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Radoff: Who to look for at Spring Game

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Spring Game is next Saturday and you should all go. The current forecast for Saturday is 65 degrees and sunny with a 10 percent chance of rain. So take the chance to tailgate in spring, and go out and see what next year’s team is going to be like.

Last year, we got a chance to see just how good the linebackers would be, including Blake Martinez ’16 and Peter Kalambayi ’17. This year shouldn’t be any different.

In honor of the return of football, it only seemed appropriate to do a brief preview of some underclassmen names to keep an eye on for the coming season:

Joey Alfieri, sophomore OLB (6’3” 228): Stanford’s long tradition of outstanding edge-rushers should continue. It is a distinct possibility that next year’s group could be the deepest that Stanford has had dating back to the beginning of the Harbaugh era, with apologies to the 2013 group that featured James Vaughters ’15 and Trent Murphy ’14. Joey Alfieri figures to a big piece of that depth.

Though Kevin Anderson ’16 and Peter Kalambayi are the probable starters in 2015, the Cardinal defense should feature ample amounts of rotation, perhaps even more so than in previous years. Alfieri plays ferociously, and it is likely that the coaches have no intention of bottling him up. He has the ability to be more than just a pass-rush specialist, he has improved in his coverage and he is already very good at setting the corner against the run. Watch for junior Mike Tyler ’17 to have a big season as well. Senior Luke Kaumatule ’16 also has the potential to make a successful transition to the outside like Henry Anderson ’15 did.

Brandon Simmons, sophomore FS (6’0” 182): Zach Hoffpauir ’16 has said that he is considering foregoing his senior year to enter the MLB draft. It is possible that Stanford could be starting two players that changed position (and sides of the ball) last year at safety: former quarterback Dallas Lloyd ’16 and former wide receiver Kodi Whitfield ’16. Neither have started a game on defense. The depth chart at the position is wide open, and Simmons is in a position to play a significant role in the defense next year.

Simmons, one of the first recruits to commit for 2014, was among the best high school safeties in the nation. He will have the chance to help fill the massive shoes left by Jordan Richards ’15. Simmons is a ball hawk and shows great explosiveness on the ball. He will fire out to either undercut a throw or bring down ball carriers in the back field. Simmons also shows the ability to play as a true coverage safety, meaning that he could see a good deal of time at the nickelback position that Usua Amanam ’14 occupied two years ago. As the heir-apparent at safety, look for Simmons to see a lot of the field in 2015.

Alameen Murphy, sophomore CB (5’11” 185)/Alijah Holder, sophomore CB (6’2” 174): Defensive backs coach Duane Akina has done an incredible job of developing Stanford’s secondary. If Dallas Lloyd and Kodi Whitfield find success at the safety position, Akina will have been a huge part of it. He now has the opportunity to mould another pair of young, talented defensive backs in sophomores Murphy and Holder. Both have shown flashes of lock-and-key coverage.

At 6’2″, Holder fits the profile of one of the new prototypes in football: the taller, Richard Sherman-esque corner. Murphy, although a bit smaller than Holder, is probably a bit more developed right now than his counterpart. Murphy plays with all the confidence required of the position, is very good at getting up in run support and has great hands. With Alex Carter ’15 leaving for the draft and Wayne Lyons ’16 transferring to Jim Harbaugh’s Michigan, the position is wide open. Look for Murphy and Holder to quickly become a regular part of Stanford’s defense.

Jordan Perez, sophomore ILB (6’2” 207): Perez, along with Bobby Okereke ’18, make up a pair of very talented sophomore inside linebackers for Stanford. There is a saturation of talent at the position, so the two might not get to see as much playing time as the others on this list. Still, they are no less talented, and any role that they play will reflect earning a spot in one of the best linebacker rotations in the nation.

Watch Jordan Perez and within seconds you’ll be wondering if Stanford’s great Shayne Skov ’14 has donned the Cardinal uniform once again. His timing and play diagnosis are fantastic. I’m not one for using too many sport cliches, but Perez flies around the field in all but the most literal sense of the word. Perez might not have as open of a pathway ahead of him, but he might be one of the next names put on the ever increasing list of Stanford linebacker greats.

Dalton Schultz, sophomore TE (6’6” 239): There are three tight ends on the depth chart ahead of Schultz. Eric Cotton ’17, Austin Hooper ’18 and Greg Taboada ’18 would be starters at every single school in the nation. Instead, they are playing together. But even though Schultz is behind three NFL-caliber tight ends, it still won’t prevent him from being an integral part of Stanford’s offense next year.

The number-one tight end prospect in the nation for the class of 2014, Schultz looks like he might be ready for the pros without ever having caught a pass for the Cardinal. That’s just how talented Schultz is. There really is no weakness to his game either. He is a prolific pass catcher, has the size to create massive mismatches and is a polished and accomplished blocker. Dalton Schultz is the next big thing, literally and figuratively, at tight end for Stanford.

Cameron Scarlett, freshman RB (6’1” 210): Full disclosure: Cameron and his brother, Cal transfer Brennan Scarlett, will not be at the Spring Game. I just wanted to put down in writing the prediction that Cameron Scarlett looks like the most likely incoming freshman to immediately be an important piece of the Cardinal offense. There is a lot of talent at running back, but the big back, who reminds me a ton of Tyler Gaffney ’14, has a shot at being the short yardage specialist. Even more importantly, Brennan Scarlett might just be the most important offseason acquisition (or the college equivalent of a free agent) in the David Shaw era. He was arguably the best defensive lineman at Cal last year and will be an essential part of the perennially excellent defensive front for Stanford.

Spring Game will be a fantastic opportunity to see these players on the field at a very high level of competition. And this is only a snapshot of the underclassmen who deserve the hype of those listed above. I implore you to grab some friends, a grill, hopefully some sandals and enjoy your first look at a 2015 squad that has all the talent and potential for a berth in the college football playoffs.

Nicholas Radoff’s knowledge of Stanford recruits is topped only by his knowledge of the graduation years of past athletes. Contact Nick at nradoff ‘at’ stanford.edu.

Nic Radoff '15 is now officially from Oakland and is a proud to be a history major and a Latin-American studies minor. Nic was a staff writer for women's soccer and follows football extensively, whether his editors let him write about it or not. He is a proud member of the men's club lacrosse team and invites you all to come watch most Saturdays, even though you might not see him on the field much. He enjoys spending time with his family, hiking with his husky Artoo, lamenting his A's and maintaining that things get better with age.