By Joseph Beyda
Stanford senior free safety Ed Reynolds and senior right tackle Cam Fleming announced on Tuesday that they would forego their fifth years of eligibility and enter the NFL Draft. Some analysts project Reynolds to be as high as a second-round pick, while Fleming will probably be a mid- to late-round selection.
“I would [like] to thank the Stanford football family for putting me in this position and preparing me for the next level,” Reynolds said in a statement. “A very special thanks to our coaching staff, support staff and my teammates for making the memories of these past four years last a lifetime … A better script could not have been written for my experience at Stanford as a student-athlete.”
Reynolds earned first-team All-Pac-12 and CBSSports.com first-team All-America honors this year, and he will return to school this spring and in the offseason to finish his Political Science degree.
After sitting out the 2011 season with an ACL/MCL tear, the Stoneville, N.C., native burst onto the scene in 2012, intercepting six passes and leading the country in pick-sixes (three) and interception return yards (301). Had he not been marked down at the 1-yard line on his final interception return of the season yet not overturned — a ruling that was seemingly contradicted by instant replay — Reynolds would have tied FBS records in both categories.
Reynolds’ 2013 season was certainly less impressive from a statistical standpoint, as his only interception came in the first game of the season against San Jose State. In large part, however, that downturn was a result of the respect he commanded from opposing teams, as the All-American was rarely targeted with downfield passes in 2013. Despite that fact, Reynolds finished third on the team with 87 tackles.
Though Reynolds’ departure was expected, it leaves the Cardinal with serious questions to answer at the free safety position. His primary backup, classmate Devon Carrington, is out of eligibility and will not return in 2014, while former free safety Drew Madhu was forced to retire before last season for medical reasons. Stanford is so thin at safety that sophomore quarterback Dallas Lloyd joined the position group during the team’s Rose Bowl practices.
Fleming’s departure will also hit the Cardinal hard. A second-team All-Pac-12 selection this season and a two-time All-Pac-12 honorable mention recipient, Fleming played in 39 games for the Cardinal — all starts — in the last three seasons after redshirting his freshman year, as he quietly became one of the cornerstones of a formidable Stanford offensive line.
Fleming, along with center Sam Schwartzstein ’12 and senior guard David Yankey, burst onto Stanford’s offensive line scene in 2011 as part of a younger corps that maintained the lofty standards of the departed 2010 graduating class of linemen. He started 11 out of the Cardinal’s 13 games in 2011 as a redshirt freshman — missing two games with an ankle injury — and was key in run blocking and pass protection for one of the most dominant offenses in school history.
In the next two seasons, Fleming started all 28 games at right tackle and helped anchor a Stanford offensive line that quickly became acknowledged as one of the best in the nation. His large size — 6-foot-6, 318 pounds — and solid fundamentals meant that he was rarely beaten on the edge by his blocking assignments, and also helped him pave the way for both Stepfan Taylor ‘12 and senior Tyler Gaffney to have historic rushing seasons.
Fleming’s departure will mark a fundamental changing of the guard on the offensive line for the Cardinal. Left guard David Yankey, fifth-year senior center Khalil Wilkes and fifth-year senior right guard Kevin Danser are all leaving the team as well, paving the way for the linemen of the highly touted 2012 recruiting class to take their places. Sophomore Kyle Murphy—a five-star recruit—and junior Brendon Austin will likely compete to replace Fleming at right tackle, while sophomore guards Johnny Caspers and Joshua Garnett will look to take on starting roles as well.
Fleming, who will earn his undergraduate degree in aeronautics and astronautics this spring, joins Yankey and Reynolds in electing to enter the draft. Linebacker A.J. Tarpley and defensive linemen Henry Anderson and David Parry have announced that they will return for one more season.
Contact Joseph Beyda at jbeyda ‘at’ stanford.edu and Do-Hyoung Park at dpark027 ‘at’ stanford.edu.