It’s Black Friday, which means The Daily’s football writers are out shopping for the perfect Stanford football team. We asked our great eight what they thought the Cardinal needed the most this holiday season.
Winston Shi: Depth, and thus certainty for the immediate future, would be great for the Cardinal. Stanford still has a number of key playmakers recruited by Jim Harbaugh, but after four recruiting classes the program will be almost entirely powered by athletes brought to the Farm by David Shaw. Stanford is losing a lot of players after this year, especially on defense, and it’s going to have to reload with style.
Sam Fisher: The one thing left for this team to show consistently is poise on the road. As confident as I am in Stanford to win at Stanford Stadium, I am equally nervous every time I step in a radio booth outside of Northern California. In all likelihood, Stanford will get the opportunity to secure its most important road victory of the year next Saturday in Tempe. Poise will be the key in such a hostile environment against a good team — but a team the Cardinal has already shown the ability to beat.
George Chen: I tried to be original, but I completely agree with Sam. With the exception of the Washington State game, Stanford has yet to look like a top-10 team on the road. I will be very, very, very nervous if Stanford has to play in Tempe. I would now like to lead a prayer concerning the outcome of Saturday’s Arizona-Arizona State game…
Do-Hyoung Park: Amen, Father George. Adding to Sam’s and George’s sentiments, I want to say that I think that the Cardinal needs some luck in a matter that is out of its hands — the Arizona-Arizona State game. Since Stanford hasn’t yet beaten a Pac-12 South team on the road this year (and I don’t want the Pac-12 Championship to test that even further) I think that Stanford needs to pull for another Arizona upset to give itself the upper hand in the conference title game.
David Cohn: For Stanford this holiday season, I am still looking to buy some more national respect for the Cardinal, particularly when it comes to bowl selection. Despite Stanford’s consecutive BCS bowl appearances with fabulous fan attendance, there were projections prior to Oregon’s loss that the Orange Bowl could have chosen a decent two-loss Wisconsin squad from a terrible “AQ” conference instead of a two-loss Cardinal team that played one of the most difficult schedules in the country and notched some outstanding wins in the process. This scenario is obviously irrelevant now, as Stanford’s BCS hopes will solely depend on its performance in the Pac-12 Championship Game; however, I still worry that if Stanford loses to ASU, the Cardinal may significantly fall in the Pac-12 pecking order, behind larger schools like Oregon, USC, UCLA and the like.
Vihan Lakshman: I’d like to see the Cardinal buy some pocket presence for quarterback Kevin Hogan. Against Cal, Hogan showed that he can make any throw in the book given enough time and open receivers, but he has struggled for long stretches this season when he’s either faced a strong pass rush or forced to fit the ball into tight windows. Given the fact that Stanford’s young receiving corps will most likely be even better next year, Hogan’s development as a passer could really take this team to unprecedented heights.
Michael Peterson: I’d love to see the Cardinal call more plays for, and seek more production out of, its tight ends. Since Zach Ertz and Levine Toilolo departed for the NFL, Stanford has yet to establish the tight end as a true offensive weapon in the passing game. The Cardinal needs to trust Charlie Hopkins, Davis Dudchock and the other tight ends on its roster and call more plays designed to involve the tight end. A playmaking tight end would not only open up the field for Ty Montgomery on the outside but would help toward converting on third-and-5 or third-and-6 situations when the Cardinal needs a go-to option for short throws over the middle of the field.
Joseph Beyda: Michael hit the nail right on the head. Coming into this season, optimists such as myself figured that the Stanford playmakers who had been waiting in the wings would be able to mostly replace Stepfan Taylor at running back and Ertz at tight end; it’s clear that the Cardinal has only gone .500 in that respect. Even though Stanford’s offensive staff has adjusted its playcalling to account for the shifting balance in talent toward its wide receivers, in the process, the Cardinal has lost a lot of versatility that would have come in handy in each of its close losses.