HICKEY/stanfordphoto.com)

The U.S. women’s national volleyball team was just points away from clinching a win in the fourth set of a match at the Pan American Cup in Lima, Peru. Ajanaku, who had been given more playing time due to an injury to another middle blocker on the team, went for a slide. She felt something in her right knee shift, but at the time didn’t think it was too severe.

A day later, Ajanaku traveled back to California and, joined by head coach John Dunning and associate head coach Denise Corlett, went to Stanford Hospital, where she found out the extent of the injury.

“I would like to say my mind quickly turned to being optimistic, but it didn’t. I was still in a little bit of shock,” Ajanaku said. “I was angry and upset. And obviously Madi could tell by my voice on the phone.”

With that phone call, the reins of the team for the 2015 season were essentially passed on. The 2014 Volleyball Magazine Player of the Year and two-time First Team All-American was gone, and setter Madi Bugg took a lot more weight on her shoulders.

“I called my mom and my dad [after getting off the phone with Ajanaku], and my dad said, ‘You gotta find your Tom Brady,’ your third-string quarterback that comes in and just takes over,” Bugg said.

It’s obvious that Ajanaku is irreplaceable, but especially so considering how much the Cardinal offense revolved around its middles in 2014. Ajanaku had 806 attacks in 126 sets last season, averaging almost two attacks per set more than she had in her freshman and sophomore seasons.

Although junior middle blocker Merete Lutz solidified her place in the Stanford rotation in her first year of collegiate play — and in the process earned Second Team All-America honors after hitting .458 on the season (good for third in the nation) — the Cardinal have been forced to shift their offensive strategy.

In fact, Dunning said that teams won’t even know how to play against them early in the season because of the different approach they’ll have in 2015.

That’s not to say this Stanford team can’t make a deep run this season. The Cardinal appeared at No. 2 in the AVCA preseason coaches’ poll — only behind the vaunted Penn State, who has knocked them out of the postseason for two years in a row. The ranking is a credit to the current makeup of the roster, as four starters return from last season’s Final Four team and a talented new recruiting class of six look to make an impact.

KAREN AMBROSE HICKEY/stanfordphoto.com

AVCA First Team All-American and Pac-12 Setter of the Year Madi Bugg (22) is part of the Cardinal’s stellar senior class, which helped lead the Cardinal to its 19th Final Four appearance last season. As a setter, she will have to step up this season with the loss of middle blocker Inky Ajanaku to an ACL injury. (KAREN AMBROSE HICKEY/stanfordphoto.com)

Ajanaku, who has been attending practices as she goes through rehab, Lutz and Bugg all noted that the energy in preseason practices has been elevated because of the freshmen, who have already been making waves.

“I’ve been really impressed with how hard they’ve worked and how able to focus they are because my class in particular struggled with that coming in, and they’re all such grinders,” Bugg said. “I really love all of them as people, which matters more to me than how good they are at volleyball especially because they’re going to get so much better over the next four years.”

6-foot-3 opposite hitter Hayley Hodson, who played on the U.S. national team alongside Ajanaku at the Pan Am Cup, leads the class as the nation’s top recruit and figures to get a lot of playing time filling the role vacated by 2015 graduate Morgan Boukather.

Freshmen competitors for the open middle blocker spot are Tami Alade, from Alberta, Canada, Courtney Bowen, a Brooklyn native who lettered in five sports in high school, and Alexis Froistad, from Aromas, California.

Sophomore Sarah Benjamin will compete against freshmen Payton Chang and Halland McKenna for the open libero spot. It’s yet another tough set of shoes to fill: those vacated by Kyle Gilbert, who finished her career with the second-most digs in program history.

Bugg and outside hitters Jordan Burgess and Brittany Howard, seniors, will play a big role in acclimating the freshmen quickly, just as they took up starting spots back in their freshman year in 2012. Bugg said that all of the seniors have already begun to feel like “mother hens.”

And Ajanaku will be there too, as she has already had an impact from the sideline.

“My role really hasn’t changed that much besides the fact that I’m not on the court,” she said.

“We have three groups on our team: We have the four seniors, we have the sophomore and junior classes and we have the freshman class,” Dunning said. “The role of the older players and their leadership really matters, but they’re really really up to it. They’re very experienced and very determined people.”

As has been customary in recent years, the Cardinal will be tested early, this time with three top-10 ranked opponents in their first six games. After welcoming Texas A&M and Minnesota to Maples in the season’s opening weekend, they’ll take on No. 1 Penn State and No. 8 Illinois in State College before a trip to North Carolina to play No. 7 UNC and Duke. It might take at least that long for the Stanford rotation to become fully set.

“All you really know right now is that we can and have to improve a lot, and if we do, then there are exciting possibilities. And our team is excited about those possibilities,” Dunning said. “They would have been excited about it in a different way if Inky was in the lineup because it would have felt different. But that doesn’t mean that the way we’re doing it right now with the group and the excitement that we have is even better.”

Stanford hosts Texas A&M in its regular season opener at Maples Pavilion on Friday, Aug. 28 at 6 p.m.

Contact Jordan Wallach at jwallach ‘at’ stanford.edu.

]]>
http://www.stanforddaily.com/2015/08/27/despite-loss-of-ajanaku-yin-yang-of-youth-and-experience-provide-hope-for-cardinal/feed/ 0 Inky Ajanaku KAREN AMBROSE HICKEY/stanfordphoto.com Madi Bugg KAREN AMBROSE HICKEY/stanfordphoto.com
The second time around: Men’s soccer looks to excel after standout 2014 campaign http://www.stanforddaily.com/2015/08/27/the-second-time-around-mens-soccer-looks-to-excel-after-standout-2014-campaign/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=the-second-time-around-mens-soccer-looks-to-excel-after-standout-2014-campaign http://www.stanforddaily.com/2015/08/27/the-second-time-around-mens-soccer-looks-to-excel-after-standout-2014-campaign/#comments Fri, 28 Aug 2015 01:05:22 +0000 http://www.stanforddaily.com/?p=1102963 The Stanford men’s soccer team knows that a lot can happen in a year.

A year ago, Brandon Vincent had not yet been named Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year, though he became the anchor of a defense that had a .85 goals-against average, the lowest in the conference.

A year ago, Corey Baird had not yet become one of the most promising freshmen in the conference by scoring 4 goals in his first season (including a pair against then-No. 1 UCLA in Stanford’s biggest regular-season game of the year).

A year ago, Jordan Morris had not yet become one of the biggest emerging talents in U.S. soccer by scoring a goal on the national stage in an international friendly against Mexico.

And a year ago, very few would have guessed that the Cardinal — then ranked No. 20 in the country — would develop into one of the most formidable opponents in college soccer — not losing a game at its home field in the regular season — win the Pac-12 and eventually earn the No. 1 ranking in the country before an unexpected second-round exit from the NCAA tournament.

When looking ahead to this season, the team, ranked No. 8 in the NSCAA preseason poll, is not too far removed from the team from a year ago. Seven of the 11 players in the starting lineup for the last game of the 2014 season are returning, including four of the five leading goal-scorers on the team.

With most of the same pieces in play and last year’s impressive season under the team’s belt, things shouldn’t be too different for the Cardinal this year.

Aided by experience, the team is poised to develop even more as a program and potentially make a deeper run in the tournament. Yet for now, Stanford is just focusing on one game at a time.

AMANDA SHORIN/stanfordphoto.com

Corey Baird (left) and Eric Verso (right) are two of Stanford’s key returning starters from 2014. The forward duo combined for 9 goals and 27 points last season. (AMANDA SHORIN/stanfordphoto.com)

The team’s early schedule in 2015 involves matchups against strong competition. The official season begins with a pair of games on the road against a UC Santa Barbara team that plays very well at home and No. 18 Louisville.

Things will calm down from there, as Stanford will then play six more non-conference games, all against unranked opponents, with five of the six being played at home.

But once the team enters conference play, it will twice face unranked San Diego State, bubble team Oregon State and a slew of top-ranked teams: No. 16 Cal, No. 10 Washington and No. 1 UCLA — teams Stanford earned a 6-1-3 record against last season.

“I think the key is persistence,” said senior co-captain Ty Thompson. “Last year the team that just kind of stuck with their game plan and just kept going throughout the entire Pac-12 was the one who came out on top and that was us. When we got to the end of the season we just knew what we had was a successful game plan and we just stuck with it.”

“We obviously had a good conference run last year,” Morris said, “so I think if we stick to our core philosophies as a team, just working hard and being a team that’s hard to break down and having some good attacking to go with that, if we stick to that we’ll do really well.”

Despite losing starter Zach Batteer, having a strong attacking core is something that shouldn’t be too difficult given the players that the Cardinal are returning: a trio of familiar names in Baird, Morris and fifth-year senior Eric Verso.

STANFORD, CA - October 20, 2014:  Jordan Morris during the Stanford vs Cal men's soccer match in Stanford, California.  The Cardinal tied the Bears 1-1 after double overtime.

Junior forward Jordan Morris (right) spent part of his offseason playing with the U.S. Men’s National Team. He scored in the team’s friendly against Mexico and had the game-winning assist against the Netherlands. (JIM SHORIN/stanfordphoto.com)

Morris returns to the team with five caps of international play — his most famous one being a start and goal against Mexico– under his belt. The junior is also on the watchlist for the MAC Hermann Trophy, soccer’s Heisman, along with Vincent.

Verso led the team in points last year with 15, on 5 goals and 5 assists, while Baird and Morris each contributed 4 goals of their own.

The group will be joined by a host of others, including true freshman Amir Bashti. Bashti, who has attended the U.S. U-18 national team camp three times, has already scored this season in a 2-0 exhibition win over CSU Bakersfield.

Fellow freshman midfielder Justin Kahl, who started both preseason games, will be another weapon in the Cardinal’s offensive arsenal.

“It’s exciting to have all those guys up there to work with,” Morris said. “We’ve seen it progress over the last two weeks. I think the talent is there we just have to keep molding it and work from there.”

The midfielders will also be anchored by Thompson, a 2014 All-Pac-12 Honorable Mention who started all games of his sophomore and junior years.

(JIM SHORIN/stanfordphoto.com)

Brandon Vincent (above) earned several preseason honors, among them a place on the MAC Hermann Award watch list. The defender helped out the Cardinal on the offensive end as well, notching 6 goals and an assist. (JIM SHORIN/stanfordphoto.com)

On the defensive end, co-captain senior Brandon Vincent, junior Brian Nana-Sinkam and sophomores Tomas Hilliard-Arce and Drew Skundrich all figure to get significant minutes. The defense will have to overcome the loss of Jimmy Callinan, who graduated last year after serving as a co-captain alongside Vincent.

Even with the loss of Callinan, the back line has a tremendous amount of depth and will be a great source of support for returning goalkeeper Andrew Epstein.

“That’s one of the key things that we have as a team: the cohesiveness and how we defend as a unit,” Thompson said.

While the team returns many of its key players in its campaign for a consecutive Pac-12 title and its first ever national title, what may be a difference-maker between last year’s and this year’s Cardinal is the players’ matured mindset and wariness of the dangers of complacency.

“I think last year was a year where the rankings might have been a distraction because they were the first in a while for us,” Vincent said. “But this past year we’ve been through it and we know not to believe any of the hype that goes around it. Ultimately it comes down to how we prepare and how we perform on the field on game day.”

“I think it’s just not getting complacent,” Baird said. “Every game we just try to have the right mentality, coming out firing, not being complacent and settling for ‘Oh, we’re better than this team.’ We’ve got to get out and prove it every day.”

The Cardinal kick off their season on Friday, Aug. 28 at 7:30 p.m. against UC Santa Barbara before traveling to Louisville for a matchup against the No. 18 Cardinals on Monday, Aug. 31 at 4:30 p.m. The team will then returning to the Farm for a three-game homestand next week.

Contact Alexa Philippou at aphil723 ‘at’ stanford.edu and Sandip Srinivas at sandips ‘at’ stanford.edu.

]]>
http://www.stanforddaily.com/2015/08/27/the-second-time-around-mens-soccer-looks-to-excel-after-standout-2014-campaign/feed/ 0 Eric Verso Corey Baird AMANDA SHORIN/stanfordphoto.com Jordan Morris STANFORD, CA - October 20, 2014: Jordan Morris during the Stanford vs Cal men's soccer match in Stanford, California. The Cardinal tied the Bears 1-1 after double overtime. Brandon Vincent (JIM SHORIN/stanfordphoto.com)
Field hockey looks to momentum from last season as it faces top-ranked opponents this weekend http://www.stanforddaily.com/2015/08/27/field-hockey-seeks-momentum-from-last-season-as-it-faces-top-ranked-opponents-this-weekend/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=field-hockey-seeks-momentum-from-last-season-as-it-faces-top-ranked-opponents-this-weekend http://www.stanforddaily.com/2015/08/27/field-hockey-seeks-momentum-from-last-season-as-it-faces-top-ranked-opponents-this-weekend/#comments Thu, 27 Aug 2015 20:02:02 +0000 http://www.stanforddaily.com/?p=1102956 With the start of its season on Friday, No. 6 Stanford field hockey is looking to build upon its most successful season in program history, in which it earned its first NCAA Tournament victory, notched a 19-3 record and reached a program-high No. 3 ranking for three consecutive weeks.

Stanford must compete at the highest level from the start, taking on NCAA runner-up Syracuse and NCAA quaterfinalist Duke in its first two games of the season.

Not only does the beginning of the 2015 season bring some of the hardest competition the Cardinal will face this year, but it also marks the team’s debut in a new conference.

Stanford is now part of the America East Conference along with previous NorPac members California, Pacific and UC Davis. These four West Coast teams join returning members Albany, Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont and UMass-Lowell. Stanford was picked to win the West Division of the conference in the annual preseason coaches poll.

Having lost an experienced senior class, including NorPac Offensive Player of the Year Alex McCawley, who last season notched 34 points off of a team-best 15 goals, the Cardinal’s underclassmen and newly-emerging players will bring new strengths and styles to the team.

“[The team is] younger and less experienced, but [has] open and adaptable minds to new structures and new ways of playing the game,” said senior defender Jessica Chisholm, one of the key returners to the Cardinal backfield who will bring a lot of spark and energy on defense.

“Speed up the sides and up front [in addition to] attacking unpredictability and risk taking” are what make this team extremely dangerous with the ball, according to Chisholm.

This opening weekend will set the tone for the season and “replicate a Final Four atmosphere,” explained senior attacker Lauren Becker.

testtttt

Senior Lauren Becker (above) notched 20 points last season on 10 goals and was placed on the NorPac All-Conference Second Team. She will be joined by fellow senior Clemence Couteau, who appeared in all 22 of the team’s games in 2014, on the Cardinal’s front line of attack. (DAVID BERNAL/isiphotos.com)

“It’s somewhere the team has never been before and it’s important to come out strong,” Becker said.

Becker, who notched 10 of the team’s 54 goals last season, will be a critical player on the Cardinal attack in 2015. She is another one of the six seniors that will play a major role in leading the young and quick team to success.

Along with Becker, the other Stanford seniors, such as attacker Clemence Couteau and midfielder Maddie Secco, will lead the team during its opening weekend and will be relied upon to create opportunities on goal throughout the season.

Secco took time off after last season to compete on the Canadian Women’s National Team. She has been on the national team for almost five years and has earned 66 caps. She will bring poise and experience to the youthful Cardinal midfield. Secco was also the third-leading scorer last season with six goals and led the team with eight assists.

On defense, Stanford will look to two very experienced players, Chisholm and senior goalie Dulcie Davies.

Davies, the captain of the defense and a four-year starter, let in on average less than one goal a game during the 2014 season (0.82).

In front of her will be Chisholm, who is another returning starter. Not only is Chisholm an exceptional defender, but she is also a major contributor on short corners. She scored five goals last season as a hitter on the corner offensive unit.

KAREN AMBROSE HICKEY/stanfordphoto.com

Senior Jessica Chisholm (above) not only contributes as a defender, but she also is part of the unit that takes short corners. She had four game-winning goals last season and scored five overall. (KAREN AMBROSE HICKEY/stanfordphoto.com)

This weekend in particular, the Cardinal defense will have a formidable challenge against the Orange offense, who scored on average over three times per game last season.

Syracuse will be led by senior attacker Emma Russell, who was a NFHCA First Team All-American in 2014 and enters her final season six goals shy of surpassing the all-time goals record at Syracuse.

By her side will be midfielder Alyssa Manley, a standout senior with tons of experience. She has been named a first and third team All-American and returns for her final year after spending the summer with the U.S. National Team at the Pan Am Games, where the team won a gold medal.

While the Orange will bring a wealth of experience and international skill and a tradition of success, the Cardinal’s spark-plug offense and solid defense may give the Orange some difficulty on the field.

Following its Friday opener, the Stanford team will face No. 5 Duke to wrap up the weekend.

Duke will have a strong team led by senior midfielder Aileen Johnson. She was a member of the NFHCA All-American second team, All-South Region first team and All-ACC first team in her 2014 season. Having led Duke with seven assists and ranking second on the team with six goals last season, Johnson will certainly be a key player for the Blue Devils on Sunday.

The opening weekend will be a great test of Stanford’s strength and will to win, as well as an opportunity for this young team to prove its value and own its No. 6 ranking.

The Cardinal will take on No. 4 Syracuse on Friday at 4 p.m. and No. 5 Duke on Sunday at 2 p.m. Both games will be played at home.

Contact Kristina Bassi at kbassi ‘at’ stanford.edu.

]]>
http://www.stanforddaily.com/2015/08/27/field-hockey-seeks-momentum-from-last-season-as-it-faces-top-ranked-opponents-this-weekend/feed/ 0 Lauren Becker testtttt Jessica Chisholm KAREN AMBROSE HICKEY/stanfordphoto.com
Practice notes: Seniors step up as leaders, position depth grows and a trip to the movies http://www.stanforddaily.com/2015/08/27/practice-notes-seniors-step-up-as-leaders-position-depth-grows-and-a-trip-to-the-movies/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=practice-notes-seniors-step-up-as-leaders-position-depth-grows-and-a-trip-to-the-movies http://www.stanforddaily.com/2015/08/27/practice-notes-seniors-step-up-as-leaders-position-depth-grows-and-a-trip-to-the-movies/#comments Thu, 27 Aug 2015 15:34:31 +0000 http://www.stanforddaily.com/?p=1102952 While Stanford continues to work in training camp to replace key contributors on both sides of the ball, the Cardinal appear to have no shortage of depth in the leadership department, naming six team captains on Tuesday — two more than there were last season and three more than in 2013.

As determined in a vote by the players, senior offensive linemen Kyle Murphy and Josh Garnett joined fifth-year senior quarterback Kevin Hogan as the offensive captains for 2015.

Hogan, a captain in 2014 as well, became the first Stanford player since Bo McNally in 2009 to earn the designation for multiple seasons.

Senior linebacker Blake Martinez, fifth-year senior linebacker Kevin Anderson and fifth-year senior cornerback Ronnie Harris were named defensive captains.

As the Cardinal look to build off their late-season success in 2014, leadership has been a major emphasis for this year’s squad all throughout the preseason, a gauntlet set out by the coaching staff to all players, regardless of class year or position.

“We have a quote on our cart in the offseason from Coach Turley. It’s from Phil Jackson. It says that ‘The team has to lead itself,’” said senior center Graham Shuler.

“Coach Shaw puts it on his seniors to be leaders,” he added. “It’s a huge responsibility that he gives us, but it’s not just us. If you look at what Christian [McCaffrey] is doing as a sophomore and when you hear Dalton Schultz and Daniel Marx being vocal and stepping up in the huddle, it’s about everybody pulling their weight.”

Offensive line looking to leverage game experience

With four returning starters from 2014 in Garnett, Murphy, Shuler and Johnny Caspers, the offensive line is looking to use that valuable game experience to make marked strides in 2014.

Shuler, a member of Stanford’s celebrated 2012 class that brought several top linemen to the Farm, noted that the experience of lining up against stout opposing defenses has improved his preparation ahead of this season.

“From being on the scout team against Rose Bowl teams in 2012 and 2013 to learning a lot especially in away games, my protection has improved a lot,” he said.

Shuler also added that he has focused this offseason on recognizing and understanding defensive schemes based on his experience last season.

Stanford head coach David Shaw added that he is pleased with the play of the Tunnel Workers Union in training camp thus far, but noted that the preseason preparation is far from complete, a sentiment shared by Shuler.

“We’re still improving on a lot,” Shuler said. “We’ve got a lot of stuff we need to do to get better at. I’m really excited to see where this finished product is on Sept. 5 [at Northwestern], but we still got a lot of work to do between now and then.”

Shittu’s leadership key for defensive line

As the position group with arguably the most uncertainty heading into training camp, the defensive line has made an impression behind the strong play and leadership of Aziz Shittu.

Though not officially designated a captain, Shittu has earned effusive praise from the coaching staff for his leadership this offseason, with Shaw noting that the senior assumed responsibility for organizing offseason workouts for the unit.

Playing primarily with sophomores Harrison Phillips and Solomon Thomas on the first team, Shittu has delivered notable performances throughout camp, which he attributes in part to a newfound motivation and sense of urgency following a serious knee injury last season that forced him to miss the final six games of the season.

“I just missed football so much,” Shittu said. “You see cut-ups in the film room after I went out. It’s just really tough to watch.”

“You don’t take any day for granted because, as it happened to me last year in practice, football can get taken away from you at any time.”

Despite exceeding some expectations, however, Shittu and the defensive line shared the same sentiment as Shuler regarding the necessity of more preparation before the Northwestern game, a mantra instilled in the unit by defensive line coach Randy Hart.

“One thing Coach Hart always tells us is that the biggest room in your house will always be the room for improvement,” added senior defensive end Jordan Watkins.

“I think we’ve done a pretty good job coming together during camp, but with that being said we’ve still got 10 days to go, so we’re coming along and I feel pretty confident that we’ll be ready to go come game time.”

Hogan continues to grow

When asked how he would characterize the approach of Kevin Hogan in training camp, Shaw used a word he previously did not associate with his senior quarterback.

“Calm.”

In the two seasons following Hogan’s explosion onto the scene in 2012, which culminated in a Rose Bowl victory, Shaw noted that Hogan often tried to press.

Hogan’s approach ahead of his fourth year under center, however, has been markedly different, allowing the senior to build off his strong finish to last year’s campaign and embrace his role as a leader.

“[Kevin] doesn’t try to lead, but he’s leading,” Shaw added.

Stanford quarterbacks coach Tavita Pritchard concurred, noting that Hogan’s leadership and experience have helped accelerate the development of the Cardinal’s two younger quarterbacks, Ryan Burns and Keller Chryst.

“Kevin does an awesome job of taking those guys under his wing when he has opportunities to do so,” Pritchard remarked. “When you have a guy as battle-tested as Kevin, those coaching points are a little more profound when they’re coming from a guy playing the position right now.

“He really just has an incredible grasp of our offense. We ask our quarterbacks to do a lot and he handles it.”

Running back depth growing

Before training camp even started, the Stanford coaching staff made it no secret that the offense in 2015 will revolve around talented sophomore running back Christian McCaffrey.

But perhaps an unexpected development over the past few weeks has been the emergence of strong depth at the position behind No. 5, with Remound Wright and Barry Sanders making improvements and true freshmen Bryce Love and Cameron Scarlett bursting onto the scene.

Following Wednesday’s practice, Shaw stated that the game-readiness of all of his freshmen, including Love and Scarlett, has been the biggest surprise of camp and that the two young running backs are certainly in the conversation to play right away.

Sanders, a senior who has impressed in camp as well, has embraced the added competition.

“It’s good to have so many guys taking reps. It’s fun to be a teacher and the program is heading in an exciting direction,” Sanders said at the conclusion of Saturday’s practice.

“Jackson Cummings was my teacher, and I learned from Remound, [Tyler] Gaffney, Stepfan [Taylor] and Anthony Wilkerson. Every rep those guys took, I tried to learn something, and now I get a chance to be a teacher.”

Secondary improving under tutelage of Akina

With their own fair share of question marks heading into camp, the secondary has made considerable strides under the guidance of defensive backs coach Duane Akina, and the competition for a starting spot at cornerback remains as tight as ever.

With senior Ronnie Harris earning a starting nod, sophomores Alijah Holder and Alameen Murphy, junior Taijuan Thomas and fifth-year senior Ra’Chard Pippens remain locked in battle for the other corner spot.

Although no clear-cut favorite has emerged at this stage, Akina remains excited by the quality of the competition.

“It’s a really healthy situation,” Akina said. “But I’ve got some tough decisions to make. We may be playing into the season. I’ve done that in the past. We may roll some guys through at the start of the season and then take it from there.”

With a considerable reputation for developing young defensive backs, Akina has no shortage of talent to work with as he teaches several highly touted recruits at both the corner and safety positions. But over the course of many seasons, Akina’s first lesson of “responsibility” has remained the same.

“[Bill] Belichick says it all the time: ‘Do your job.’ In high school, many times they’re in the habit of trying to make every play. Now, with 10 other outstanding athletes, you just need to do your job. You don’t need to tackle the fullback on a dive.”

Akina also acknowledged, however, that his tutelage can extend only so far and praised the leadership of Harris with the cornerbacks and senior Kodi Whitfield with the safeties during the offseason.

“I think Ronnie Harris and Kodi Whitfield have just done an outstanding job of in the summer teaching coverage and getting them all in for film work. They’ve taken the role of being a senior very seriously,” Akina said. “I think Jordan [Richards] was a great model for those guys.”

A trip to the movies

Raucous cheers erupted from the huddle at the conclusion of Wednesday’s practice as Shaw announced that all team meetings for the evening had been cancelled and replaced instead with a team trip to see the boxing drama “Southpaw.”

The uncontainable excitement at the end of practice stemmed not only from the good news, but also from the realization of a long-held dream.

“Ever since I’ve been here and probably before, there’s always been a joke that we’re going to see a movie and there’s tickets on such-and-such desk, but it never happens,” Watkins said. “It’s almost like a boy-who-cried-wolf thing.”

Senior inside linebacker Craig Jones shared the same sentiment.

Watkins also added that the team-bonding event comes at an important time as camp winds down, allowing the team to take a brief step back and improve morale.

After their night at the movies, the Cardinal will return to the field Thursday for their final two-a-day session of camp. Next week, Stanford will fly to Chicago on Thursday and step into the ring as it takes on Northwestern two days later.  

Contact Vihan Lakshman at vihan ‘at’ stanford.edu.

]]>
http://www.stanforddaily.com/2015/08/27/practice-notes-seniors-step-up-as-leaders-position-depth-grows-and-a-trip-to-the-movies/feed/ 3
Stanford football preview: Schedule roundtable http://www.stanforddaily.com/2015/08/26/stanford-football-preview-schedule-roundtable/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=stanford-football-preview-schedule-roundtable http://www.stanforddaily.com/2015/08/26/stanford-football-preview-schedule-roundtable/#comments Wed, 26 Aug 2015 21:56:45 +0000 http://www.stanforddaily.com/?p=1102937 Stanford football kicks off its 2015 campaign against Northwestern in less than two weeks. To conclude The Daily’s preview roundtable series, writers Michael Peterson, Vihan Lakshman and Do-Hyoung Park analyzed the Pac-12 and the Cardinal’s schedule.

Week 1: Offense roundtable
Week 2: Defense roundtable
Week 3: Special teams roundtable
Week 4: Schedule roundtable

Which matchup on Stanford’s schedule presents the overall biggest challenge?

Stanford quarterback Kevin Hogan (8) has failed to beat the Trojans in each of his two tries. (DAVID BERNAL/isiphotos.com)

Stanford quarterback Kevin Hogan (center) has failed to beat the Trojans in each of his two tries as a starter, falling 20-17 at the Coliseum in 2013 and 13-10 at Stanford Stadium in 2014. (DAVID BERNAL/isiphotos.com)

Michael Peterson (MP): It’s no secret that Stanford’s once-recent dominance of USC — the Card topped the Trojans in five of six matchups from 2007 to 2012 — has dramatically faded after two heartbreaking defeats in 2013 and 2014. The last time Stanford visited the Coliseum, it was arguably three victories away from a national championship appearance, or at the very least, a debate for the ages with Auburn as to who deserved to play Florida State. Last year, Stanford lost a game it absolutely should have won, outgaining USC by 122 yards and reaching at least the Trojans’ 32-yard line on all nine drives. Stanford’s USC demons are real. This year, Stanford has to again travel to the Coliseum and face what will be a top-10 team with a Heisman candidate quarterback and talent all across the board. That situation sounds familiar and Stanford has vanquished equally talented USC teams before, but USC must certainly be feeling the pressure to regain its elite status this year and will be hungry to start the season out doing just that. A raucous atmosphere and a fired-up Trojans team await Stanford in a game that will set the tone for the rest of the season.

Vihan Lakshman (VL): I’m also going to go with USC. The Coliseum is a scary, scary place for visiting teams, and Stanford had more than its fair share of difficulties communicating the last time it entered that deafening pit. And that doesn’t even account for the fact that USC will be bringing in arguably its most talented team in the post-sanction era. Cody Kessler, undefeated against Stanford in his career, returns for his third year under center, and the Trojans might also have the best offensive line and defense in the conference. Playing a team this talented in a rivalry game on the road has to be considered the biggest challenge on the schedule.

Do-Hyoung Park (DP): I mean, USC is undoubtedly the correct answer from what we know now. But seeing as how Michael and Vihan have already beaten that topic to death, I’m going to go against the flow and bring up another opponent that so many people are overlooking: UCLA. Even though the Cardinal have now beaten UCLA in seven straight matchups, the Bruins return almost everybody on both sides of the ball, and despite a quarterback battle that still rages on, I think that whoever wins the job will at least maintain an adequate standard of play under center and work with a powerful running game and talented defense to create, in my mind, the best team Jim Mora has had to work with in his tenure at UCLA. Even though it’s a home game for Stanford, you can bet the Cardinal are going to get the Bruins’ best shot as UCLA tries to avoid an embarrassing eighth straight loss and prove to the doubters that they were wrong to sleep on the boys from Westwood.

What may be the most likely trap game on the schedule?

Remound Wright (center) and the Cardinal will face a much stiffer test from an improved Cal team in 2015. (DON FERIA/isiphotos.com)

Fifth-year senior running back Remound Wright (center) and the No. 21 Cardinal will face a much stiffer test from an improved Cal team in 2015, which boasts a Heisman hopeful at quarterback in Jared Goff. (DON FERIA/isiphotos.com)

MP: It seems like so many pundits (including Do-Hyoung Park) are down on UCLA this year despite 18 returning starters from last year’s team, which was one win away from appearing in its second Pac-12 title game in three years. But there’s something to be said for truly wanting revenge. In 2012, Stanford beat UCLA twice in a row, including a nailbiter in the conference championship to rob UCLA of its first Pac-12 title since 1998. Then in 2013, Stanford handed a top-10 UCLA team its first loss of the season. Last year, a 6-5 Cardinal squad robbed another top-10 UCLA team of a spot in the Pac-12 championship in a crushing 31-10 victory. All in all, Stanford has topped UCLA seven straight times. Think UCLA remembers that? I certainly do. With so many returning players who vividly remember those defeats, UCLA will come to Stanford with vengeance on its mind. Though Stanford gets the Bruins at home and opponents like Oregon, USC and Notre Dame have more probable national title aspirations, don’t overlook UCLA.

VL: You can never underestimate the power and magic of a rivalry, and I have a feeling there will be a special electricity in the air when Cal arrives at Stanford Stadium for the 118th Big Game. The Bears possess one of the best quarterbacks in college football in Jared Goff, who leads a dangerous air-raid offense that will punish even momentary defensive lapses. With Stanford facing Oregon a week earlier and Notre Dame a week later, the Big Game comes at the heart of a tough, emotionally draining stretch of the season. If the Cardinal come out flat against a bitter rival with an obvious score to settle, an upset would be a real possibility.

DP: “Trap game” is one of my least favorite terms in the college football vocabulary because it tries to pin a tough loss on any one of a host of assumptions that likely aren’t true, so I’m just going to go with the upset on Stanford’s schedule that I could most see happening and pick Cal as well. I firmly believe that Jared Goff will be a Heisman finalist this season, and that’ll certainly help the Golden Bears’ cause, but as we all know, it’s the defense that really needs to take a step forward for Cal to compete with Stanford. It’s obviously incredibly unproven, but the pieces are there for that unit to take a step forward this year: The defense is now entering its second season under new coordinator Art Kaufman, and almost every projected starter is an upperclassman, meaning that although the talent might not necessarily be there, there’s a lot of experience to go around. If Cal’s defense can be just average, the Golden Bears could be a dangerous team that could knock off any team in the conference.

With Oregon, Notre Dame, UCLA and Arizona visiting The Farm, how big of a benefit, if any, will the schedule shift from last year be for the Cardinal?

Hosting four ranked teams at Stanford Stadium will not only benefit the Card, but it should be a boost to the fan base and raise home attendance. (DAVID BERNAL/isiphotos.com)

Hosting four ranked teams at Stanford Stadium will not only benefit the Cardinal football team, but it should be a boost to the fan base and raise home attendance numbers in 2015. (DAVID BERNAL/isiphotos.com)

MP: It’s massive. Stanford’s schedule is completely unbalanced in terms of difficulty of home and road conference games. Last season, Stanford faced four top-20 teams on the road and just one at home. This time around, the Card will probably face three or four at home and just one on the road. Stanford is not too far removed from a 17-game home-winning streak, which ended last year against USC. Stanford Stadium may not be the loudest or most intimidating place to play for opponents, but the Card certainly feel comfortable at home. In an evenly-matched game, the location can make all the difference. I expect it to be a major part of the reason why Stanford improves on its 5-4 conference record from last season.

VL: I think this is a softball question. Which team wouldn’t want to play the toughest opponents on its schedule at home? In fact, after digging around the Stassen College Football Database and comparing the home and road win percentages of every Division I team in the BCS era, I found that no team performed better on the road than in the comforts of home (and the teams that came close, such as Texas and Duke, either won or lost almost all of their games). As Michael mentioned, Stanford was almost a lock to win at home prior to last season, so this year’s schedule has to be considered a critically large benefit.

DP: It definitely helps Stanford a lot, and not just from a football perspective. Last season, Stanford Stadium was one of the least exciting home environments in college football, and it’s no wonder why when you look at the schedule: If your home slate during the school year consists of Washington State, Oregon State and Utah, it’s going to take a lot to get anybody outside of the most devoted fans to come out to games. This year, though, that certainly won’t be a problem, as every home game will be against a meaningful or nationally relevant opponent, which will almost certainly bring the students back in droves and bring Stanford’s football fan culture back to life. The loaded home slate certainly helped bring fans out on Saturdays during 2013, and I expect things to be no different this season.

How likely is it that the Pac-12 champion finishes with two or three losses? Is this the deepest the conference has ever been?

In 2013, Stanford won the Pac-12 title despite two conference losses to Utah and USC. The conference champion in 2015 may have a similar scenario. (DON FERIA/isiphotos.com)

In 2013, Stanford won the Pac-12 title despite two conference losses to Utah and USC. The conference champion in 2015 may have a similar scenario because of the depth of the Pac-12 conference. (DON FERIA/isiphotos.com)

MP: With the way the conference is shaping up, I find it very likely that the champion emerges with two losses. In my opinion, there is no clear front-runner in the conference. USC was picked to win the conference by the media, but the last time that happened, the Trojans finished the season 7-6. Defending champion Oregon lost its Heisman-winning quarterback to the NFL and though transfer Vernon Adams is receiving plenty of hype, it remains to be seen if his play in the FCS can translate to the Pac-12. Stanford, the champion in 2012 and 2013, lost nine starters on defense. To top it off, Arizona State and UCLA each have enough talent to win the Pac-12 South, and Arizona State has possibly the conference’s best schedule. This is all to say nothing of defending Pac-12 South champion Arizona. Whoever emerges on top will not get there unscathed.

VL: Based on what we’ve seen in recent seasons, it’s almost a certainty that the eventual Pac-12 champion will suffer at least one loss. A nine-game conference schedule shows no mercy. The Pac-12 South is shaping up to be this year’s SEC West with four elite teams ready to ruin each other’s dreams, and the North doesn’t get much easier. I would say there’s a very good chance the eventual Pac-12 champ finishes with two losses, but I also wouldn’t be surprised if a team like USC or Arizona State separated itself as truly elite and ran away with the title. The Pac-12 is extremely deep this year, but the conference was even deeper last year with better quarterback play from top to bottom. Experienced signal-callers such as Mariota, Hundley, Mannion and Halliday kept their teams in games, and I don’t see the Pac-12 being as formidable this year with the loss of so much talent at the most important position in the game.

DP: There’s no way that the Pac-12 champion will be undefeated. No chance. Zip. Nada. Zilch. But I do agree with Vihan in that I think the conference was much deeper last year, when proven quarterbacks were at the helm of a lot of the more dangerous offenses in the league. Now that Oregon, UCLA, Oregon State, Washington State and Washington all have to replace their starting quarterbacks from last season, I have to say that there are a lot more questions about those teams’ ability to be elite than there were at this point last season. But I firmly believe that there’s a tremendous amount of parity, particularly in the South, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see any of the top five teams in the South beat any of the other four. There are no cupcakes on the conference schedule for anyone, either, and like we saw last season, even the best teams are liable to slip up on an off week. I fully expect that to be the case again this season, and whoever wins the conference should have two or three losses.

The Pac-12 versus the SEC: which is the nation’s best conference?

The Pac-12 and the SEC are commonly hailed as the two best conference in college football, but much debate surrounds which conference is number one. However, the only premier matchup scheduled for this season between an SEC team and a Pac-12 team is the season-opener between Texas A&M and Arizona State. (DAVID BERNAL/isiphotos.com)

The Pac-12 and the SEC are commonly hailed as the two best conferences in college football, but much debate surrounds which conference is number one. However, the only premier matchup scheduled for this season between an SEC team and a Pac-12 team is the season-opener between Texas A&M and Arizona State. (DAVID BERNAL/isiphotos.com)

MP: I love the Pac-12’s depth. As I explained above, I think there are six teams with a legitimate shot at the conference title and thus a chance to make it into the College Football Playoff. Additionally, teams like Utah, Cal and Colorado are on the upswing. However, like many down in the south, I believe that the best conference will have depth but will also create champions, and the Pac-12 has yet to do that. Larry Scott said it himself at the Pac-12 Media Days: The Pac-12 needs a national champion for the nation to see it as the best conference, even if he thinks it already is. Count me as one of the people who needs to see a Pac-12 champion to rank the conference at the top. The SEC produced seven straight champions from 2006 to 2013. Once a Pac-12 team wins the championship for the first time since 2004, I’ll be very open to discussion.

VL: I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I’ve got to go with the Pac-12. As I mentioned in the previous question, strong quarterback play across the board is very important to the overall health of a conference, and the SEC just has too much uncertainty at this crucial position. Dak Prescott is the only incumbent who will strike fear in opponents and six other schools are still searching for a starter. Meanwhile, the Pac-12, despite also suffering a fair amount of QB attrition, features the likes of experienced players in Hogan, Kessler and Goff. The SEC still boasts a number of the stingiest defenses in the country and the two best individual playmakers — Leonard Fournette and Nick Chubb — but this might be the year where it slips just a little with all of the major questions at quarterback.

DP: It’s so tough to answer this question because the Pac-12 and SEC never match up head-to-head, but I’ve got to give the SEC the benefit of the doubt due to the history that Michael mentioned above. It’s one thing for a weak conference to produce a champion in any given year (cough cough Big Ten) but it’s a different ballgame when you can produce a streak the likes of what the SEC did in the 2000s. Even the strongest teams and conferences can have down years, and until the other conferences show that their elites can consistently compete with the SEC’s elites, I can’t say that they’re on the same plane. It also helps that the depth of the conference (down to Arkansas and Kentucky) is crazy and it’s also located in a recruiting hotspot with lots of raw talent that has little reason to look elsewhere in the country in order to make a big impact on a winning team. I love the Pac-12’s depth, but it’s going to take at least a couple of SEC down years before we can start earnestly having this conversation.

Contact Vihan Lakshman at vihan ‘at’ stanford.edu, Michael Peterson at mrpeters ‘at’ stanford.edu and Do-Hyoung Park at dhpark ‘at’ stanford.edu.

]]>
http://www.stanforddaily.com/2015/08/26/stanford-football-preview-schedule-roundtable/feed/ 1 Kevin Hogan Stanford quarterback Kevin Hogan (8) has failed to beat the Trojans in each of his two tries. (DAVID BERNAL/isiphotos.com) Remound Wright Remound Wright (center) and the Cardinal will face a much stiffer test from an improved Cal team in 2015. (DON FERIA/isiphotos.com) Stanford Student Body Hosting four ranked teams at Stanford Stadium will not only benefit the Card, but it should be a boost to the fan base and raise home attendance. (DAVID BERNAL/isiphotos.com) David Shaw Team In 2013, Stanford won the Pac-12 title despite two conference losses to Utah and USC. The conference champion in 2015 may have a similar scenario. (DON FERIA/isiphotos.com) Austin Hooper The Pac-12 and the SEC are commonly hailed as the two best conference in college football, but much debate surrounds which conference is number one. However, the only premier matchup scheduled for this season between an SEC team and a Pac-12 team is the season-opener between Texas A&M and Arizona State. (DAVID BERNAL/isiphotos.com)
Football podcast: 2015 schedule preview http://www.stanforddaily.com/2015/08/26/football-podcast-2015-schedule-preview/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=football-podcast-2015-schedule-preview http://www.stanforddaily.com/2015/08/26/football-podcast-2015-schedule-preview/#comments Wed, 26 Aug 2015 21:25:29 +0000 http://www.stanforddaily.com/?p=1102947 In this week’s edition of the Stanford Football Insider Show, Do-Hyoung Park, Vihan Lakshman and Michael Peterson discuss the No. 21 Cardinal’s schedule, which includes five games against ranked opponents, as the team seeks to win the Pac-12. Stanford kicks off its season on Sept. 5 when it takes on Northwestern in Evanston, Illinois.

]]>
http://www.stanforddaily.com/2015/08/26/football-podcast-2015-schedule-preview/feed/ 0
Stanford ranked No. 21 in preseason AP poll http://www.stanforddaily.com/2015/08/23/stanford-ranked-no-21-in-preseason-ap-poll/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=stanford-ranked-no-21-in-preseason-ap-poll http://www.stanforddaily.com/2015/08/23/stanford-ranked-no-21-in-preseason-ap-poll/#comments Sun, 23 Aug 2015 20:01:57 +0000 http://www.stanforddaily.com/?p=1102928 In the first edition of the 2015 AP top 25 rankings released Sunday morning, Stanford was picked as the preseason No. 21 team in the nation, marking the fifth consecutive season in which Stanford debuted in the top 25.

Stanford was one of six Pac-12 teams ranked in the initial poll, making the conference second to only the SEC (eight teams) in poll representation. The Big Ten and Big 12 each had three teams ranked. Stanford and Oregon were the only Pac-12 North teams ranked (with Cal also receiving a vote) while four teams from the South also made the cut.

Defending Pac-12 champion and national runner-up Oregon was ranked No. 7 despite the loss of all-world quarterback Marcus Mariota thanks to a wealth of depth at the skill positions and on defense.

Meanwhile, preseason conference favorite USC checked in at No. 8 and cross-town rival UCLA, returning most of its depth chart from last season, was ranked No. 13. Arizona State and defending Pac-12 South champion Arizona were ranked No. 15 and No. 22, respectively.

No. 21 is where Stanford was ranked in the preseason going into the tumultuous 2012 season, in which the Cardinal upset then-No. 2 USC in the third week to make the jump into the top 10. Stanford finished that season ranked No. 7 in the nation after defeating a Barry Alvarez-led Wisconsin team in the 99th Rose Bowl.

Five of Stanford’s 2015 opponents are ranked in the preseason, including four in the top 15 (No. 7 Oregon, No. 8 USC, No. 11 Notre Dame, No. 13 UCLA). In the Pac-12, only Colorado and USC (six teams) play more ranked teams in 2015.

Contact Do-Hyoung Park at dhpark ‘at’ stanford.edu.

]]>
http://www.stanforddaily.com/2015/08/23/stanford-ranked-no-21-in-preseason-ap-poll/feed/ 0
Practice notes: Cardinal come out strong, but position battles linger http://www.stanforddaily.com/2015/08/23/practice-notes-cardinal-come-out-strong-but-position-battles-linger/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=practice-notes-cardinal-come-out-strong-but-position-battles-linger http://www.stanforddaily.com/2015/08/23/practice-notes-cardinal-come-out-strong-but-position-battles-linger/#comments Sun, 23 Aug 2015 17:02:11 +0000 http://www.stanforddaily.com/?p=1102924 With exactly two weeks to go before kicking off the 2015 season, the Stanford Cardinal returned to the practice field Saturday morning — this time joined by over 100 fans eager to catch a glimpse of David Shaw’s squad. With a larger audience on hand, the Cardinal did not disappoint in providing entertainment, making noteworthy plays in all three phases of the game and showcasing the team’s young, exciting talent.

While the session was far from mistake-free and did little to answer any of the lingering questions surrounding major position battles, the Cardinal did show a marked improvement from earlier open practices in training camp and in the spring as they prepare to face their first live bullets in Evanston, Illinois on Sept. 5.

Offense:

From the outset, the first-team offense took control of the scrimmage behind the very crisp play of quarterback Kevin Hogan. Displaying a confident command of the offense, Hogan connected with receivers Francis Owusu and Michael Rector for long touchdowns on the first two drives of the morning, showing off his brilliant touch on deep balls, a key component of the fifth-year senior’s resurgence in the latter portion of the 2014 season.

“Kevin’s continued from where he was from the Cal game onwards,” Shaw noted at the conclusion of the session. “We missed a lot of deep balls last year, and he’s just a lot more comfortable right now.”

“When you combine his athleticism and ability as a deep ball thrower, it’s been exciting.”

Hogan finished the day 8-11 as the first-team offense received an added spark with the return of Rector, who was suspended indefinitely for disciplinary reasons last week. Though Shaw declined to comment on whether or not Rector would miss any game action as part of his suspension, the senior wideout made his presence felt on the practice field as the offense put the defense on its heels during the first two drives.

While Hogan’s veteran leadership set the tone early, it was a true freshman, running back Bryce Love, who stole the show offensively. Working primarily with the second team, behind Christian McCaffrey, Remound Wright and Barry Sanders, Love rushed for 77 yards on 5 carries, highlighted by a blazing 65-yard touchdown run that brought the crowd to its feet.

At this stage in the preseason, the coaching staff has yet to decide which true freshmen might play right away, but Shaw mentioned that Love has a serious chance to enter the running back rotation at the start of the season.

***

Offensively, there are still two major position battles up in the air: the spot of backup quarterback between junior Ryan Burns and sophomore Keller Chryst and the competition for spots at guard and tackle along the right side of the offensive line.

Burns and Chryst both turned in solid performances on Saturday, finishing 4-7 and 7-11, respectively; however, neither quarterback managed to move the ball consistently and looked flummoxed at times against an aggressive pass rush.

Overall, Shaw was pleased with the progress of his younger quarterbacks, but wasn’t ready to name a backup just yet.

“I think they’ve both progressed. They missed some throws, but those are the trials and tribulations of having young quarterbacks,” Shaw said. “I have nothing else to report at this time.”

Meanwhile, the offensive line delivered another strong performance. While the line still isn’t quite where Shaw would like it to be by week one, the veteran-laden group looks unquestionably more comfortable than it was at this point last season.

Saturday’s practice marked the return of both junior guard David Bright and senior tackle Nick Davidson from injury, meaning that the battle for starting spots on the right side of the line now begins in earnest. Bright, Davidson, senior Johnny Caspers and sophomore Casey Tucker are all expected to compete for spots at either guard or tackle.

Currently, Caspers and Tucker held down the guard and tackle spots on the first team, respectively, while Bright and Davidson joined A.T. Hall, Brandon Fanaika and Jesse Burkett on the second unit, which also produced a solid outing, giving the Cardinal much-needed depth up-front.

Although many questions still remain unanswered with a week of camp to go, the fullback position, a staple of the Stanford offense, has been notably devoid of drama.

While many expected freshmen Reagan Williams and Houston Heimuli to compete with sophomore Daniel Marx to take over for Lee Ward and Pat Skov, Marx has run away with the job and delivered vicious block after vicious block, evoking memories of legendary Cardinal fullbacks.

“[Marx’s] exactly where we hoped he would be,” Shaw said. “We’re excited about him. He’s got all the tools to succeed at this level and the next.”

The final major offensive development from training camp has been the rapid ascent of sophomore tight end Dalton Schultz, who began the day on the first team on the depth chart and made two tough catches in traffic.

Austin Hooper, Greg Taboada and Eric Cotton also played well, with Hooper making arguably the best grab out of the entire group while working with Chryst and the second-team. At this point, though, it looks like Schultz is poised to become the top tight end on the depth chart.

Defense:

Despite giving up two big plays early, Lance Anderson’s defense rebounded with a suffocating performance for the remainder of the day and showed off a considerable amount of depth at key positions.

With presumptive starter Kodi Whitfield and sophomore Brandon Simmons out with minor injuries (both are expected to return early next week), freshman safety Justin Reid started the day with the first team opposite Dallas Lloyd and recorded a team-high 5 tackles. Reid rotated with fellow freshman Ben Edwards on the first team.

Stanford’s young corners also shined on Saturday with Quenton Meeks and Taijuan Thomas standing out. Thomas also sparked the top defensive play of the day when he delivered a jarring hit on freshman receiver JJ Arcega-Whiteside that tipped Ryan Burns’ pass up in the air, allowing linebacker Lane Veach to snag the only interception of the day.

At linebacker, the competition for the starting inside spot opposite Blake Martinez remains fierce between Kevin Palma, Jordan Perez and Bobby Okereke. No candidate gained any clear separation on Saturday, but Martinez again showed why he is regarded as one of the best linebackers in the nation, organizing the rest of the defense and making several crucial stops against the run and in coverage.

Shaw was also all-praise for Martinez afterwards, noting that the senior has mastered the defense and is now working on fine-tuning the nuances.

At defensive line, Aziz Shittu, Harrison Phillips and Solomon Thomas started the day on the first team. The trio, along with Cal transfer Brennan Scarlett, consistently penetrated into the backfield and harassed the Cardinal quarterbacks, particularly Burns and Chryst, all morning.

With uncertainty along the defensive line remaining one of the biggest storylines at the start of training camp, Shaw was pleased with the progress of Randy Hart’s group.

“The defensive line has been the biggest quote unquote ‘question,’” Shaw said. “Between those four guys [Shittu, Thomas, Phillips and Scarlett] they’re giving us what we need right now. But we still need depth.”

“[Jordan] Watkins tweaked a groin last week, but he looked good in practice the other day and looked better today,” Shaw added. “Hopefully, he can get to the point where he can rotate in.”

Shittu, in particular, looked borderline unblockable at times, splitting his time between nose tackle and defensive end. The senior, who missed the final six games of last season with a knee injury, has returned in full force during training camp, and is relishing the opportunity to play alongside a pair of talented sophomores in Thomas and Phillips.

“You could say I’ve taken more of a leadership role,” Shittu said at the conclusion of practice. “Really, though, I’ve learned a lot from these younger guys. With everything they bring to the table, I try to take something from their game, so it’s not just me. They’ve been giving me a lot of help as well.”

Special Teams:

Senior Conrad Ukropina has seized control of the starting kicking job, holding off competition from true freshman Charlie Beall. Ukropina saw very limited action during Saturday’s scrimmage, drilling his lone field goal attempt of approximately 30 yards.

Meanwhile, punters Jake Bailey and Alex Robinson continued to battle for the starting job with the true freshman Bailey turning in a particularly impressive performance, blasting two or three punts that drew audible reactions from the crowd on hand.

With just one week of training camp remaining before the long grind of the season, the Cardinal anticipate resolving the remaining competitions by the end of the month.

Contact Vihan Lakshman at vihan ‘at’ stanford.edu.

]]>
http://www.stanforddaily.com/2015/08/23/practice-notes-cardinal-come-out-strong-but-position-battles-linger/feed/ 3
Women’s soccer wins first game of season in come-from-behind victory http://www.stanforddaily.com/2015/08/22/womens-soccer-wins-first-game-of-season-in-come-from-behind-victory/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=womens-soccer-wins-first-game-of-season-in-come-from-behind-victory http://www.stanforddaily.com/2015/08/22/womens-soccer-wins-first-game-of-season-in-come-from-behind-victory/#comments Sat, 22 Aug 2015 20:49:59 +0000 http://www.stanforddaily.com/?p=1102921 After relinquishing a goal in the first minute, No. 3 Stanford women’s soccer (1-0, 0-0 Pac-12) fought back with two late second-half goals to secure the 2-1 win in its first game of the 2015 season.

August 14, 2015, Stanford, CA:  Stanford Cardinal vs. Fresno State Bull Dogs in an exhibition game at Laird Q. Cagan Stadium. Stanford beat Fresno State 3-0.

Sophomore Andi Sullivan (right) netted Stanford’s first and game-tying goal in the 73rd minute. Sullivan, last season’s Pac-12 and national Freshman of the Year, scored one goal and had 4 assists in 2014. (BOB DREBIN/stanfordphoto.com)

Sophomore midfielder Andi Sullivan equalized the game in the 73rd minute when she scored off of a rebound from a blocked penalty kick. Alana Cook, a freshman from Far Hills, New Jersey, netted the game-winner fewer than seven minutes later, scoring the first goal of her college career.

Despite giving up an early goal, Stanford dominated ball control throughout the entire game and put together a full-out attack on Hawaii’s defense, outshooting Hawaii 23-4, including 13-0 in the second half.

The Cardinal also held a 6-0 corner kick advantage over Hawaii.

Freshman midfielder Michelle Xiao and Sullivan notched 5 shots apiece, while fifth-year senior forward Haley Rosen had 4 and sophomore Mariah Lee had 3 off the bench.

After giving up a goal with 31 seconds on the clock, junior goalie Jane Campbell needed just 1 save the rest of the way, while Monk Berger of Hawaii had 7.

Another tough schedule stands between Stanford and another NCAA College Cup appearance, featuring strong Pac-12 opponents such as UCLA, and non-conference teams such as Penn State and BYU.

The team graduated seven of its 12 scorers from last year, including standouts Lo’eau LaBonta, Taylor Uhl and Chioma Ubogagu, who combined for 33 goals. Despite losing these stars, who helped the Cardinal go 20-2-3 in 2014 and reach the College Cup for the sixth time in the past seven years, this year’s squad still earned a No. 3 preseason ranking and has the potential to continue its historic success on the field.

Stanford’s 15 returning letterwinners, two redshirt freshmen and a top-ranked freshman class are looking to make sure that the effects of those losses aren’t felt too strongly.

Most notably, this group includes Sullivan, who earned recognition as national and Pac-12 Freshman of the Year and, along with Campbell, was named to the Hermann Trophy Preseason Watch List.

Junior forward Ryan Walker-Hartshorn, who scored 8 goals last season, also will be expected to step up for the Cardinal.

Their freshman class, which impressed many during the team’s exhibition against Fresno State, is poised to contribute greatly this season. Not only did Cook and Xiao stand out against Hawaii, but four of the six freshmen started in Friday’s game.

The team returns to action Monday at 10 p.m. when it takes on No. 19 Brigham Young in the last game of its Hawaii road trip before returning to the Farm for its home opener on Friday, Aug. 28.

Contact Alexa Philippou at aphil723 ‘at’ stanford.edu

]]>
http://www.stanforddaily.com/2015/08/22/womens-soccer-wins-first-game-of-season-in-come-from-behind-victory/feed/ 0 Andi Sullivan August 14, 2015, Stanford, CA: Stanford Cardinal vs Fresno State Bull Dogs in an exhibition game at at Laird Q. Cagan Stadium. Stanford beat Fresno State 3-0.
Preseason Pac-12 student media poll http://www.stanforddaily.com/2015/08/20/preseason-pac-12-student-media-poll/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=preseason-pac-12-student-media-poll http://www.stanforddaily.com/2015/08/20/preseason-pac-12-student-media-poll/#comments Thu, 20 Aug 2015 15:42:31 +0000 http://www.stanforddaily.com/?p=1102890

]]>
http://www.stanforddaily.com/2015/08/20/preseason-pac-12-student-media-poll/feed/ 3
Stanford football preview: Special teams roundtable http://www.stanforddaily.com/2015/08/19/stanford-football-preview-special-teams-roundtable/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=stanford-football-preview-special-teams-roundtable http://www.stanforddaily.com/2015/08/19/stanford-football-preview-special-teams-roundtable/#comments Thu, 20 Aug 2015 06:15:04 +0000 http://www.stanforddaily.com/?p=1102907 With the football season less than three weeks away, Daily football writers Do-Hyoung Park, Vihan Lakshman and Michael Peterson offered their opinions on several questions regarding the 2015 Stanford special teams in the third part of the roundtable preview series for the Cardinal’s upcoming campaign.

Week 1: Offense roundtable
Week 2: Defense roundtable
Week 3: Special teams roundtable
Week 4: Schedule roundtable

How difficult will it be for Stanford’s new kicker to follow up Jordan Williamson, the most prolific scorer in school history and a name synonymous with the highs and lows of Stanford football over the last half decade?

After a four-year career as Stanford's starting kicker, Jordan Williamson '15 (top) departed Stanford as the program's all-time leading scorer despite prolonged bouts of inconsistency. Senior Conrad Ukropina and freshman Charlie Beall will compete for his vacated position in 2015. (BOB DREBIN/isiphotos.com)

After a four-year career as Stanford’s starting kicker, Jordan Williamson ’15 (top) departed Stanford as the program’s all-time leading scorer despite prolonged bouts of inconsistency. Senior Conrad Ukropina and freshman Charlie Beall will compete for his vacated position in 2015. (BOB DREBIN/isiphotos.com)

Vihan Lakshman (VL): Williamson’s three potential replacements: senior Conrad Ukropina and true freshmen Charlie Beall and Jake Bailey have the unenviable task of replacing a four-year starter who handled the pressure-cooker environment of college football kicking better than just about anyone. After memorably failing to convert in the Fiesta Bowl during his first year as a starter, Williamson almost always delivered in critical moments for Stanford: from booting the Cardinal past Oregon in 2013 to knocking in a 51-yard field goal in double overtime during an eventual loss to Utah last season. Sure, Williamson was inconsistent at times, especially within attempts under 30 yards, but his unparalleled experience kicking in big games and ability to control field position on kickoffs will leave a hard act to follow for the three younger kickers competing for the job.

Michael Peterson (MP): The kicking game is never an area where you want to have inexperience, and with the Cardinal boasting two true freshmen and a senior who’s gone a career 2-for-4 on field goals, that’s exactly what the Cardinal have. Yes, Jordan Williamson struggled at times, most notably over the first half of last season. Given the talent of Stanford’s freshman kickers, they could easily prove to be Williamson’s superior. But the thought of a freshman, or a senior who played extremely poorly in the spring game and with limited experience, kicking a crucial field goal for a team that has Pac-12 and College Football Playoff aspirations is downright scary. Just ask Williamson what the weight of a big kick can do to a freshman, and Williamson was even a redshirt freshman in the Fiesta Bowl. The bottom line is that while the talent in place may be greater than Williamson, the experience is far inferior, and like Vihan mentioned, Williamson’s proven ability to make big kicks — which he developed in time at The Farm — will be sorely missed.

Do-Hyoung Park (DHP): Jordan Williamson was one of the nicest, most likeable guys that I’ve ever had the chance to work with at Stanford. That being said, though, Williamson was, objectively, not a very good kicker. He leaves the Farm as the program’s all-time leading scorer, but that’s probably more because he started at kicker for four years and Stanford is more conservative than Rick Santorum on fourth downs. In his four seasons, he broke 68.4 percent just once (2013) in an injury-shortened campaign. And it would be a lie to say that every time Williamson stepped onto the field, Stanford fans’ hearts didn’t start beating a little more quickly. He had an incredible leg, but just couldn’t find consistency. And that’s the most important element of being a kicker. In the end, I don’t think Williamson left the bar set very high, and whoever starts at kicker against Northwestern should at least be able to maintain the status quo.

After Alex Robinson’s very shaky performance in the spring game, where he averaged 37 yards per punt on five attempts, and all of the unknowns surrounding true freshman Jake Bailey, how confident do you feel in the punting game?

Although junior punter Alex Robinson (above) was the only option that the Cardinal had at their Spring Game to replace Ben Rhyne '15, highly-touted freshman Jake Bailey is set to provide strong competition for the job throughout fall practices. (BOB DREBIN/isiphotos.com)

Although junior punter Alex Robinson (above) was the only option that the Cardinal had at their Spring Game to replace Ben Rhyne ’15, highly-touted freshman Jake Bailey is set to provide strong competition for the job throughout fall practices. (BOB DREBIN/isiphotos.com)

VL: I’m cautiously optimistic; Robinson did get off to a rough start in the spring game when he shanked his first punt for 20 yards, but he rebounded from those initial jitters to close out the day with punts of 52, 42 and 37 yards, respectively. Moreover, Bailey is a stud recruit coming out of high school and the coaching staff loved his leg and athleticism enough to offer him a scholarship. If Bailey can deliver even partially on those lofty expectations and create a healthy competition with Robinson, the Cardinal will be in a comfortable position when the season rolls around. Since the Stanford winning formula of the past few years has relied heavily on milking the clock with the running game and dominating the field position battle, it’s hard to understate the importance of having a good punter in executing this game plan. For now, there’re plenty of reasons to feel optimistic, but Stanford could be in trouble if the punting game declines precipitously post-Rhyne.

MP: Like both Vihan and Do, I’m actually extremely optimistic about the punting game. All signs point to Bailey having a strong leg from what we’ve heard out of camp, and Stanford is willing to remove Bailey from the starting kicking competition (as sure seems the case) in order to keep his leg fresh for punting and kickoffs. Ben Rhyne was always reliable for Stanford, but was never an All-American caliber punter. Bailey would do just fine stepping into his shoes, and if Robinson is able to beat Bailey out in camp, then I’m confident he could do a solid job as well.

DHP: Despite the lack of experience at the position, I’m actually feeling pretty confident. Keep in mind that Bailey was offered a scholarship immediately as a freshman, which doesn’t happen all that often for specialists. And even though kicker is arguably the position of greater need for Stanford, the Cardinal coaching staff chose to move Bailey, their hyped-up, dynamite recruit, to punter instead. I take this to mean that Bailey has what it takes to be a tremendous punter right out of the gate and that he can immediately help the team win. And honestly, Ben Rhyne was consistent, but he wasn’t really a world-beater either. I think Bailey can be “the guy” for Stanford for years to come.

Can Christian McCaffrey replicate the success of Ty Montgomery in the return game?

 (TRI NGUYEN/The Stanford Daily)

How do you replace a spectacular talent like Ty Montgomery ’15 that will be a starting NFL returner come fall? Sophomore Christian McCaffrey (center) hopes to be the answer after putting on 20 pounds over the offseason without losing any of his speed. McCaffrey has the coaches’ unanimous vote of confidence heading into this season as “the guy” that both the offense and special teams will revolve around. (TRI NGUYEN/The Stanford Daily)

VL: When it comes to punt returns, I think McCaffrey could be even better. Months before the start of last season, the foundations of my McCaffrey man-crush were laid when I watched him do this during the Army All-American Game. While Ty arguably has a better burst and raw power, McCaffrey’s shiftiness and almost inhuman ability to change direction might make him one of the nation’s best punt returners when it’s all said and done. We caught a glimpse of how dangerous McCaffrey can be on returns during Montgomery’s absence from the last three games of the season, and I expect that to continue. Based on what we saw last season, I have no doubt that McCaffrey will also be a formidable threat on kickoffs, but I would be wary of putting too much on his shoulders, considering the load that he is expected to carry on offense. Nevertheless, the job appears to be McCaffrey’s all the way, and I expect him to shine with these extra touches.

MP: While I agree with Vihan and Do that McCaffrey will be very good, I’m very cautious about expecting the kind of performance Stanford received from Montgomery. Make no mistake about it, Ty Montgomery was arguably the best return man in the nation and Stanford’s best since Glyn Milburn in the 1990s. As a first-year pro, Montgomery will likely be the kick and punt returner on a Super Bowl contender. Yes, McCaffrey has an otherworldly ability to change direction, but Ty had uncanny vision and a knack to know when to turn on the jets and when to wait patiently for the return to unfold. Those attributes must be developed, and given McCaffrey’s limited time as a returner last year because of Montgomery, I don’t expect McCaffrey to possess those traits on the same level as Montgomery yet. All that being said, McCaffrey has shown that he can be a dynamite weapon in his own right on returns and should be one of the best in the Pac-12. Eventually, he may prove Montgomery’s equal or superior. Placing Montgomery-like expectations on McCaffrey in the return game this season, however, would be a disservice to his own set of skills and possibly a setup for disappointment.

DHP: If I could just edit Michael’s Packer-loving response out of this roundtable, I’d do so without second thought. But I unfortunately don’t have that authority anymore, so I have to let it stand. With a team like Stanford that utilizes just one cut in the return game, I feel that the return man often gets all of the credit for fantastic returns even though that credit should rightfully be shared by the whole unit — after all, without otherworldly blocking, Ty doesn’t look half as good as he did in 2013 returning kicks. If your blockers are opening up a freaking interstate highway in front of you, it doesn’t exactly take a world-beater to take the ball to the house. With that in mind, I’m going to take the cop-out answer and say that I honestly won’t be able to tell until I see the blockers in action during the first few games of the season. If they click, there’s absolutely no reason why, as mentioned above, McCaffrey can’t be as good as Montgomery.

With the load McCaffrey is expected to carry on offense, does it make sense to use him as the primary return man as well?

If the coaching staff decides to take some of the weight off of McCaffrey's shoulders on special teams, senior receiver-turned-safety Kodi Whitfield (right) is said to be the Cardinal's "safety net" at returner heading into the season. (JIM SHORIN/stanfordphoto.com)

If the coaching staff decides to take some of the weight off of McCaffrey’s shoulders on special teams, senior receiver-turned-safety Kodi Whitfield (right) is said to be the Cardinal’s “safety net” at returner heading into the season. (JIM SHORIN/stanfordphoto.com)

VL: I touched on this briefly in my previous response. On one hand, of course it “makes sense” to give Christian McCaffrey, the most versatile and dynamic playmaker on this team, the ball as much as possible, but the concern of overusing the Cardinal’s biggest weapon is a legitimate one. There were a few occasions in the last two seasons when Montgomery had to sit out at least a couple of plays on crucial drives after enduring a hard hit during a return. By all accounts, Stanford’s offense will run through McCaffrey in 2015, but this approach could suffer if McCaffrey has to sit out critical plays as a byproduct of the tremendous load he is expected to carry. If anybody can handle these responsibilities, it’s McCaffrey, but I wouldn’t be surprised if the coaching staff is wary of overusing the sophomore and turn to one of the many other speedsters populating the roster in select situations. I personally would be very intrigued to see someone like Michael Rector, Isaiah Brandt-Sims or freshman Jay Tyler get a chance to show off their skills in the return game.

MP: This might be one of the tougher decisions Stanford has to make in determining starting roles. But since Vihan and Do went with the in-between responses, I’ll take the hardline approach: absolutely. What Stanford wants to do with McCaffrey this season is what it wanted to do with Montgomery last season, which is to get his hands on the ball in space. Can you think of an easier way to get McCaffrey in space with blockers ahead of him? McCaffrey averaged 17 yards per punt return last season. An average punt returner might put up 10 yards per return. Extrapolated over the course of, say, four punt returns per game, that’s 28 extra yards for the Cardinal. Would removing McCaffrey from the field for the first play of each of those four drives cost the Cardinal 28 total yards? Most likely not, and he probably won’t even need to be removed from the field on most occasions. Heck, just leave him out there as a decoy and it’ll still positively benefit the Cardinal.

Though I was down on expecting Montgomery-like performances out of McCaffrey in the return game earlier, I do wholeheartedly expect him to be elite in the punt return game and he is a step above any of Stanford’s other options. Why stop your No. 1 playmaker from having a chance to touch the ball with the most space he’ll find all game? I’m of the opinion that Stanford is putting too much weight on McCaffrey’s shoulders, but it doesn’t make sense to me to try and ease that burden by removing him from arguably the area in which he has the chance to excel the most. Give an extra two or three carries a game to Remound Wright or Barry Sanders if you have to, just don’t let McCaffrey sit on the sidelines during returns.

DHP: Yes and no. Yes because he’s the most dynamic guy on the team and you obviously want him to get as many touches as possible, and every kickoff or punt taken by somebody that’s not McCaffrey, in my eyes, is a loss. But at the same time, special teams is a pretty big injury risk, with guys running at each other at full speed in opposite directions, and there’s certainly the possibility that something might happen. But it’s always a calculated risk to put a guy out there, and ultimately, I think what Stanford gains from having McCaffrey as a threat out there on returns outweighs the injury risk assumed by doing so, meaning that in my mind, it makes sense.

It’s Sept. 5 in Evanston, and Stanford trails Northwestern 30-28 with three seconds on the clock and a 45-yard field goal attempt coming. Which kicker — senior Conrad Ukropina, freshman Jake Bailey or freshman Charlie Beall — should take it?

(JIM SHORIN/stanfordphoto.com)

Ukropina (right) is the early front-runner for the vacated kicking spot as the candidate with the most experience, having spent the latter half of the 2013 season as the Cardinal’s starting kicker while covering for an injured Williamson. (JIM SHORIN/stanfordphoto.com)

VL: You mean punting isn’t an option?! In all seriousness, there’s a reason why coach Alamar gets paid to make these decisions and I’m sitting behind a computer screen pretending I know something about football. At this point, we can’t really make an informed decision; Bailey and Beall have never attempted so much as a warm-up kick at the college level and Ukropina’s sample size (four field goal attempts, all in 2013) is still pretty small. If you put a gun to my head, I would say Bailey since he was the only one of the trio to receive a scholarship offer out of high school, which suggests that the coaching staff is pretty high on him. However, the overarching sentiment in camp is that Bailey will be reserved for punting duties and possibly kickoffs. If that’s the case, then I’ll give the slight edge to Ukropina, who appears to have the inside track in winning the job.

MP: I completely agree with Vihan in that only coach Alamar and the Stanford coaching staff will know the answer to this question — and even then, they might be uncertain. But even just pondering this scenario gives me the shivers. Doesn’t this have to be the nightmare scenario for Stanford fans? Substitute Northwestern for USC and it’s even worse — an early-season game, when no kicker is likely to have a whole lot of experience, with very real postseason implications. The fate of Stanford’s season and the legacy of a program seeking to prove it still belongs at the top hang in the balance. Miss, and the shell-shocked Cardinal crumble post-USC as they did in 2014. Make, and Stanford reels off 10 more straight wins on its way to the College Football Playoff. Yes, I am absolutely overdramatizing the importance of one situation and one game, but anytime you’re competing for a spot in the College Football Playoff and against Oregon in the Pac-12 North, every game counts. Especially when said opponent is USC. Give me Ukropina, if only because he’s mentally dealt with tough collegiate kicks in the past (against USC in 2013).

DHP: I’m not exactly sure what this question is trying to accomplish, but I guess I’ll say Ukropina, if only because there’s nobody else. You can’t exactly pick and choose kickers according to situations, and it looks like Ukropina is going to be the guy for Stanford this year, at least in the early goings. I don’t exactly have confidence that Ukropina can kick the ball more than 40 yards at a time, but again, Stanford has to work with what it’s got. I’ll tell you what would be great, though: David Shaw pulls a page out of Mark Dantonio’s book and fakes it, with holder (and former quarterback) Dallas Lloyd rolling right and hitting Austin Hooper in stride to catch everybody in the stadium off guard and win the game. I think that has about as a good of a chance as working as a 45-yard game-winning field goal.

Contact Vihan Lakshman at vihan ‘at’ stanford.edu, Michael Peterson at mrpeters ‘at’ stanford.edu and Do-Hyoung Park at dhpark ‘at’ stanford.edu.

]]>
http://www.stanforddaily.com/2015/08/19/stanford-football-preview-special-teams-roundtable/feed/ 1 Jordan Williamson After a four-year career as Stanford's starting kicker, Jordan Williamson '15 (top) departed Stanford as the program's all-time leading scorer despite prolonged bouts of inconsistency. Senior Conrad Ukropina and freshman Charlie Beall will compete for his vacated position in 2015. (BOB DREBIN/isiphotos.com) Alex Robinson Although junior punter Alex Robinson (above) was the only option that the Cardinal had at their Spring Game to replace Ben Rhyne '15, highly-touted freshman Jake Bailey is set to provide strong competition for the job throughout fall practices. (BOB DREBIN/isiphotos.com) _A2R2377-(ZF-4758-99244-1-001) (TRI NGUYEN/The Stanford Daily) Kodi Whitfield If the coaching staff decides to take some of the weight off of McCaffrey's shoulders on special teams, senior receiver-turned-safety Kodi Whitfield (right) is said to be the Cardinal's "safety net" at returner heading into the season. (JIM SHORIN/stanfordphoto.com) Conrad Ukropina (JIM SHORIN/stanfordphoto.com)
Football podcast: 2015 special teams preview http://www.stanforddaily.com/2015/08/18/football-podcast-2015-special-teams-preview/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=football-podcast-2015-special-teams-preview http://www.stanforddaily.com/2015/08/18/football-podcast-2015-special-teams-preview/#comments Tue, 18 Aug 2015 17:02:35 +0000 http://www.stanforddaily.com/?p=1102893 What will it mean to replace Jordan Williamson? Do we expect a regression in punting, and will that affect Stanford’s game plan? Can Christian McCaffrey live up to Montgomery’s standard on returns?

In this week’s edition of the Stanford Football Insider Show, Do-Hyoung Park, Vihan Lakshman and Michael Peterson answer these questions and more as they take a closer look at Stanford’s special teams.

]]>
http://www.stanforddaily.com/2015/08/18/football-podcast-2015-special-teams-preview/feed/ 2
Stanford commit Ledecky shines at World Championships http://www.stanforddaily.com/2015/08/12/stanford-commit-ledecky-shines-at-world-championships/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=stanford-commit-ledecky-shines-at-world-championships http://www.stanforddaily.com/2015/08/12/stanford-commit-ledecky-shines-at-world-championships/#comments Thu, 13 Aug 2015 06:11:45 +0000 http://www.stanforddaily.com/?p=1102831 Stanford commit Katie Ledecky won five gold medals for Team USA at the 2015 World Championships held in Kazan, Russia. Ledecky also became the first person to win the 200-, 400-, 800- and 1500-meter freestyle events.

In just seven days of competition, the 18-year-old from Bethesda, Maryland also broke world records in two events — the 800- and 1500-meter freestyle.

In addition, after swimming a 15:27.71 in the prelims and 15:25.48 in the finals, Ledecky now holds the top five times in the history of the 1500-meter event.

Her 8:07.39 in the 800-meter race also broke her own world-best mark, while her time in the 400-meter free set a record for the World Championships.

While Ledecky has always been known for her prowess in long-distance swimming, her recent achievements have shown off her versatility. In addition to her world records, Ledecky won gold in the 200- and 400-meter freestyle as well as the 4×200-meter freestyle relay, in which she swam the quickest leg — and the anchor — for Team USA.

Her successes in the long-distance events may have been expected, but Ledecky was the clear underdog in her other three races, most notably the 200-meter freestyle.

Joining Ledecky in that event’s final were fellow USA swimmer Missy Franklin and Italian swimmer Federica Pelligrini, both of whom were frontrunners for gold.

After getting off to a relatively slow start, Ledecky charged ahead in the final 100 meters of the race to beat Pelligrini by 0.16 seconds, with a time of 1:55.16 to get first place.

The feat was quite ridiculous — it was the equivalent of having a marathon runner beat Usain Bolt in a 200-meter sprint. And better yet, her total margin of victory in her four individual events was nearly 30 seconds.

Her performance in Kazan solidified Ledecky’s presence as a force to be reckoned with for the next decade. The scariest part of it is that Ledecky is only 18 and will likely be better in the years to come.

Ledecky decided to defer her enrollment to Stanford until 2016 so she can train for the Rio Olympics next summer. It’s safe to say that she will be an invaluable asset for the United States in the Olympics and eventually for Stanford’s squad, which finished third in the nation last season.

Contact Ethan Teo at ethanteo99 ‘at’ gmail.com.

]]>
http://www.stanforddaily.com/2015/08/12/stanford-commit-ledecky-shines-at-world-championships/feed/ 0
Iyer: How will New England Patriots quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo fare? http://www.stanforddaily.com/2015/08/12/iyer-how-will-new-england-patriots-quarterback-jimmy-garoppolo-fare/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=iyer-how-will-new-england-patriots-quarterback-jimmy-garoppolo-fare http://www.stanforddaily.com/2015/08/12/iyer-how-will-new-england-patriots-quarterback-jimmy-garoppolo-fare/#comments Thu, 13 Aug 2015 05:55:52 +0000 http://www.stanforddaily.com/?p=1102826 No Brady, no problem.

If you haven’t heard, the commissioner of the NFL, Roger Goodell, has decided to uphold Tom Brady’s four-game suspension. This means second-year pro Jimmy Garoppolo will most likely be managing the Patriots offense for the first quarter of the season.  

Garoppolo was a relatively unknown quarterback when drafted last year from Eastern Illinois University, an FCS program and the alma mater of current Dallas Cowboy quarterback Tony Romo.

Garoppolo started his career at EIU rather poorly, with a 4-15 record. But he then had a complete turnaround, throwing for 53 touchdown passes and over 5,000 yards his senior year.

Despite his video game-caliber statistics, the fact that EIU was not a very well-known or recruited school hurt his legitimacy. However, after receiving heavy praise from New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick about his play in last year’s training camp and preseason, he started to become more of a familiar face.

Here is how Garoppolo can help the Patriots.

Last season, Garoppolo did show some promise in his two main appearances against Kansas City and Buffalo, boasting around a 70-percent completion rate. He is a typical pocket passer with a frame ideal for a quarterback.

He has an obnoxiously fast release, probably even faster than Brady. That plays in perfectly for the offense that the Patriots run. They like to run short- to mid-range passes, utilizing their tight end and big-time slot receivers, Danny Amendola and Julian Edelman.

Garoppolo is also a more mobile quarterback than Tom Brady. While he is no speed demon, the team’s offensive coordinator, Josh McDaniels, can incorporate some read option and have the ability to call more roll-outs with him on the field.

Finally, he has the ability to execute in a two-minute offense. At EIU, he led a 100-percent no-huddle offense that was part of one of the fastest scoring offenses in the country. Because of this, he has the ability to operate under any sort of time restraints and still keep his composure.

Despite all of Garoppolo’s attributes, he still has many flaws that can bring the team down.

First off, he has barely any experience. Apart from minimally playing in his first season, he hasn’t played against many NFL-caliber players, coming from a small school in EIU. Because of this, he is probably not accustomed to the speed of the game and players in the NFL.

According to boston.com, Garoppolo has struggled quite a bit in training camp. He has been holding on to the ball for too long at times and hasn’t been in sync with his receivers. Hopefully, for the Patriots, this will change as Garoppolo gets a hang of the offense.

Ultimately, the positive attributes do outweigh the flaws, and that is why Garoppolo will be a good temporary fit for the Patriots. All he has to do is be a game manager and get the ball out quick, which is what he does best. He just has to put Edelman and the other playmakers in positions where they can operate in open space.

Garoppolo will also likely be able to rely on run support from LeGarrette Blount, Brandon Boldon, Jonas Gray and Tyler Gaffney. If he can get the Patriots through the first quarter of the season with a 3-1 record, he will be loved by each and every Patriot supporter. And I believe he has the ability to do that.

Contact Pranav Iyer at brettfavre2000 ‘at’ gmail.com.

]]>
http://www.stanforddaily.com/2015/08/12/iyer-how-will-new-england-patriots-quarterback-jimmy-garoppolo-fare/feed/ 0
Stanford football preview: Defense roundtable http://www.stanforddaily.com/2015/08/12/stanford-football-preview-defense-roundtable/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=stanford-football-preview-defense-roundtable http://www.stanforddaily.com/2015/08/12/stanford-football-preview-defense-roundtable/#comments Wed, 12 Aug 2015 19:48:55 +0000 http://www.stanforddaily.com/?p=1102793 With the football season now three weeks away, Daily football writers Do-Hyoung Park, Vihan Lakshman and Michael Peterson offered their opinions on several questions regarding the 2015 Stanford defense in the second part of the roundtable preview series for the Cardinal’s upcoming campaign.

Week 1: Offense roundtable
Week 2: Defense roundtable
Week 3: Special teams, schedule roundtables

The Cardinal have allowed fewer than 20 points per game in four of the past five seasons, even after losing multiple stars with the departures of Chase Thomas and Terrence Stephens in 2013 and Shayne Skov, Trent Murphy, Ed Reynolds and more in 2014. However, Stanford returned at least six defensive starters in all five of those seasons. Can the Cardinal repeat the defensive feats of past units with just three returning starters?

Stanford's defense is going to be gutted in its transition from 2014 to 2015, with fifth-year senior inside linebacker Blake Martinez (right), Kevin Anderson and Ronnie Harris currently slated as the Cardinak's only returning defensive starters. (SAM GIRVIN/The Stanford Daily)

Stanford’s defense is going to be gutted in its transition from 2014 to 2015, with senior linebackers Blake Martinez (right) and Kevin Anderson and cornerback Ronnie Harris currently slated as the Cardinal’s only returning defensive starters. (ERIN ASHBY/The Stanford Daily)

Do-Hyoung Park (DHP): Stanford’s defense has now finished in the top 30 in the nation in total defense in each of the last five seasons. How it doesn’t at least get the benefit of the doubt despite its losses is beyond me. The Cardinal haven’t ridden once-in-a-generation star power to stellar defenses; rather, it’s a sound scheme, hard-nosed players and tremendous coaching that have allowed Stanford to maintain that consistent success. Sure, Stanford is losing a bit more proven talent than usual, but Stanford isn’t exactly plugging in fresh faces: Kodi Whitfield, Dallas Lloyd, Ronnie Harris and Terrence Alexander all saw lots of action last year, and as their position coach is the best collegiate DB coach in the country, I’m not going to sound the sirens on the secondary yet. And while you can point to last year’s offensive line as an example of talent not necessarily equating to success, defensive line is the position where one or two talented guys can have the biggest impact (see: Suh, Ndamukong; Watt, J.J.), and by all accounts, Solomon Thomas and Harrison Phillips are oozing talent. I’m going to have every bit of faith that this defense can stay the course until proven otherwise.

Vihan Lakshman (VL): If I have learned anything over the last three years at Stanford, it’s to not bet against the Cardinal defense. This unit seems to have the supernatural ability to absorb the annual offseason skepticism and become even stronger, at least statistically, than it was the year before. But this year will be a different type of challenge for Lance Anderson’s crew as it must work to replace almost two entire levels of the defense: the secondary and the D-line. As we saw with the growing pains of breaking in a nearly brand-new offensive line last season, it’s hard to build that on-field cohesiveness within a position group right away. At this point, the Stanford defense should earn the benefit of the doubt and we saw this group make massive strides during spring ball, culminating in a thrashing of the offense during the Cardinal and White Spring Game. Nevertheless, replacing a position group almost entirely is a fiendish obstacle to overcome, and, while it will still be one of the premier units in the conference, I don’t expect this defense to match the eye-popping numbers put up over last couple of years.

Michael Peterson (MP): There’s no question that the Cardinal’s “next man up” philosophy has worked wonders in the past, but this is a much more daunting challenge for the defense. Losing the entire starting secondary and defensive line hurts, especially given the relative inexperience of the players stepping into starting roles this year. That being said, if this were Alabama we were talking about, no one would doubt the Tide’s ability to reload and reproduce. Given the level of play of Stanford’s defense over the last few seasons, it’s time to put the Cardinal in that same category and recognize the coaching staff’s great recruiting and player development efforts — this has been an elite defense without individual elite NFL talent (no first-round picks and only one second-round pick). Stanford is absolutely capable of maintaining its defensive dominance, but this is the coaching staff’s toughest task yet.

Which lost player will prove to be the hardest to replace for the Cardinal?

(LAUREN DYER/The Stanford Daily)

Although he surprised many by being selected in the second round of the 2015 NFL Draft by the New England Patriots, Stanford fans will be the first to tell you that Jordan Richards ’15 (above) was every bit worthy of that high draft pick, as his hard-nosed play in the secondary for the last two seasons helped the Cardinal weather heavy losses after 2013 and post a top-three national ranking in defense in 2014. (SAM GIRVIN/The Stanford Daily)

DHP: It’s arguably the least glamorous position on the Cardinal’s 3-4 defense, but the importance of the nose tackle absolutely cannot be understated. David Parry didn’t fill up boxscores with heaps of sacks, but when he was missing last season, the Cardinal defense lost its stalwart up the middle around which it built its entire scheme. Without Parry’s 300-pound, wedge-like frame swallowing double teams and harassing the middles of opposing offensive lines, Stanford’s inside linebackers and safeties would have had a much more difficult time defending runners that would have hit the second level with much more freedom and frequency. And when an opponent opens up its running game, its passing game opens up as well. Stanford’s only true nose tackle is true freshman Wesley Annan, and the Cardinal will need to turn to converted DEs Harrison Phillips and Aziz Shittu to try and emulate Parry’s quiet, consistent production. If they can’t, don’t be surprised to see the Cardinal defense looking a little more beatable than usual.

VL: I’m going to go with Stanford’s highest selected defensive player in the 2015 draft: Jordan Richards. The backbone of the Cardinal secondary since making his first start as a true freshman, Richards provided vital reliability at the safety position, both in coverage and in stuffing the run. Moreover, his leadership and intelligence also made him the de facto quarterback for the defense, a trait especially difficult to replace. With the loss of his heir apparent Zach Hoffpauir to the Arizona Diamondbacks, the task of replacing Richards, a former team captain, will prove to be even more difficult than previously anticipated and one that may come to define Stanford’s season.

MP: When Royce Freeman, Devontae Booker or Buck Allen burst through the first level of the defense last year, Stanford could count on safety Jordan Richards to make the tackle as the last line of defense between the back and the end zone. Now, Richards is gone and the near-guarantee of a touchdown-saving tackle on runs that break into the secondary vanishes with him. While Dallas Lloyd projects as a athletic safety quick enough to get in front of running backs and strong enough to stop them, he has only one full season of experience as a safety at the college level with little playing time outside of special teams. Richards’ sure-handedness will be greatly missed.

Among the new starters, which player is most likely to have a breakout year?

(SAM GIRVIN/The Stanford Daily)

With the departure of James Vaughters ’15 to a career with the Green Bay Packers, a spot will open up on the outside for junior Peter Kalambayi (center) to take on a full workload and build upon an explosive sophomore season in which he notched 6.5 sacks while playing in all 13 games on the Cardinal’s schedule. (ERIN ASHBY/The Stanford Daily)

DHP: Although his emergence has almost been swallowed up by all of the hype surrounding classmate Solomon Thomas, I don’t think there will be many players more valuable to the Cardinal this season than Harrison Phillips. Remember that last season, when Parry got injured, the coaching staff turned to the then-255-pound Phillips to fill in at nose tackle. And despite his overwhelming lack of size and raw technique, he actually did pretty darn well — against Arizona State and Oregon, no less. Now imagine what he can do with 23 extra pounds of beef on his sturdy frame and a full offseason of coaching from Randy Hart. Yikes. But Phillips’ true value will come from his flexibility: Although he was recruited as a DE, he’s now listed as a DT/DE, giving him the ability to fill in at one of Stanford’s positions of greatest need and bring big-game experience at his newer position to the table. Watch out, Pac-12: #Phillips66 is coming to a town near you.

VL: During Pac-12 Media Day, David Shaw mentioned that outside linebacker Peter Kalambayi could become a nationally recognized name when the dust settles at the end of the season, and I couldn’t agree more. Kalambayi is an explosive athlete at 6-foot-3, 242 pounds, and he appears poised to embrace the role of terrorizing opposing quarterbacks as the starting outside linebacker after learning from Trent Murphy and James Vaughters over the past two seasons. We got a taste of what a monster Kalambayi can be last season as he racked up 6.5 sacks, the second-most on the team, as a reserve, and also became the first Stanford defender to record three sacks in a game since Shayne Skov in the 2011 Orange Bowl. Stanford has produced a series of top-notch pass rushers over the past few years, and Kalambayi looks ready to add to that lineage.

MP: Please take a look at this picture, then look me in the eyes and tell me that Solomon Thomas isn’t going to demolish opposing running backs, quarterbacks and offensive linemen this year. Thomas has drawn rave reviews from coaches and teammates alike and has added around 20 pounds of muscle since coming to Stanford a year ago as a five-star recruit. He’s never played a snap and Phil Steele still put him on the preseason All-Pac-12 third team. It wouldn’t surprise me if Thomas posted double digits in tackles for loss and sacks.

Can Duane Akina turn the talented yet extremely inexperienced secondary into an asset for Stanford?

(SAM GIRVIN/The Stanford Daily)

Fifth-year senior cornerback Ronnie Harris (right) will be the leader of a secondary that many expect to take a step back after seeing Jordan Richards and Alex Carter both leave in the top three rounds of the 2015 NFL Draft. Although the Cardinal are loaded with four-star talent at cornerback, the lack of in-game experience could prove to be a high barrier for the young defensive backs to overcome in the dynamic Pac-12. (SAM GIRVIN/The Stanford Daily)

DHP: The idea that Stanford’s secondary is “extremely inexperienced” has got to be the biggest misconception that people have about Stanford’s defense this offseason. Whitfield and Lloyd played in a combined 21 games last season. Ronnie Harris is a fifth-year senior that was a starter last year. Terrence Alexander played in every game in 2014. Now, the depth (Taijuan Thomas, Alijah Holder, Alameen Murphy, Ra’Chard Pippens) is a lot less tested, but that’s not really all too different from the situations in years past. And again, Duane Akina is the king of developing young defensive backs. The unit will clearly miss Alex Carter and Jordan Richards, but I don’t think the drop-off is going to be as crazy as people think. I can’t say for sure that the secondary will be an asset, but I’d be shocked if it’s a liability.

VL: I wouldn’t doubt Coach Akina for an instant. Everyone may have their favorite gripes about Shaw, but one thing you cannot criticize Stanford’s head man over is his ability to hire top-notch assistant coaches, and bringing Akina over from Texas is no exception. Akina’s record of developing talented young defensive backs speaks for itself, but I’ll be more interested in watching how he will work with Dallas Lloyd and Kodi Whitfield, two former offensive players who will likely be thrust into starting roles in Week 1. We know Akina can take highly touted DB recruits and get them ready for the next level, but it might be even more fun to see how he can guide two veteran players who switched positions midway through their careers.

MP: Next season, I believe the secondary will be one of Stanford’s greatest strengths. Current sophomore cornerbacks Terrence Alexander, Alijah Holder and Alameen Murphy will have a year of playing experience under their belts while highly touted freshmen Frank Buncom and Quenton Meeks — both built in the same physical mold as Richard Sherman — will have been at the college level for a year, in addition to the young, talented safeties, Brandon Simmons, Ben Edwards and Justin Reid, growing in experience. This year, though, the unit is unquestionably inexperienced outside of Ronnie Harris and Terrence Alexander. Given Akina’s history at Texas, he very well could extract that talent and turn this into the team’s strength a year ahead of schedule. At least early in the season, though, I expect there to be a steep learning curve for the young unit.

How will Stanford cope with losing all three starters on the defensive line, especially at defensive tackle, where the only player on the roster at the position (Wesley Annan) is a freshman?

(ERIN ASHBY/The Stanford Daily)

Sophomore Harrison Phillips (center) was forced into action as a nose tackle last season despite weighing just 255 lbs. Although he struggled to adjust to the pace of the collegiate game, that early experience only served to motivate him to grow both physically and mentally. Now, he reportedly stands anywhere between 278 and 286 lbs. and certainly looks ready to wreak havoc from both nose tackle and defensive end, giving Stanford some much-needed flexibility. (ERIN ASHBY/The Stanford Daily)

DHP: As I alluded to in my earlier responses, I’m certainly more sure about the defensive line than I am about the secondary — and I’m reasonably confident in the secondary. Solomon Thomas and Harrison Phillips are going to be impact NFL players one day, and I’m extremely confident that they will look the part this year. The depth is there with the returns of a revitalized Aziz Shittu and Nate Lohn, along with the transfer addition of Brennan Scarlett. Despite the lack of a true nose tackle, I think Phillips is going to emerge as a huge threat in that position when given the opportunity. The only thing that worries me is the size: Shittu is listed as the heaviest at 279 lbs., and even with good technique, it will be difficult for the line to get push against, say, USC and its absurdly talented group of 310-plus-pound cinderblocks with arms that it calls an offensive line. If they can continue to bulk up as the season goes on, I’ll be completely sold.

VL: On National Signing Day, Shaw remarked that if Annan is ready to play as a freshman, Stanford will not hesitate to plug him in at the start of the season, and that speaks a lot to the Cardinal’s lack of a disruptive defensive tackle in the middle. In Stanford’s 3-4 defensive scheme, the defensive line is primarily responsible for getting early penetration and disrupting opponents’ running game. An understated aspect of Stanford’s D-line dominating over the last couple of seasons was not only the stellar play of Parry and Henry Anderson individually, but also their synergy and comfort playing with each other over the course of two seasons (which they’ll now be bringing to Indianapolis). If Annan is not ready to go right away, Aziz Shittu and Harrison Phillips are more than suited for the nose tackle job, but the key question to watch is how the revamped defensive line can function as a unit without a significant amount of experience playing together.  

MP: Count me as a believer in the defensive line. Replacing David Parry, as Do touched on before, will be the toughest task for the unit, but David Shaw has repeatedly emphasized how college football is morphing more and more into a nickel defense game, with four down linemen, two linebackers and five defensive backs, in which case Stanford doesn’t need a true nose tackle. Additionally, though no one player can replace Parry, the three projected starters in Shittu, Thomas and Phillips all weigh north of 270 pounds and are capable of successfully stepping into that role for a few plays in a rotation. With talented players like Brennan Scarlett and Jordan Watkins ready to provide relief at the defensive end position, we may see Stanford try to replace the three departing starters by using almost a “defensive-line-by-committee,” keeping the undersized nose tackles fresh and able to give it their all for a few plays at the position.

Which player’s performance is most vital for the defense to succeed in 2015?

(JOHN TODD/isiphotos.com)

Stanford has also had to adjust to life after Zach Hoffpauir, who cut his Cardinal football career short to play professional baseball in the Arizona Diamondbacks’ system. Stepping up to fill the void after the departures of Hoffpauir and Kyle Olugbode ’15 will be senior Dallas Lloyd (right), who converted from quarterback after his sophomore season along with fellow safety Kodi Whitfield. (JOHN TODD/isiphotos.com)

DHP: I feel like I’ve been talking about the defensive line way too much, so I’m going to give the other guys some love and go with Ronnie Harris for this pick. Ronnie came out strong at the end of last season, outplaying Wayne Lyons down the stretch to snatch Lyons’ starting spot. With Alex Carter leaving, though, Ronnie is going to need to take his game to the next level to match Carter’s absolute shutdown of opposing No. 1 receivers. Stopping the run game won’t do much if you get beaten over the top anyway, and with guys like Nelson Spruce (Colorado), JuJu Smith (USC), Byron Marshall (Oregon) and others ready to challenge the Stanford secondary, Harris’ success is going to be critical to stop the Pac-12’s dynamic offenses.

VL: As we talked about earlier, Stanford’s defensive line will need to get into opponents’ backfields consistently to stuff rushing attempts and disrupt the notoriously pass-happy Pac-12 offenses. Aziz Shittu displayed this ability through the first five games of last season before going down with a knee injury, and the Cardinal will be counting on their most experienced defensive lineman to be a decisive factor up front. Shittu also has the versatility to play in the defensive tackle slot, which could significantly enhance Stanford’s ability to rotate players. A strong 2015 campaign from Aziz should set the tone for the rest of the defense.

MP: I’m cheating and choosing two players — Dallas Lloyd and Kodi Whitfield. As I touched on before, replacing Jordan Richards might be the defense’s Achilles heel, and Stanford needs Dallas Lloyd to be the physical tackling presence in the second level to prevent big plays off of broken tackles in the first level. However, the young cornerbacks also need quality assurance over the top in case they get beat — which is bound to happen for young cornerbacks — in man-to-man. That’s where Kodi Whitfield comes in. If Lloyd and Whitfield perform their respective duties, then that will help the defense avoid surrendering big plays, a key for this unit to succeed.

True or false: The defense must hold opponents to under 20 points per game if Stanford is going to win the Pac-12.

(SHIRLEY PEFLEY/stanfordphoto.com)

Sophomore cornerback Terrence Alexander (right) is the only returning member of Stanford’s secondary that has notched an interception in his career. Stanford will need to generate turnovers much more effectively if it wants to improve on its -5 turnover margin from last season, which was last in the Pac-12 for much of the season and likely contributed to the Cardinal’s relative lack of success. (SHIRLEY PEFLEY/stanfordphoto.com)

DHP: False. Twenty points is an unreasonable standard, especially in the Pac-12 — even for a defense that has actually met this standard in four of the last five seasons. A championship team should have good balance — that’s why you don’t see Baylor or Virginia Tech winning any titles (or 2014 Stanford, for that matter). What the defense does need to do to win the Pac-12 is to maintain consistency and just make sure that the offense is never out of a game. In addition, it must force turnovers more effectively. Stanford’s turnover margin last year was -5, and if a ball-control team like Stanford can’t generate takeaways, it puts a lot more stress on the bend-but-don’t-break unit that Stanford has become.

VL: False; no defense should be expected to hold opponents under 20 points per game in order for a team to win, especially with how the rules governing pace of play are heavily stacking the deck in favor of offenses in college football. What Stanford’s defense did last season in holding all but two opponents under 20 points per game was remarkable, but compensating for an anemic offense shouldn’t have to be a prerequisite for winning. Instead, the focus of the defense should be consistency and avoiding those lackluster performances like giving up 42 points to Oregon last season or 48 to Arizona back in 2012. If the defense can avoid those disaster-type weeks, even if that means failing to hold an opponent under 20 points, Stanford — with what looks to be a much-improved offense — should be fine.  

MP: False, but with a caveat. The offense is good enough this year that Stanford can afford some regression on defense, but I don’t believe Stanford will ever beat Oregon again because its offense was superior, as was the case in 2009. Oregon’s offense is one of the best in the country and will likely be that way for a long time. If Stanford is going to down the Ducks and win the Pac-12 North, it will be because the defense stepped up again and gave Stanford enough of an edge to overcome the offensive disparity. The defense clearly won the Oregon game in 2012, and though Gaffney and the offensive line deserve major credit for the 2013 Oregon victory, it was only possible because the defense kept the early lead by forcing a red-zone turnover on downs, a red-zone fumble, another fumble on a long drive and two three-and-outs. The amended truth is that Stanford needs its defense to play at a high level against Oregon in order to win the Pac-12 North.

Contact Do-Hyoung Park at dhpark ‘at’ stanford.edu, Vihan Lakshman at vihan ‘at’ stanford.edu and Michael Peterson at mrpeters ‘at’ stanford.edu.

]]>
http://www.stanforddaily.com/2015/08/12/stanford-football-preview-defense-roundtable/feed/ 3 Jordan Richards (8) and Blake Martinez (4) Stanford's defense is going to be gutted in its transition from 2014 to 2015, with fifth-year senior inside linebacker Blake Martinez (right), Kevin Anderson and Ronnie Harris currently slated as the Cardinak's only returning defensive starters. (SAM GIRVIN/The Stanford Daily) Jordan Richards (8) (LAUREN DYER/The Stanford Daily) Peter Kalambayi (34) (SAM GIRVIN/The Stanford Daily) Ronnie Harris (21) (SAM GIRVIN/The Stanford Daily) Harrison Phillips (66) (ERIN ASHBY/The Stanford Daily) Dallas Lloyd (JOHN TODD/isiphotos.com) Terrence Alexander (SHIRLEY PEFLEY/stanfordphoto.com)
Football podcast: 2015 defense preview http://www.stanforddaily.com/2015/08/12/football-podcast-2015-defense-preview-2/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=football-podcast-2015-defense-preview-2 http://www.stanforddaily.com/2015/08/12/football-podcast-2015-defense-preview-2/#comments Wed, 12 Aug 2015 19:47:54 +0000 http://www.stanforddaily.com/?p=1102820 In this week’s podcast, Michael Peterson, Do-Hyoung Park and Vihan Lakshman discuss the ins and outs of Stanford’s defense and whether it will be able to rebound after losing so many starters from last season.

]]>
http://www.stanforddaily.com/2015/08/12/football-podcast-2015-defense-preview-2/feed/ 0
Stanford in the NFL: 2015 by the numbers http://www.stanforddaily.com/2015/08/11/stanford-in-the-nfl-2015-by-the-numbers/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=stanford-in-the-nfl-2015-by-the-numbers http://www.stanforddaily.com/2015/08/11/stanford-in-the-nfl-2015-by-the-numbers/#comments Tue, 11 Aug 2015 15:57:42 +0000 http://www.stanforddaily.com/?p=1102705 Stanford_in_the_NFL (2)

]]>
http://www.stanforddaily.com/2015/08/11/stanford-in-the-nfl-2015-by-the-numbers/feed/ 0 Stanford_in_the_NFL (2)
Nicole Gibbs defeated in second round of Bank of the West Classic http://www.stanforddaily.com/2015/08/06/nicole-gibbs-defeated-in-second-round-of-bank-of-the-west-classic/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=nicole-gibbs-defeated-in-second-round-of-bank-of-the-west-classic http://www.stanforddaily.com/2015/08/06/nicole-gibbs-defeated-in-second-round-of-bank-of-the-west-classic/#comments Thu, 06 Aug 2015 23:37:19 +0000 http://www.stanforddaily.com/?p=1102648 A fantastic run for Nicole Gibbs in the Bank of the West Classic came to an end on Wednesday night, as world-ranked No. 20 Elina Svitolina defeated her in straight sets to advance to the quarterfinals.

On a night where three seeded players in the tournament had already been upset, Gibbs hoped that she could make Svitolina, the eighth seed in the tournament, the fourth to go down. However, Svitolina won the match 6-3, 7-6 (5).

Bank of the West Classic, Elina Svitolina d. Nicole Gibbs (6-3, 7-6). Pictured: Nicole Gibbs Photo by Sam Girvin (Sam Girvin)

Stanford tennis alum Nicole Gibbs ’14 was defeated by Elina Svitolina in the second round of the Bank of the West Classic by a score of 6-3, 7-6 (5). The loss came after Gibbs had won her first three matches at the Bank of the West, and also made her the last of the four Stanford-affiliated players to be eliminated from the tournament this year.

The match looked very even at first. Both players had trouble holding serve, with the first set opening 1-1 after each player broke the other. From there, however, Svitolina took control of the set, firing off three straight games. The 4-1 lead was ultimately too much for Gibbs to overcome, and Svitolina took the first set 6-3.

The second set went back and forth multiple times, with the Taube Family Tennis Stadium crowd displaying a clear allegiance to Gibbs. The most telling moment of the match came towards the end, when Svitolina took a 5-4 lead in the set after breaking Gibbs’ serve and looked to take the match. As the players switched sides to begin the 10th game, the crowd erupted in a cheer for Gibbs, giving her plenty of encouragement and adoration.

From there, Gibbs used the home court advantage to take four straight points and bring the set to a deadlocked 5-5 tie. She had regained control and the stadium reached its loudest peak.

Ultimately, it wasn’t enough to get the job done. The set later moved to tiebreaks, where a series of unforced errors from Gibbs gave Svitolina the second set. The conclusion of the final point brought the crowd to its feet, as they sent Gibbs off with a resounding standing ovation.

It would have been the fourth win in five days for Nicole Gibbs, who had developed more than a fan favorite title on the court, where she had compiled a 56-5 collegiate career record. Svitolina deserves much credit, as she made full use of the court and capitalized on Gibbs’ aggressive play in order to effectively take the crowd of the match.

Gibbs’ loss signifies the elimination of all Stanford affiliates from the tournament. On the same day that Gibbs defeated Caroline Garcia to advance to the second round, junior Carol Zhao lost 6-3, 6-0 to Mona Barthel. The other two Stanford players, juniors Taylor Davidson and Caroline Doyle, were defeated over the weekend in the tournament’s qualifying matches.

Contact Sandip Srinivas at sandips ‘at’ stanford.edu.

]]>
http://www.stanforddaily.com/2015/08/06/nicole-gibbs-defeated-in-second-round-of-bank-of-the-west-classic/feed/ 0 Photo By: Sam Girvin
Stanford football preview: Offense roundtable http://www.stanforddaily.com/2015/08/05/stanford-football-preview-offense-roundtable/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=stanford-football-preview-offense-roundtable http://www.stanforddaily.com/2015/08/05/stanford-football-preview-offense-roundtable/#comments Wed, 05 Aug 2015 13:41:07 +0000 http://www.stanforddaily.com/?p=1102624 With Stanford football set to open its season exactly one month from today, Daily football writers Michael Peterson, Do-Hyoung Park and Vihan Lakshman offered their opinions on several questions regarding the 2015 Stanford offense in the first part of their roundtable preview series for the Cardinal’s upcoming campaign.

Fifth-year senior quarterback Kevin Hogan (above) has led the Cardinal to two Rose Bowls, two Pac-12 titles and three straight eight-plus win seasons. However, Stanford fans have never been fully sold on Hogan's ability to take the Cardinal to the next level. Can he break that stigma in his final year at the helm? (DON FERIA/isiphotos.com)

Fifth-year senior quarterback Kevin Hogan (above) has led the Cardinal to two Rose Bowls, two Pac-12 titles and three straight eight-plus win seasons. However, Stanford fans have never been fully sold on Hogan’s ability to take the Cardinal to the next level. Can he break that stigma in his final year at the helm? (DON FERIA/isiphotos.com)

Can a notoriously inconsistent Hogan keep his late-2014 success going, or were those performances outliers?

Michael Peterson (MP): Hogan can absolutely replicate the overall performance he displayed late in 2014, but it would be unfair to him to expect gorgeous throws like the touchdowns he threw to Devon Cajuste and Michael Rector against UCLA on every play — he’s still going to make a few errant throws like we’ve seen throughout his career. However, Hogan demonstrated that with quality play from the offensive line and a decent running game, he can make all the throws Stanford needs to win and be dominant at times. That should continue in 2015.

Do-Hyoung Park (DHP): It’s been interesting to watch Hogan develop through his three years as a starter. In his 2012 and 2013 campaigns, he had a tremendous running game and offensive line but was held back by his playbook command and difficulty with his technique. Last year, he looked better mechanically and more comfortable in the system but was held back by a mental block (staring down Montgomery) and the pieces around him. This is the year it all comes together for Hogan — as a fourth-year starter, his playbook command and his improved mechanics will be at an all-time high, and all of the pieces around him will be running on all cylinders. Hogan will never be a world-beater, but he’ll be accurate and efficient. And that’s all Stanford needs.

Vihan Lakshman (VL): It’s easy to write off Hogan’s stellar finish to 2014 against Cal, UCLA and Maryland as a statistical aberration, but that would both discredit the huge strides Stanford made over the course of the season and overlook the challenges Hogan faced behind-the-scenes. Several reports have indicated that Hogan suffered a leg injury against Notre Dame, which clearly affected one of the hallmarks of his game: his mobility. We also know now that he played much of the 2014 season as his father battled cancer before passing away in early December. In short, those last three games for Hogan stand out as a triumph over adversity and the moment where the new-look offense began to click. Almost all of those key pieces return for the Cardinal, and Hogan personally is bringing a new level of confidence into the 2015 season. He won’t be a name at the center of the Heisman discussion, but he will bring years (wow, I feel old) of big-game experience and near-mastery of the playbook, which should give Stanford a huge boost.


 

By being selected with the 13th overall pick by the New Orleans Saints, Andrus Peat '16 (left) was the Cardinal's first top-20 selection in the NFL Draft since Andrew Luck. Even with Peat anchoring the left side of the line, though, the Tunnel Workers' Union suffered from arguably one of its worst seasons in the Harbaugh-Shaw era. (DAVID BERNAL/isiphotos.com)

By being selected with the 13th overall pick by the New Orleans Saints, Andrus Peat ’16 (left) was the Cardinal’s first top-20 selection in the NFL Draft since Andrew Luck. Even with Peat anchoring the left side of the line, though, the Tunnel Workers’ Union suffered from arguably one of its worst seasons in the Harbaugh-Shaw era. (DAVID BERNAL/isiphotos.com)

Biggest loss from the 2014 offense?

MP: Not to discredit the incredible play of Andrus Peat and Ty Montgomery, but Stanford’s offense appears perfectly capable of replacing both players’ production in 2015. All-Pac-12 tackle Kyle Murphy shifts into Peat’s old spot with former five-star recruit Casey Tucker likely to take over on the right side, and Stanford has Cajuste, Rector, Christian McCaffrey and four future NFL tight ends at its disposal in the passing game. Montgomery’s loss will hurt just a bit more now that Stanford no longer has a single receiver who clearly requires a double team, or at least extra attention.

DHP: I hate the cop-out answer, but I really can’t identify any of Stanford’s offensive losses as “big.” Like Michael said, the loss of Peat shouldn’t hurt the Cardinal too much since Stanford is stacked on the line and should be able to fill in at tackle adequately. I’m also not worried about the loss of Montgomery — as much as I hate to say it, Hogan seemed to go through his progressions much more effectively when Montgomery was hurt last year, making him a better quarterback. Lee Ward is also a big loss but Daniel Marx is a great fullback. If I really had to pick one, I’d have to go with Peat just because the depth on offensive line is least proven, particularly with the injury to Nick Davidson. But Stanford’s track record with offensive line health has always been pretty good, so I’m not horribly worried there either (knock on wood).

VL: There’s only one answer to this question. At 6-foot-7, 313 pounds, Peat is by far the “biggest” loss from the 2014 offense. Do and Michael are spot-on when they mention that Stanford’s envious offensive line depth, especially the number of underclassmen with game experience, will likely soften the blow of losing Stanford’s first top-15 NFL draft pick since Andrew Luck. Nevertheless, Peat is a special talent, who anchored the left side of the line since his sophomore year. Kyle Murphy and Casey Tucker are more than ready to step into their new roles, but that doesn’t discount the fact that losing a player of Peat’s caliber will always hurt.


 

Stanford fans were upset that sophomore Christian McCaffrey (right), who quickly emerged as one of the most dynamic playmakers on Stanford's offense, wasn't given more opportunities to make plays by head coach David Shaw. With Shaw having gone on record to say that the offense will run through McCaffrey in 2015, the hype for the young running back is off the charts. (DAVID BERNAL/isiphotos.com)

Stanford fans were upset that sophomore Christian McCaffrey (right), who quickly emerged in 2014 as one of the most dynamic playmakers on Stanford’s offense, wasn’t given more opportunities to make plays from head coach David Shaw. With Shaw having gone on record to say that the offense will run through McCaffrey in 2015, the hype for the young running back is off the charts. (DAVID BERNAL/isiphotos.com)

What is Christian McCaffrey’s role in the offense going to look like? What’s his ceiling?

MP: McCaffrey is now the Ty Montgomery of the offense, except as a much more frequent runner. Running up the middle, running to the outside, receiving screen and swing passes, lining up as a slot receiver, serving as the wildcat quarterback — it will all be used to get McCaffrey’s hands on the ball as often as possible. McCaffrey is one of the most valuable players in the Pac-12, and if Stanford gets him at least 20 touches a game as it should, he could be touted as one of the best all-around offensive players in the nation.

DHP: I’m really wary of the “get one guy the ball as much as possible” philosophy, because it really simplifies decision-making for defenses. I mean, just look at what happened last year with Ty — defenses knew that Stanford would try to force him the ball no matter what, so they doubled him and forced Hogan into bad, bad throws and decisions that could have been avoided without the “get Ty the ball no matter what” philosophy. I think McCaffrey should be kept in a similar role as last year — line him up in the slot occasionally, use him on perimeter runs, get him Wildcat touches — even if he isn’t the primary back out of Stanford’s backfield, there will be many, many opportunities to get him touches and make him into one of the Pac-12’s most dynamic threats. Just as long as Stanford doesn’t overdo it and try to force McCaffrey the ball when it shouldn’t.

VL: McCaffrey will likely enter the season as the centerpiece of an offense that makes no secret over what it hopes to do: run the ball down your throat. The sophomore running back has worked on bulking up in the offseason to handle the rigors of carrying a heavier load and becoming more adept in pass protection, a necessity for any feature back in David Shaw’s system. I’m actually a fan of the “get McCaffrey the ball as much as possible” strategy because, thus far, no team has proven it can stop him. More than seven yards per carry as a freshman, even with a limited amount of touches, is awfully impressive. McCaffrey also has a different skill set from Montgomery and won’t be involved in as many deep throws into double-coverage as Do alluded to. Instead, he will likely receive a steady diet of handoffs, pitches and screen passes, which should re-establish the run game and bring back the play-action pass, which went missing in 2014.


 

Junior tight end Austin Hooper (top) gave a refreshing rejuvenation to Stanford's tight end position after a combination of Davis Dudchock, Charlie Hopkins, Luke Kaumatule and Eddie Plantaric gave Stanford essentially no production from the position in 2013. Hooper now spearheads an electric position group that's poised to be among Stanford's most talented ever. (DAVID BERNAL/isiphotos.com)

Junior tight end Austin Hooper (top) gave a refreshing rejuvenation to Stanford’s tight end position after a combination of Davis Dudchock, Charlie Hopkins, Luke Kaumatule and Eddie Plantaric gave Stanford essentially no production from the position in 2013. Hooper now spearheads an electric tight end group that’s poised to be among Stanford’s most talented ever. (DAVID BERNAL/isiphotos.com)

Will the presence of four highly-touted tight ends change Stanford’s offensive approach?

MP: If there’s any team in college football that knows how to effectively use four different tight ends, it’s Stanford. We should see Austin Hooper and Dalton Schultz split out wide more often, allowing Greg Taboada and Eric Cotton to join the tight-end party on the field lined up adjacent to the offensive line. Stanford certainly isn’t lacking for red-zone weapons this year and will have no excuse if poor play persists in the red zone.

DHP: I think each of them will have his own tightly-defined role. I don’t think Cotton will get as involved in the passing game, while Taboada will continue to see time in the red zone on fades and jump balls. I honestly have no idea how big of a role Schultz will have before fall practices start, so it’ll be really interesting for me to see if and how they work him into the offense. As for Hooper, well, I’ve made no secret of the fact that I think he’ll be one of the most effective players in the country this year. He’s effectively a second Devon Cajuste out there and eerily reminiscent of Zach Ertz, playing as a big possession receiver most of the time while also retaining lethal effectiveness in medium-to-deep passes up the seam. I don’t think the offense will be all too different from the end of last year, and that’s great, because that’s where Stanford is at its best.

VL: Stanford has been notorious in past seasons for putting out more formations than just about any team in the country, and having four play-making tight ends has to make the mad-scientist side of David Shaw a little giddy. We’ll see a lot of two- and three-tight end sets and maybe even all four on the field at once to throw defenses a look no one else in the Pac-12 can hope to replicate. I like Do’s point that Cotton, Hooper, Taboada and Schultz should each have well-defined roles, similar to what the Cardinal had with the Tree Amigos: Fleener was the burner on the outside, Ertz was the route-runner and Toilolo was the best blocker and jump-ball specialist. At this point, it’s a little too early to say where each of the current four will fit, but the possibilities certainly look appetizing.


 

Seniors Graham Shuler (52), Kyle Murphy (78) and Josh Garnett (51) were, along with Peat, part of the ultra-touted 2012 recruiting class, which gave Stanford its most talented offensive line haul in history. However, the line struggled to live up to otherworldly expectations in 2014, as the unit had trouble with penalties and inexperience. Can the line rebound in 2015? (DAVID BERNAL/isiphotos.com)

Seniors Graham Shuler (52), Kyle Murphy (78) and Josh Garnett (51) were, along with Peat, part of the ultra-touted 2012 recruiting class, which gave Stanford its most talented offensive line haul in history. However, the line struggled to live up to otherworldly expectations in 2014, as the unit had trouble with penalties and inexperience. Can the line rebound in 2015? (DAVID BERNAL/isiphotos.com)

Can the offensive line return to the traditional dominance of old?

MP: The 2014 offensive line faced unrealistic expectations for essentially a group full of first-year starters due to the number of stars attached to its 2012 recruiting rankings. This time around, the unit appears to be in much better shape, with last year’s experience and three impeccable performances at the end of 2014 under its belt. Putting last year’s expectations on this group might result in more disappointment, but the offensive line should clearly improve and at least approach the success of past units, if not quite exceed that success as once expected.

DHP: Can it? Absolutely. On paper, this is one of the best offensive lines in the country. But as we saw last year, that doesn’t really mean much because the game isn’t played on paper. So will it return to traditional dominance? Unlike last year, I can’t see why not. If nothing changes from the end of last season and the line plays like it did against Cal, UCLA and Maryland, there aren’t many better units in the country. All it needs to do is keep up that form and stop committing stupid penalties (and given the significant experience the linemen have now, I think they should make significant strides in that area) and it should be fine.

VL: I don’t know about “return to the traditional dominance of old” because that’s a bar set awfully high, but I do expect 2015 edition of the Tunnel Workers’ Union to be among the best offensive lines in the conference and perhaps even the entire country. With the exception of Peat, all of the starters from last year’s unit are returning and we can’t understate how valuable that cohesion can be with the struggles we saw the young line face at the beginning of last season. The left side featuring Murphy and Josh Garnett will be something special, and I expect Stanford to routinely run the ball in that direction. I also expect the jumbo package to live on in all of its glory and Brandon Fanaika, a 6-foot-3, 321-pound sophomore, might become a household name when it comes to picking up those tough yards. Ultimately, Stanford’s O-line will be good in 2015, but there’s no need to keep comparing it to its predecessors.


 

Sophomore Isaiah Brandt-Sims has made more of a reputation for himself on the track than on the gridiron, but has the raw talent and potential to be an explosive player if he is worked into the offense. Five-star wideout recruit Trent Irwin could also see action as a true freshman and start to make his mark on the Cardinal offense early in his career. (DAVID BERNAL/isiphotos.com)

Sophomore Isaiah Brandt-Sims (above) has made more of a reputation for himself on the track than on the gridiron, but has the raw talent and potential to be an explosive player if he is worked into the offense. Five-star wideout recruit Trent Irwin could also see action as a true freshman and start to make his mark on the Cardinal offense early in his career. (DAVID BERNAL/isiphotos.com)

Most likely newcomer to make an impact?

MP: A true freshman earning a consistent role on offense at Stanford is a rarity, despite McCaffrey’s showing last season, so while five-star receiver Trent Irwin brings great talent to the Farm, I don’t expect him to play a significant role in 2015. Former top tight-end recruit Dalton Schultz, ready for play after redshirting in 2014, should earn plenty of playing time, though. Even in the midst of three other talented tight ends, all signs point to Schultz being another star in the Cardinal’s long line of successful tight ends.

DHP: I’m going to go with the high-risk, high-reward pick in Isaiah Brandt-Sims. It’s easy to overlook him because of how deep Stanford’s receiving corps is, but I’m still shocked that nobody has been talking about the guy that’s been smashing Stanford sprinting records left and right. If used properly, he could be one of the most electric home-run threats on Stanford’s offense, and I’m really excited to see if and how he plays his role on the 2015 Cardinal. In terms of newcomers, I think he’s got the biggest impact potential. Schultz is a good pick, but I think his touches will be hard to come by with Austin Hooper set to become one of the top tight end producers in the nation. As a footnote, remember that Daniel Marx and Chris Harrell are the only listed fullbacks on the roster, meaning that I’d give incoming freshmen Reagan Williams and Houston Heimuli pretty good shots at seeing meaningful action as well.

VL: In the last decade, an average of four receivers per year have earned a five-star rating on 247Sports. Out of those receivers, a little over a quarter of them have gone on to make the NFL. Trent Irwin, labeled a five-star recruit by some experts, is obviously far from a lock to make it to the NFL or even guaranteed to play in his true freshman season, but the fact is that five-star receivers don’t grow on trees and Irwin’s talent is undeniable. With the loss of leading receiver Montgomery as well as sure-handed contributors in Jeff Trojan and Jordan Pratt, Stanford might be starving for an additional playmaker who can stretch the field and make plays down the stretch. At Pac-12 Media Day, Shaw even said that Irwin is the most likely freshman to see the field this season — and training camp hasn’t even started. It’s very possible that we won’t get a look at the jewel of the 2015 class until next season, but there’s definitely a chance he can make an impact this year.


 

Many pointed fingers at Stanford's offensive line for the Cardinal's offensive inconsistency last season. With four of five starters returning, though, the group may be poised to turn the corner and again become the unit known around the nation for its physical dominance of its opponents. (ROBIN ALAM/isiphotos.com)

Many pointed fingers at Stanford’s offensive line for the Cardinal’s offensive inconsistency last season. With four of five starters returning, though, the group may be poised to turn the corner and again become the unit known around the nation for its physical dominance of its opponents. (ROBIN ALAM/isiphotos.com)

Player most critical to the offense’s success?

MP: The biggest difference in Stanford’s play over 2014’s final three games, in my opinion, was the performance of the offensive line. Stanford needs a similar high-level of play this year, and that all starts with left tackle Kyle Murphy. Murphy not only protects Hogan’s blind side but also paves the way for the running game, as the Cardinal will again look to run behind the left side because of Murphy, Josh Garnett and Graham Shuler. Succeed in that, and Stanford’s offense clicks just like in the conclusion of 2014.

DHP: I couldn’t agree more with Michael on this one. We saw last year just how critical the success of the offensive line is to Stanford’s offense. That will dictate how effectively the running backs are able to operate out of the backfield and how much time Hogan will have to set his feet and find his playmakers in space. I think the most important in there will be Josh Garnett. The guards play such an important position in Stanford’s offense due to the importance of the pulling offensive lineman in Stanford’s bread-and-butter power run, and Garnett in particular had major struggles with penalties last season, meaning that improvement in his discipline will make a huge difference in Stanford’s affinity for drawing the laundry this year.

VL: I’m going to go with senior wide receiver Michael Rector. After bursting on the scene in his redshirt freshman season with an insane 30.8 yards per catch, the explosive receiver started out a little slower in 2014 before — as with the rest of the offense — rebounding with a huge month of November, recording 11 catches for 120 yards. If Rector can continue to establish himself as one of the top receiving threats in the conference, Stanford will have another major weapon to turn to if teams start to lock in on the running game or direct more of their attention towards Devon Cajuste. This season could be a breakout one for Rector, one that could elevate this offense significantly.

Contact Michael Peterson at mrpeters ‘at’ stanford.edu, Do-Hyoung Park at dhpark ‘at’ stanford.edu and Vihan Lakshman at vihan ‘at’ stanford.edu.

]]>
http://www.stanforddaily.com/2015/08/05/stanford-football-preview-offense-roundtable/feed/ 12 Kevin Hogan Fifth-year senior quarterback Kevin Hogan (above) has led the Cardinal to two Rose Bowls, two Pac-12 titles and three straight eight-plus win seasons. However, Stanford fans have never been fully sold on Hogan's ability to take the Cardinal to the next level. Can he break that stigma in his final year at the helm? (DON FERIA/isiphotos.com) Andrus Peat By being selected with the 13th overall pick by the New Orleans Saints, Andrus Peat '16 (left) was the Cardinal's first top-20 selection in the NFL Draft since Andrew Luck. Even with Peat anchoring the left side of the line, though, the Tunnel Workers' Union suffered from arguably one of its worst seasons in the Harbaugh-Shaw era. (DAVID BERNAL/isiphotos.com) Christian McCaffrey Stanford fans were upset that sophomore Christian McCaffrey (right), who quickly emerged as one of the most dynamic playmakers on Stanford's offense, wasn't given more opportunities to make plays by head coach David Shaw. With Shaw having gone on record to say that the offense will run through McCaffrey in 2015, the hype for the young running back is off the charts. (DAVID BERNAL/isiphotos.com) Austin Hooper Junior tight end Austin Hooper (top) gave a refreshing rejuvenation to Stanford's tight end position after a combination of Davis Dudchock, Charlie Hopkins, Luke Kaumatule and Eddie Plantaric gave Stanford essentially no production from the position in 2013. Hooper now spearheads an electric position group that's poised to be among Stanford's most talented ever. (DAVID BERNAL/isiphotos.com) Kyle Murphy, Devon Cajuste, Joshua Garnett Seniors Graham Shuler (52), Kyle Murphy (78) and Josh Garnett (51) were, along with Peat, part of the ultra-touted 2012 recruiting class, which gave Stanford its most talented offensive line haul in history. However, the line struggled to live up to otherworldly expectations in 2014, as the unit had trouble with penalties and inexperience. Can the line rebound in 2015? (DAVID BERNAL/isiphotos.com) Isaiah Brandt-Sims Sophomore Isaiah Brandt-Sims has made more of a reputation for himself on the track than on the gridiron, but has the raw talent and potential to be an explosive player if he is worked into the offense. Five-star wideout recruit Trent Irwin could also see action as a true freshman and start to make his mark on the Cardinal offense early in his career. (DAVID BERNAL/isiphotos.com) Graham Shuler Many pointed fingers at Stanford's offensive line for the Cardinal's offensive inconsistency last season. With four of five starters returning, though, the group may be poised to turn the corner and again become the unit known around the nation for its physical dominance of its opponents. (ROBIN ALAM/isiphotos.com)
Football podcast: 2015 offense preview http://www.stanforddaily.com/2015/08/05/football-podcast-2015-offense-preview/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=football-podcast-2015-offense-preview http://www.stanforddaily.com/2015/08/05/football-podcast-2015-offense-preview/#comments Wed, 05 Aug 2015 12:57:42 +0000 http://www.stanforddaily.com/?p=1102640 Can Kevin Hogan play like he did at the end of 2014? Can the offensive line regain its dominance? Who is most critical for the offense’s success?

With football season exactly one month away from today, Daily football writers Michael Peterson, Do-Hyoung Park and Vihan Lakshman answer these questions and more as they offer their insights on this year’s Cardinal’s offense in the latest installment of the Stanford Football Insider Show.

]]>
http://www.stanforddaily.com/2015/08/05/football-podcast-2015-offense-preview/feed/ 2
Photos: Bank of the West Classic http://www.stanforddaily.com/2015/08/04/bank-of-the-west-classic/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=bank-of-the-west-classic http://www.stanforddaily.com/2015/08/04/bank-of-the-west-classic/#comments Tue, 04 Aug 2015 07:57:08 +0000 http://www.stanforddaily.com/?p=1102618 All photos by SAM GIRVIN/The Stanford Daily.

]]>
http://www.stanforddaily.com/2015/08/04/bank-of-the-west-classic/feed/ 0 bankofthewest-24.jpg by Sam Girvin bankofthewest-23.jpg by Sam Girvin bankofthewest-25.jpg by Sam Girvin bankofthewest-14.jpg by Sam Girvin bankofthewest-22.jpg by Sam Girvin bankofthewest-18.jpg by Sam Girvin bankofthewest-15.jpg by Sam Girvin bankofthewest-16.jpg by Sam Girvin bankofthewest-4.jpg by Sam Girvin bankofthewest-20.jpg by Sam Girvin bankofthewest-19.jpg by Sam Girvin bankofthewest-12.jpg by Sam Girvin bankofthewest-5.jpg by Sam Girvin bankofthewest-6.jpg by Sam Girvin bankofthewest-9.jpg by Sam Girvin bankofthewest-17.jpg by Sam Girvin bankofthewest-10.jpg by Sam Girvin bankofthewest-3.jpg by Sam Girvin bankofthewest-11.jpg by Sam Girvin bankofthewest-21.jpg by Sam Girvin bankofthewest-2.jpg by Sam Girvin bankofthewest-7.jpg by Sam Girvin bankofthewest-1.jpg by Sam Girvin bankofthewest-8.jpg by Sam Girvin bankofthewest-13.jpg by Sam Girvin
Nicole Gibbs upsets Caroline Garcia to advance in Bank of the West Classic http://www.stanforddaily.com/2015/08/03/nicole-gibbs-upsets-caroline-garcia-to-advance-in-bank-of-the-west-classic/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=nicole-gibbs-upsets-caroline-garcia-to-advance-in-bank-of-the-west-classic http://www.stanforddaily.com/2015/08/03/nicole-gibbs-upsets-caroline-garcia-to-advance-in-bank-of-the-west-classic/#comments Mon, 03 Aug 2015 23:19:52 +0000 http://www.stanforddaily.com/?p=1102616 For Nicole Gibbs, a victory on the courts of Taube Family Tennis Stadium was nothing out of the ordinary.

Aided by cheers from her strong fan base, the former Stanford Cardinal defeated No. 30-ranked Caroline Garcia of France by a score of 6-4, 7-5 in the first round of the Bank of the West Classic.

Nicole Gibbs ’14 defeated Caroline Garcia by a score of 6-4, 7-5 to advance to the second round in the Bank of the West Classic. After securing a spot via the qualifying draw, the two-time NCAA singles champion won her third straight match of the tournament. (SAM GIRVIN/The Stanford Daily)

A two-time NCAA singles champion, Gibbs is no stranger to having the crowd at Taube on her side. She posted a career 111-15 record from 2010-13 as a member of the Cardinal, highlighted by her historic year in 2012, in which she became the third player in NCAA history to capture the singles and doubles titles in the same year.

Gibbs got off to a very fast start, breaking Garcia twice en route to a 3-0 lead in the first set. She held off a small resurgence to confidently capture the first set.

The second set provided a little more intrigue. Garcia came out with much more intensity, establishing control early on and making Gibbs work for her points. The turning point in the second set came when Garcia, up 5-3, was unable to shut the door and capture the set. Punctuated by a series of magnificent returns, Gibbs stormed back to bring herself within one game and drew roars from the crowd.

While the breaks may have been more memorable, Gibbs’ victory was more a result of fundamental consistency. She got the job done when she needed to, converting 78 percent of her first service points in comparison to Garcia’s 61 percent. She frequently jumped ahead 30-0 and 40-0 and was ultimately too much for Garcia to overcome.

“I was generally just trying to care of my service games,” Gibbs said after the match. “For the most part, I think that’s the reason why I won the match today.”

The win is the latest episode in what has been a fantastic showing for Gibbs. She previously defeated fellow Cardinal Taylor Davidson 6-0, 6-2, and Anna Tatishvili 2-6, 6-3, 7-5 in order to secure a spot in the main draw.

“This is an unbelievable feeling, to come here and win three in a row,” Gibbs said after delivering a heartfelt thank you to the home crowd.

From here, Gibbs will play the winner of the all-Ukraine matchup between No. 20 Elina Svitolina and Kateryna Bondarenko for a chance to advance to the quarterfinals.

For more photos from the Bank of the West Classic, please check the photo gallery.

Contact Sandip Srinivas at sandips ‘at’ stanford.edu.

]]>
http://www.stanforddaily.com/2015/08/03/nicole-gibbs-upsets-caroline-garcia-to-advance-in-bank-of-the-west-classic/feed/ 0 Bank of the West Classic, Nicole Gibbs d. Caroline Garcia (6-4, 7-5). Pictured: Nicole Gibbs
Josh Huestis signs rookie contract with Oklahoma City Thunder http://www.stanforddaily.com/2015/08/01/josh-huestis-signs-rookie-contract-with-oklahoma-city-thunder/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=josh-huestis-signs-rookie-contract-with-oklahoma-city-thunder http://www.stanforddaily.com/2015/08/01/josh-huestis-signs-rookie-contract-with-oklahoma-city-thunder/#comments Sun, 02 Aug 2015 06:11:01 +0000 http://www.stanforddaily.com/?p=1102607 After being selected 29th overall in the 2014 NBA Draft and subsequently spending a year in the NBA D-League, former Stanford forward Josh Huestis has signed a four-year, rookie-scale contract with the Oklahoma City Thunder.

Stanford basketball fans remember Huestis as one of the stars on the Sweet Sixteen team of 2013-14, along with fellow NBA player Dwight Powell. Huestis was one of the strongest defenders in the Pac-12, earning Pac-12 Defensive Team honors twice and leaving Stanford as the all-time leading shot blocker in school history.

(JIM SHORIN/stanfordphoto.com)

Former Stanford forward Josh Huestis had signed a four-year, rookie-scale contract with the Oklahoma City Thunder. The all-time leading shot blocker in school history spent a year with the Tulsa 66ers in the D-League before signing his contract. (JIM SHORIN/stanfordphoto.com)

Huestis made headlines last year for being the NBA’s first occurrence of a domestic “draft-and-stash” player. He was drafted by the Thunder with the intention to not actually sign him to a rookie contract, but instead to have him.spend a year developing as a member of the team’s D-League affiliate, the Tulsa 66ers. It was a money-saving move for the Thunder that also allowed them to save an extra roster spot that they otherwise would have had to open up for their first-round pick.

At first, the move drew plenty of backlash from the NBA community, as it was viewed as a somewhat slimy tactic by the likes of Oklahoma City’s front office. Many were surprised when the NBA players’ union said that they supported the signing as an example of a player leveraging his position to become a first-round pick.

Evidently, despite the controversy, the move worked out for the former Cardinal standout. Huestis now has a four-year contract (with the first two years guaranteed) at a pay scale marginally higher than the one he would have received had he signed last year ($950,200 vs. $918,000). He joins a Thunder lineup with a surplus of big men and a first-year head coach looking to shake things up, Billy Donovan.

Huestis’ D-League numbers were modest: 10.3 points and 5.7 rebounds per game with a 37.2 percent clip from the field. His defense has always been one of his strong suits, but his keys to some playing time for the Thunder will be further developing his shot and finding his place in an NBA lineup.

Contact Sandip Srinivas at sandips ‘at’ stanford.edu.

]]>
http://www.stanforddaily.com/2015/08/01/josh-huestis-signs-rookie-contract-with-oklahoma-city-thunder/feed/ 0 Josh Huestis (JIM SHORIN/stanfordphoto.com)
Stanford shares high expectations for 2015 at Media Day http://www.stanforddaily.com/2015/07/30/stanford-shares-high-expectations-for-2015-at-media-day/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=stanford-shares-high-expectations-for-2015-at-media-day http://www.stanforddaily.com/2015/07/30/stanford-shares-high-expectations-for-2015-at-media-day/#comments Fri, 31 Jul 2015 01:40:19 +0000 http://www.stanforddaily.com/?p=1102586 Hours after receiving a No. 21 ranking in the preseason Coaches’ Poll and as Pac-12 teams gathered in Hollywood for Media Day, the Cardinal expressed optimism about their explosive offense, up-and-coming defense and the goals they aim to accomplish in 2015.

Represented by head coach David Shaw, senior offensive tackle Kyle Murphy and senior linebacker Blake Martinez, the Cardinal discussed their desire to build upon the momentum they gathered in their final three games of the 2014 season — victories over Cal, then-No. 9 UCLA and Maryland.

“You look at the way we finished the end of the year, we played as well as any team in college football,” Shaw said. “Kevin [Hogan] played as well as any quarterback in college football at the end of the year; he was outstanding. He still didn’t throw the ball 30 times in any of those games, but what he was was efficient. He made great plays with his arms and his legs, he controlled the game, he operated in the pocket unbelievably.”

Shaw seemed noticeably excited about the offense, which returns eight starters, and about Hogan in particular.

“Since he’s come back, he’s calmer, relaxed, confident,” Shaw said. “You feel that fifth-year senior, fourth-year starter presence in the huddle. He doesn’t let little things get to him. He’s been a positive force for all of our young guys. it’s been awesome to have him back.”

The Cardinal enter 2015 with a more established identity on offense, in large part due to electric sophomore running back Christian McCaffrey. McCaffrey’s presence will allow Stanford to return to having balance in both the running and passing games while also being versatile and explosive.

Shaw also quickly put to rest notions of another running back-by-committee approach and declared McCaffrey as Stanford’s lead back.

“He’s put on weight, he’s stronger now, he’s more physical now, he can pass protect, he can run the ball between the tackles, we feel more comfortable about him being a complete back,” Shaw said about McCaffrey.

“I’m not going to talk about being a ‘by-committee’ group because I do think that Christian McCaffrey has some stuff that he does that other guys in college football can’t do,” Shaw added. “You can work all you want, but he’s just got it. Whatever it is, he’s got it.”

Though McCaffrey exploded on the scene as a freshman with 9.3 yards per touch, by all accounts, he has significantly improved over the offseason.

“Just sitting down and talking to him and watching him this offseason in particular, there’s no one on this team who works harder than him and there’s no one who cares about being great like he does,” Murphy said. “With all that combined, there’s no doubt that he’s going to have a great year this year and a great career.”

Additionally, senior wide receiver Devon Cajuste is expected to return to full health from a high-ankle injury during fall camp, giving the offense its No. 1 receiver back. Joining him on the field may be freshman wide receiver Trent Irwin, who Shaw said is currently the most ready of the true freshmen to play this season.

Adding to the Cardinal’s playmakers, Stanford has four tight ends “who are all going to be playing this game for money down the road,” according to Shaw.

In addition, Shaw shared his excitement over the improving offensive line as well as the development of senior running back Barry Sanders, who was “the best pass protector [Stanford] had” at the running back position in the spring.

Shaw named execution and efficiency as the keys for the Cardinal offense to avoid repeating the subpar performances they faced at the beginning of last season.

Of course, the major questions for the Cardinal entering 2015 revolve around the departure of nine starters from last season’s defense. The outlook became even more bleak when Shaw announced that senior linebacker Noor Davis, one of the more experienced returners, would be out until midseason with a lower leg injury. However, Shaw is not worried about this version of the defense any more than in previous seasons.

“For me, college football is a progression, but it’s a progression that happens every single year,” he said. “I remind guys I’ve answered so many times about replacing Toby Gerhart and Andrew Luck and Shayne Skov and Trent Murphy but what we do on the front end is we recruit like crazy, we recruit depth. We put a lot of pressure on these guys to play on a high level, which we believe they have the ability to do.”

A large part of Shaw’s confidence comes from having Martinez at the heart of the defense. Martinez, Stanford’s leading tackler in 2014 and an All-Pac-12 honorable mention, might be poised for an even-bigger breakout season.

“By midseason, everyone’s going to know about Blake Martinez,” Shaw said. “By midseason, you’re going to see that Blake Martinez is as good as anybody playing college football. He’s as good as any linebacker.”

While the rest of the defense has considerable talent to replace, Martinez is confident that his teammates can step into bigger roles.

“These guys coming in are going to shock the world,” he said. “After a couple games, people are going to be like ‘Wow, where did these guys come from?’ We have D-linemen that no one’s seen before: Solomon Thomas, Brennan Scarlett, Harrison Phillips — he’s gained over 20 pounds this offseason. We have secondary guys that are young and haven’t played yet but seeing them out there against our No. 1 offense and making plays has been incredible.”

The defense will be boosted by the return of senior Aziz Shittu, who is now “completely healthy” according to Shaw, and the addition of Cal graduate transfer Scarlett, who, after tearing his ACL last season, should return to full health sometime during fall camp.

With a young secondary that lost both starting corners, both starting safeties and the starting nickelback, Martinez expressed the importance of having fifth-year senior cornerback Ronnie Harris help the young unit out.

“[Harris] is going to step in and hype us up when we need it,” Martinez said. “I know all the young secondary guys look at him for film work or for extra things on the field…They look at him and say, ‘What can I do next to get better?’”

Stanford’s defense won’t have much time to come together before it needs to be playing at its best. Just three weeks into the season, the Cardinal face possibly their stiffest test — a road date with No. 10 USC, the media’s selection to win the Pac-12.

While Stanford still finished with eight first-place votes in the Pac-12 North and one vote to win the conference, the emphasis at the Pac-12 Media Day was clearly on the conference’s improved depth and the crowd of teams now contending for the conference title.

“Everyone will be better,” Shaw stated. “If you play your ‘B’ game against anyone in our conference, there’s a good chance you’re going to lose.”

Four years ago in 2011, the Pac-12 placed just two teams, Oregon and Stanford, in the preseason Coaches’ Poll. In 2015, six Pac-12 teams made the poll, with Arizona State, Arizona, UCLA and USC joining Oregon and Stanford.

Pac-12 Commissioner Larry Scott believes the nation is beginning to respect the conference and see it as the best in the country.

“When you look at Marcus [Mariota] being the Heisman Trophy winner, when you look at our 15 AP All-Americans, more than any other conference,” Scott said, “many are seeing us as the best. Many are seeing the Pac-12 South as the best division in all of college football.

“I definitely see us making a lot of progress and there being a greater respect shown nationally to the Pac-12.”

Part of that respect comes from the grueling schedules Pac-12 teams face. Not only do the schools play nine conference games each, as opposed to the eight played by the SEC, ACC and Big Ten, but the Pac-12’s nonconference schedules are some of the most difficult in the nation. Michigan State, Michigan, Texas and Texas A&M are just a few of the Power 5 opponents lined up for the Pac-12 this year.

To top it off, after nine conference games, the Pac-12 division winners must play in the conference championship game, unlike the Big 12, which does play nine conference games but does not have a conference championship game.

“This is why I have confidence standing up in the front of the room like this saying no one has a tougher schedule and the Pac-12 champion has the toughest road,” Scott added.

During the course of last season, eight different Pac-12 teams were ranked in the top 25 of the AP Poll at some point. While the conference has always seemed to have an elite program at the top — USC in the early-to-mid 2000s, Oregon since the late 2000s and Stanford since 2010 — the increased depth is relatively new.

“Five years ago, we didn’t have the same depth but we weren’t even close to getting the recognition or respect,” Scott said. “[Now] I’m really proud of the depth that we’ve got. To me that’s been the defining characteristic of our conference the last few years and it’s the mark of an elite conference.”

Despite the conference’s improvement, Shaw remains confident in Stanford’s chances at competing for the title.

“When we’re efficient in the red zone, when we’re efficient on third down and our quarterback’s efficient and we run the ball efficiently, we can beat anybody in the nation,” he said.

Fall camp begins on August 10 for the Cardinal, with the season opener looming not far off in the distance on September 5 in Evanston, Illinois against Northwestern.

Contact Michael Peterson at mrpeters ‘at’ stanford.edu.

 

]]>
http://www.stanforddaily.com/2015/07/30/stanford-shares-high-expectations-for-2015-at-media-day/feed/ 0