By Joseph Beyda
In 2012, junior safety Ed Reynolds came just a yard shy of tying two FBS records: interception return yards (302) and pick-sixes (four) in a season. He would have matched both had he not been ruled down at the 1-yard line in Stanford’s Pac-12 Championship Game win against UCLA. With Reynolds’ near-miss in mind, we asked Daily football beat writers Joseph Beyda, George Chen and Sam Fisher: Which Stanford player is most likely to break an NCAA record in 2013?
Joseph Beyda: I’m the football editor, so I get the easy pick on this one. I’m going with Reynolds — not for either of the single-season interception records he just missed last year, but for the FBS career mark of five pick-sixes.
We all know what Reynolds can do at free safety. Reading the quarterback’s eyes, he steps in front of passes as well as anyone playing college football — and he has the speed to take him to the house after picking one off. ESPN analyst Rod Gilmore, albeit a Stanford alum, ranked the rising senior the top safety in the country heading into 2013.
There’s one thing that could limit Reynolds’ big plays in 2013, and it’s not entirely in his control. Though Stanford’s intimidating front seven will force opponents to throw, chances are that teams will shy away from Reynolds and junior strong safety Jordan Richards, known as a big hitter and an athletic playmaker in his own right. And since the team that scored the most points against the Cardinal defense in 2012, Arizona, made its living on underneath passes, I wouldn’t expect many opportunities for Reynolds to pick off a deep throw if opposing offenses do their homework.
On the other hand, two of Reynolds’ six interceptions in 2012 came within 12 yards of the line of scrimmage. Even with the shorter head start, Reynolds scored on both of those picks. If the safety can spring two more in 2013, he’ll tie the FBS career record of five pick-sixes; if he can notch three, he’ll match the Division I mark of six.
Sam Fisher: Why did Joey have to take Ed Reynolds? Not only does Reynolds have a very good chance of breaking the career interception return for touchdowns record, he also has an opportunity to break the career interception return yardage record (501 in FBS, 682 in Division I) in just his second season of action.
I spent a long time looking for another breakable record for a Stanford football player, but barring something truly extraordinary, I just don’t see any of those records falling to a member of the Cardinal this year. So though it is extremely unlikely, I’m going to say that the best chance of breaking an NCAA record — outside of Ed Reynolds — belongs to senior kicker Jordan Williamson with the record for longest field goal made.
Three players share the current record at 67 yards, with all three occurring between 1977 and 1978 — were they using corked balls or something? This record will probably stand for a very long time, but it is not unbreakable for Williamson. Reports out of practice say that Williamson has the leg to hit a kick of that length, though the odds of head coach David Shaw giving him the chance are slim to none.
So here’s the scenario. Stanford and Oregon are tied at 14 with 10 seconds left. After a key sack on third down by fifth-year senior inside linebacker Shayne Skov, Stanford calls timeout to set up a potential punt return for a touchdown. The punt is too high to be returnable, so Ty Montgomery calls for a fair catch to avoid being hit at the Stanford 39-yard line with 1 second left. Shaw is about to call a Hail Mary, but Williamson comes up to him and says, “Coach, I got this,” jogs out onto the field, and drills the 68-yarder for the win, the NCAA record and Stanford immortality.
George Chen: Joey Beyda, always taking the easy way out. Ed Reynolds definitely has a legitimate shot at breaking both the career interception return for touchdowns and career interception return yardage records, though I’d say there’s a slightly better chance that he takes down the yardage record. You never know when officials will decide to take away a touchdown, even when instant replay gives crystal-clear evidence.
The chances of a Cardinal player other than Reynolds breaking an NCAA record this year are slim to none, but if I had to choose, it would also be Jordan Williamson. However, the record that he breaks will be most points scored by a kicker in a season. That mark — 149 points — is currently held by Oklahoma State’s Dan Bailey, who accomplished the feat quite recently in 2010. Breaking the record in a 13-game season (12 regular season games plus bowl game) is very unlikely, but if Stanford reached the Pac-12 Championship Game — ensuring a 14-game season for the Cardinal — Williamson would need to average a little over three field goals and an extra point per game. That’s certainly plausible.
Last season, Williamson attempted 27 field goals — none of which were out of his impressive range — and 46 extra points. Had he made all of those, he would have scored 127 points. Given how many weapons Stanford has lost on offense, I think Williamson will be attempting more field goals, especially early in the season. Head coach David Shaw has always trusted his kicker, even for 50-yarders, so there’s no reason to think that Williamson won’t be getting even more opportunities now that he has put the haunting memories of the Fiesta Bowl behind for good.
And who knows? Maybe Williamson ends up scoring 150 points and also nails a 69-yard game-winning field goal against Alabama in the BCS National Championship Game. A national title and two NCAA records all in one kick. Even Shaw wouldn’t be able to maintain his composure.
George Chen and Sam Fisher have ensured that Joseph Beyda will pick third next week. To help them plot their revenge, email them at gchen15 “at” stanford.edu and safisher “at” stanford.edu. Oh, yeah, you can get in touch with Joseph at jbeyda “at” stanford.edu as well.