By Sam Fisher
Update: On Friday, the Cardinal announced that it was promoting outside linebackers coach Lance Anderson to defensive coordinator, confirming rumors from last week.
In the three weeks since the Rose Bowl Game on Jan. 1, Stanford football has seen its fair share of change. That change will be toughest to overcome in three main phases: coaching, current personnel and recruiting.
The Cardinal’s top assistant in the passing game, Mike Sanford, and its top defensive mind, Derek Mason, have left to become the offensive coordinator at Boise State and head coach at Vanderbilt, respectively. Mason is reportedly taking a few members of the Cardinal staff with him, most notably inside linebackers coach David Kotulski, who confirmed on Twitter that he has accepted the Vanderbilt defensive coordinator position.
Not only were Sanford and Mason critical on game days, they also were two of the best recruiters on the Cardinal’s staff. Outside linebackers coach Lance Anderson, who also serves as the program’s liaison to the Stanford Office of Undergraduate Admissions, is the most experienced recruiter who is still a Stanford assistant.
Anderson, who is helping secure the Cardinal’s recruiting class before National Signing Day on Feb. 5, has been mentioned as a possible replacement for Mason at defensive coordinator. Anderson was previously the recruiting coordinator for the Cardinal, and according to former head coach Jim Harbaugh, Anderson’s recruiting prowess was so great that he was the most important person in the recent rise of Stanford football.
On Friday, the team announced that Anderson would take over for Mason as defensive coordinator.
Even with the recent coaching departures, Stanford’s recruiting has been successful as of late. The biggest recruiting wins this month came in the form of four-star tight end Dalton Schultz and four-star offensive tackle Casey Tucker. Schultz was one of the most prized tight ends in this recruiting class, and Stanford beat out Schultz’s hometown school of Utah and national powers like Notre Dame. The Cardinal hopes that combination of Schultz and the highly touted tight end recruits of 2013 will fill the void at the position that plagued the Cardinal throughout the 2013 season.
Tucker, one of the top-10 offensive tackles in this recruiting class, committed to the Cardinal over hometown school Arizona State and became just the second offensive lineman to commit to the Cardinal so far. He is currently the highest-ranked member of the ESPN 300 to have committed to Stanford.
There were two prospects that decommitted from the Cardinal during the month of January: safety Kirk Tucker and defensive lineman Nifae Lealao. The coaching departures of Mason and Sanford did not appear to be important factors in the players’ decommitments. According to Kirk Tucker’s high school coach, the safety was not admitted to Stanford, forcing the decommitment. No official word has emerged on the reasons for Lealao’s change of heart.
The Cardinal will hope that it can avoid losing any more recruits, as there will be plenty of departures from the current team. In addition to the seniors and fifth-year seniors who have already exhausted their eligibility — stars like outside linebacker Trent Murphy, inside linebacker Shayne Skov and running back Tyler Gaffney — senior starters Cam Fleming, Ed Reynolds and David Yankey declared for the NFL Draft instead of choosing to return for their final seasons of eligibility.
Over the next few weeks, all of the coaching moves should be finalized, and all 2014 recruits will make their final decisions by signing letters of intent. During that time, Stanford’s current players will be conditioning with famed strength and conditioning coach Shannon Turley, looking to build stamina and add strength for spring football, which will start up in February and culminate with the Spring Game at Stanford Stadium on April 12 at 1 p.m.
Contact Sam Fisher at safisher ‘at’ stanford.edu.