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The big 2014 Stanford football guide: Reigning champs must rule the road

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We can talk about Oregon and UCLA and the Pac-12's incredible depth, but Stanford is the conference king until proven otherwise. And despite a brutal slate of road games, the Cardinal have a solid shot at a third straight Pac-12 title.

SB Nation 2014 College Football Countdown

Confused? Check out the advanced-stats glossary here.

1. Four years = bona fide

Until otherwise noted, Stanford is a part of college football's ruling class, and none of the Pac-12's up-and-comers is there yet.

That would work pretty well as the last sentence of this preview, but I wanted to get it out of the way up front.

The Cardinal have some name-brand pieces to replace in 2014: running back Tyler Gaffney, three all-conference offensive linemen, linebackers Shayne Skov and Trent Murphy, defensive end Josh Mauro, defensive backs Ed Reynolds and Usua Amanam, and of course defensive coordinator Derek Mason. They made a huge difference in Stanford's second straight Pac-12 title run, in the Cardinal's ability to turn the "Oregon owns Stanford" narrative into "Stanford owns Oregon" over the course of about 13 months.

Considering this is a program that recruits plenty of star athletes but doesn't necessarily sign as many of them as college football's other national powers, it might be tempting to knock David Shaw's squad down a couple of pegs in 2014, at least temporarily. Don't.

We're buzzing about UCLA's potential this year. I called USC a possible top-10 squad in the Trojans' recent preview. Washington's likely to stick in the top 20 again. Oregon's still Oregon no matter how jarring that Arizona game was last year. The top tier of the Pac-12 is simply loaded. But it was loaded last year, too, and Stanford still won the conference.

In the last four years, Stanford has had to replace Jim Harbaugh, Andrew Luck, Chase Thomas, great tight ends, great offensive linemen, etc. And in the last four years, the Cardinal have ranked sixth, seventh, 11th and third, respectively, in the F/+ rankings. And in that "down" year, in which they finished all the way down at 11th, they finished 12-2, won the Pac-12, and won the Rose Bowl. And they followed that up with their best overall performance yet.

That said, like everybody else (sans maybe Florida State), Stanford does still have questions to answer, and the questions strike at the Cardinal's identity. Quarterback Kevin Hogan is approaching his third year as starting quarterback, and he's got three explosive deep threats in his back pocket. And even without Reynolds and Amanam, the secondary returns one of college football's better cornerback duos and an excellent strong safety. But the offensive line and running back positions are going to be far less experienced, and the defense has to return a lot of players who dominated near the line of scrimmage.

Stanford's identity, as much as anything, has been based on pushing you around with its run game and preventing you from doing the same. There are plenty of blue-chippers in the mix, but can the Cardinal avoid any sort of regression in these areas? The answer might make the difference between a top-three finish and a top-12 finish in the national rankings.

Not long ago, I was asserting with great confidence that teams like Boise State and TCU had established themselves in the sport's top tier. And they absolutely had ... until they hadn't anymore. But once you've survived key graduations and staff changes and continued an elite level of play, you get the benefit of the doubt until you prove you don't deserve it.

Stanford gets it. Challengers can come at the Cardinal. For now, the Cardinal are still on a higher level.

2013 Schedule & Results

Record: 11-3 | Adj. Record: 14-0 | Final F/+ Rk: 3
Date Opponent

Opp. F/+ Rk

Score W-L Adj. Score Adj. W-L 5-gm Adj. Avg.
7-Sep San Jose State 74 34-13 W 29.4 - 17.6 W
14-Sep at Army 100 34-20 W 33.3 - 20.5 W
21-Sep Arizona State 13 42-28 W 37.3 - 21.9 W
28-Sep vs. Washington State 53 55-17 W 45.0 - 21.6 W
5-Oct Washington 18 31-28 W 25.2 - 24.8 W 12.7
12-Oct at Utah 31 21-27 L 36.8 - 32.3 W 11.3
19-Oct UCLA 15 24-10 W 35.9 - 14.1 W 13.1
26-Oct at Oregon State 42 20-12 W 23.1 - 14.4 W 11.7
7-Nov Oregon 5 26-20 W 35.6 - 17.2 W 10.7
16-Nov at USC 11 17-20 L 35.1 - 20.8 W 13.5
23-Nov California 103 63-13 W 35.3 - 25.7 W 14.6
30-Nov Notre Dame 26 27-20 W 39.9 - 18.8 W 14.4
7-Dec at Arizona State 13 38-14 W 44.2 - 17.5 W 18.0
1-Jan vs. Michigan State 6 20-24 L 31.4 - 27.4 W 15.1
Category Offense Rk Defense Rk Spec. Tms. Rk
F/+ +13.3% 18 +21.6% 4 +5.1% 2
Points Per Game 32.3 45 19.0 10
Adj. Points Per Game 34.8 22 21.0 11

2. Seven top-18 opponents

In 2013, Stanford's schedule was as hard as SEC teams always say their schedules are.

According to the F/+ rankings, the Cardinal played the No. 5 team (at home), No. 6 (neutral), No. 11 (road), No. 13 (home), No. 13 again (road), No. 15 (home), No. 18 (home), No. 26 (home), and No. 31 (road) teams in the country. They played 10 games against bowl-eligible teams and an 11th against a Utah team that probably would have been bowl eligible if not for a quarterback injury. Their schedule was absurdly tough; that's how you can lose three games (by a combined 13 points, and with poor turnovers luck) and stil finish third in the F/+ rankings yourself.

That said, the Cardinal did suffer an ill-timed stint of lesser form on the offensive side of the ball.

  • Adj. Points Per Game (first 4 games): Stanford 36.3, Opponent 20.4 (plus-15.9)
  • Adj. Points Per Game (next 5 games): Stanford 31.3, Opponent 20.6 (plus-10.7)
  • Adj. Points Per Game (last 5 games): Stanford 37.2, Opponent 22.0 (plus-15.2)

During the five games from October 12 to November 16, Stanford did beat both UCLA and Oregon, so it's not like the form was outright bad. But they slipped up on the road to Utah and USC and looked less than amazing at Oregon State.

Maybe that was because their focus was on the Bruins and Ducks. Maybe fatigue was already setting in a bit after so many marquee games -- they had already played two top-20 teams among the first five contests. Maybe Tyler Gaffney's legs were tired. Whatever the reason, it happened. Kevin Hogan got a little loose with the football (against Utah, OSU, and USC: 53 percent completion rate, one TD, two INTs), the running game had a couple of iffy weeks, and Stanford's offense failed just enough to drop two tight games.

And then the Cardinals rallied and won the Pac-12 anyway.

Offense

FIVE FACTORS -- OFFENSE
Raw Category Rk Opp. Adj. Category Rk
EXPLOSIVENESS IsoPPP 1.21 33 IsoPPP+ 106.3 34
EFFICIENCY Succ. Rt. 44.7% 50 Succ. Rt. + 116.4 15
FIELD POSITION Def. Avg. FP 26.5 7 Def. FP+ 107.5 3
FINISHING DRIVES Pts. Per Trip in 40 4.3 68 Redzone S&P+ 101.7 54
TURNOVERS EXPECTED 17.4 ACTUAL 19 +1.6
Category Yards/
Game Rk
S&P+ Rk Success
Rt. Rk
PPP+ Rk
OVERALL 69 15 15 41
RUSHING 22 29 26 27
PASSING 93 9 17 72
Standard Downs 29 18 60
Passing Downs 8 8 15
Q1 Rk 3 1st Down Rk 55
Q2 Rk 30 2nd Down Rk 12
Q3 Rk 18 3rd Down Rk 2
Q4 Rk 28

3. Not quite what you expect

As much as we want to fit teams into a neat little box, it doesn't always work that way. Stanford's identity is pretty much established: the Cardinal are going to run and run and run, they're going to lull you to sleep until you get wrong-footed, and they're going to burn you on play-action. You know how every game at the Rose Bowl is green and vivid and looks like it's being filmed in the 1980s? Stanford's offense is straight out of the 1980s, too.

Weird nerd overlords

Still, in 2013, the Cardinal were a bit surprising from a statistical perspective, and not necessarily in a good way. For one thing, they were wholly mediocre at closing out drives. Rushing teams have the reputation for being good near the goal line, but they averaged only 4.3 points per trip inside the opponent's 40-yard line.

Asking your kickers to attempt 26 field goals is fine if you've got a top-five defense, but it severely decreases your margin for error. Just think back to the Oregon game: the story was that Stanford completely dominated that game, but the Cardinal had to settle for five field goals (they made four), and thanks to that, they struggled to put the game away and only won by six points. Always be closing. Despite appearances, Stanford really couldn't last year.

You would also expect this power offense to get better as a half progresses and the other defense's legs grow weary. That wasn't the case for Stanford. The Cardinal ranked third in first-quarter S&P+ and 18th in the third quarter, but 30th in the second quarter and 28th in the fourth. They were never bad, but opponents appeared to adjust and stiffen as a half wore on.

One more: Stanford's biggest strength was its ability to bail itself out on passing downs. The Cardinal ranked only 29th on standard downs but eighth on passing downs. Quarterback/dork Kevin Hogan was asked to throw a lot of passes in passer-unfriendly situations, and as it turned out, he was pretty good at it. On third-and-7+, for instance, he was 27-for-44 for 526 yards, four touchdowns, and three interceptions. When Stanford was trailing, he was 30-for-47 for 349 yards, three scores, and no picks. He had some sketchy moments, especially against USC, but for the year as a whole, he and his receivers were able to overcome the fact that Stanford was only good, not great, at establishing its identity.

Quarterback

Note: players in bold below are 2014 returnees. Players in italics are questionable with injury/suspension.

Player Ht, Wt 2014
Year
Rivals Comp Att Yards TD INT Comp
Rate
Sacks Sack Rate Yards/
Att.
Kevin Hogan 6'4, 228 Jr. 3 stars (5.7) 180 295 2635 20 10 61.0% 13 4.2% 8.3
Evan Crower 6'5, 214 Jr. 3 stars (5.5) 10 15 141 1 0 66.7% 1 6.3% 8.6
Ryan Burns 6'5, 219 RSFr. 4 stars (5.9)
Keller Chryst 6'5, 228 Fr. 4 stars (6.0)

Running Back

Player Pos. Ht, Wt 2014
Year
Rivals Rushes Yards TD Yards/
Carry
Hlt Yds/
Carry
Opp.
Rate
Tyler Gaffney RB 329 1700 21 5.2 4.9 37.4%
Anthony Wilkerson RB 84 353 2 4.2 4.6 31.0%
Kevin Hogan QB 6'4, 228 Sr. 3 stars (5.7) 70 439 2 6.3 4.1 54.3%
Remound Wright RB 5'9, 204 Sr. 4 stars (5.8) 20 102 1 5.1 8.6 30.0%
Kelsey Young WR 5'10, 195 Sr. 4 stars (5.8) 14 110 1 7.9 7.9 57.1%
Ty Montgomery WR 6'2, 215 Sr. 4 stars (5.8) 13 159 2 12.2 9.8 69.2%
Ricky Seale RB 5'9, 202 Sr. 4 stars (5.8) 11 40 0 3.6 5.6 18.2%
Dallas Lloyd QB 6'3, 212 Jr. 3 stars (5.7) 6 26 0 4.3 3.6 66.7%
Barry Sanders RB 5'10, 192 So. 4 stars (5.8) 5 42 1 8.4 5.8 60.0%
Ryan Hewitt FB 5 8 0 1.6 0.0%
Christian McCaffrey RB 6'0, 200 Fr. 4 stars (5.9)




Receiving Corps

Player Pos. Ht, Wt 2014
Year
Rivals Targets Catches Yards Catch Rate Target
Rate
%SD Yds/
Target
NEY Real Yds/
Target
RYPR
Ty Montgomery WR 6'2, 215 Sr. 4 stars (5.8) 98 61 958 62.2% 33.4% 55.3% 9.8 207 9.8 169.5
Devon Cajuste WR 6'4, 228 Jr. 3 stars (5.6) 45 28 642 62.2% 15.4% 55.8% 14.3 297 13.1 113.6
Michael Rector WR 6'1, 187 So. 3 stars (5.5) 27 14 431 51.9% 9.2% 60.0% 16.0 241 16.3 76.2
Kodi Whitfield WR 26 16 170 61.5% 8.9% 60.0% 6.5 -28 7.5 30.1
Tyler Gaffney RB 18 15 86 83.3% 6.1% 38.9% 4.8 -75 4.9 15.2
Jordan Pratt WR 6'3, 213 Jr. NR 16 12 148 75.0% 5.5% 53.8% 9.3 13 8.7 26.2
Ryan Hewitt FB 13 9 46 69.2% 4.4% 41.7% 3.5 -59 3.7 8.1
Barry Sanders RB 5'10, 192 Jr. 4 stars (5.8) 6 4 36 66.7% 2.0% 50.0% 6.0 -12 5.9 6.4
Kelsey Young WR 5'10, 195 Jr. 4 stars (5.8) 6 3 37 50.0% 2.0% 66.7% 6.2 -5 0.1 6.5
Luke Kaumatule TE 6 3 16 50.0% 2.0% 100.0% 2.7 -26 1.8 2.8
Anthony Wilkerson RB 6 6 45 100.0% 2.0% 20.0% 7.5 -15 8.4 8.0
Jeff Trojan WR 6'3, 195 Sr. NR 6 6 39 100.0% 2.0% 60.0% 6.5 -21 6.1 6.9
Charlie Hopkins TE 6'6, 262 Jr. 4 stars (5.8) 5 2 10 40.0% 1.7% 60.0% 2.0 -22 2.1 1.8
Francis Owusu WR 6'3, 210 So. 4 stars (5.8) 5 2 56 40.0% 1.7% N/A 11.2 24 0.0 9.9
Austin Hooper TE 6'4, 254 RSFr. 3 stars (5.7)
Eric Cotton TE 6'6, 242 RSFr. 3 stars (5.6)
Greg Taboada TE 6'5, 231 RSFr. 3 stars (5.6)
Dalton Schultz TE 6'6, 240 Fr. 4 stars (5.9)

4. Who needs tight ends?

That Stanford wasn't actually amazing running the ball is, strangely, one reason for optimism in 2014.

In this way, losing Tyler Gaffney and Anthony Wilkerson wasn't crippling -- they were powerful and relatively efficient (well, Gaffney was, anyway), but their production was replaceable, especially considering what Stanford has in the pipeline: four former four-star running backs, three of whom combined to average 5.1 yards per carry in about three carries per game last year. We have no idea how Remound Wright, for instance, might handle some enormous load of carries, but Stanford has options in case of injury. Wright has waited his turn, as have fellow senior Ricky Seale and redshirt sophomore Barry Sanders. Stanford has enough options here that I can't even pretend to worry about the running back position.

Meanwhile, the Cardinal have perhaps the most explosive trio of receivers in the country. (Yes, Stanford. Not Baylor, not Texas A&M, not Oregon, not Florida State. Stanford.) Ty Montgomery was the breakout star of 2013, but while he was serving as the new No. 1 target, his No. 2 and No. 3 were doing even more damage. The trio of Montgomery, Devon Cajuste, and Michael Rector combined for 2,031 receiving yards at an obscene clip of 11.9 yards per target. And as mentioned above, these yards didn't all come on wide-open play action passes. These guys got open when they needed to, and Kevin Hogan was able to connect with them in key situations.

And while we're talking about the ways in which Stanford defied its own stereotypes in 2013 ... notice I didn't mention tight ends at all in that last paragraph. Last year's leading tight ends, Luke Kaumatule and Charlie Hopkins, combined to catch five of 11 balls for 26 yards. At Stanford! We can point to this as a sign of weakness, and we can point to this year's tight end crop (basically all redshirt freshmen) as the same.

But Stanford had one of the nation's most underrated passing games and ranked third in the country overall without much help from tight ends beyond blocking. They can probably do it again in 2014.

Offensive Line

Category Adj.
Line Yds
Std.
Downs
LY/carry
Pass.
Downs
LY/carry
Opp.
Rate
Power
Success
Rate
Stuff
Rate
Adj.
Sack Rate
Std.
Downs
Sack Rt.
Pass.
Downs
Sack Rt.
Team 114.5 2.98 4.07 39.4% 69.5% 15.1% 129.2 5.6% 3.8%
Rank 12 61 8 67 62 12 38 88 17
Player Pos. Ht, Wt 2014
Year
Rivals Career Starts Honors/Notes
David Yankey LG 40 Consensus All-American, 1st All-Pac-12
Cameron Fleming RT 39 2nd All-Pac-12
Khalil Wilkes C 27 2nd All-Pac-12
Andrus Peat LT 6'7, 312 Jr. 5 stars (6.1) 14 2nd All-Pac-12
Kevin Danser RG 28
Joshua Garnett LG 6'5, 316 Jr. 4 stars (6.0) 2
Kyle Murphy RT 6'7, 295 Jr. 5 stars (6.1) 0
Conor McFadden C 0
Johnny Caspers RG 6'4, 301 So. 3 stars (5.5) 0
Brendon Austin RT 6'6, 304 Jr. 4 stars (5.8) 0
Graham Shuler C 6'4, 282 Jr. 4 stars (5.8) 0
Nick Davidson LT 6'7, 289 Jr. 4 stars (5.8) 0
Kevin Reihner C 6'4, 295 Sr. 3 stars (5.6) 0
David Bright OT 6'5, 293 RSFr. 3 stars (5.6)
Thomas Oser C 6'5, 302 RSFr. 3 stars (5.7)
Casey Tucker OT 6'6, 295 Fr. 4 stars (5.9)

5. Recruiting rankings better matter

It's a funny thing to say about a team that doesn't pull in the high recruiting rankings of other national powers, but here we are: Stanford's 2014 success depends in part on recruiting rankings being predictive. If Cardinal linemen live up to their blue-chip hype, the Cardinal offense will be just fine.

Stanford started the same five players for all but one game last season, and four of those five are now gone. That includes All-American guard David Yankey and all-conference performers Cameron Fleming and Khalil Wilkes. Former five-star tackle Andrus Peat was the only first-time starter last year, and he did just fine; now it's time for fellow blue-chip juniors Josh Garrett and Kyle Murphy to do the same.

Stanford is known for having one of the most competitive cultures around, and in that sense the fact that the Cardinal have six juniors in the mix, all of whom were given either four- or five-star ratings out of high school, is probably a sign that there won't be much of a drop-off here. But while there is a proven quarterback and receiving corps in Palo Alto, the line still bears the burden of proof.

Defense

FIVE FACTORS -- DEFENSE
Raw Category Rk Opp. Adj. Category Rk
EXPLOSIVENESS IsoPPP 1.06 25 IsoPPP+ 118.1 3
EFFICIENCY Succ. Rt. 39.0% 31 Succ. Rt. + 115.4 16
FIELD POSITION Off. Avg. FP 32.4 18 Off. FP+ 107.6 3
FINISHING DRIVES Pts. Per Trip in 40 3.7 19 Redzone S&P+ 108.6 30
TURNOVERS EXPECTED 23.4 ACTUAL 19.0 -4.4
Category Yards/
Game Rk
S&P+ Rk Success
Rt. Rk
PPP+ Rk
OVERALL 16 6 16 6
RUSHING 3 6 9 5
PASSING 98 7 29 16
Standard Downs 4 9 1
Passing Downs 20 33 23
Q1 Rk 9 1st Down Rk 4
Q2 Rk 7 2nd Down Rk 33
Q3 Rk 12 3rd Down Rk 4
Q4 Rk 13

6. Opponents knew to (try to) pass

If you were going to get anywhere on the Stanford defense, it was probably via the pass. Now, that could be a bit misleading -- you probably weren't going to get anywhere on Stanford no matter what. But while the pass defense was usually good, the run defense was pretty much always good.

You see the results in the chart above. Opponents threw the ball more than 50 percent of the time on standard downs, while the national average hovered around 41 percent. And despite a killer pass rush, opponents threw the ball more than 70 percent of the time on passing downs as well. (Yes, there were some pass-happy teams on the schedule -- there were also Army, Oregon, and Michigan State.) Part of this had to do with the score of the game, but only part; the above stats filter out garbage time. Even when the game was really close, opponents decided the pass was the way to go.

It will be interesting to see how much this changes in 2014. With corners Wayne Lyons and Alex Carter back, it's still going to be difficult to throw on Stanford, even if the pass rush regresses a bit. But with big David Parry and Henry Anderson returning on the line, along with inside linebackers A.J. Tarpley and Joe Hemschoot, end Blake Lueders and a wealth of juniors, the run defense might actually be a step ahead this year. Will that alter opponents' approach?

Defensive Line

Category Adj.
Line Yds
Std.
Downs
LY/carry
Pass.
Downs
LY/carry
Opp.
Rate
Power
Success
Rate
Stuff
Rate
Adj.
Sack Rate
Std.
Downs
Sack Rt.
Pass.
Downs
Sack Rt.
Team 127.6 2.28 2.77 34.6% 57.1% 26.6% 131.5 6.8% 7.5%
Rank 4 4 20 22 13 4 14 19 51
Name Pos Ht, Wt 2014
Year
Rivals GP Tackles % of Team TFL Sacks Int PBU FF FR
Josh Mauro DE 13 42.0 5.3% 12.5 4.0 1 1 2 0
Blake Lueders DE 6'5, 260 Sr. 4 stars (5.8) 14 18.0 2.3% 5.0 2.5 0 0 0 0
David Parry DT 6'2, 303 Sr. NR 14 17.0 2.1% 5.0 0.0 0 0 0 0
Henry Anderson DE 6'6, 295 Sr. 3 stars (5.7) 8 14.0 1.8% 4.0 3.0 0 0 0 0
Ben Gardner DE 9 13.0 1.6% 7.5 4.5 0 0 1 0
Aziz Shittu DE 6'3, 280 Jr. 5 stars (6.1) 10 3.5 0.4% 0.5 0.0 0 0 0 0
Anthony Hayes DT 6'3, 293 Jr. 3 stars (5.5)
Luke Kaumatule DE 6'7, 267 Jr. 4 stars (5.8)
Jordan Watkins DE 6'5, 275 Jr. 4 stars (5.8)
Nate Lohn DT 6'3, 272 Jr. 3 stars (5.6)
Ikenna Nwafor DE 6'6, 300 Jr. 3 stars (5.6)
Solomon Thomas DE 6'3, 255 Fr. 4 stars (6.0)







Linebackers

Name Pos Ht, Wt 2014
Year
Rivals GP Tackles % of Team TFL Sacks Int PBU FF FR
Shayne Skov ILB 14 85.5 10.8% 13.0 5.5 0 4 3 0
A.J. Tarpley ILB 6'2, 238 Sr. 3 stars (5.6) 14 72.5 9.2% 5.0 1.0 1 3 1 0
Trent Murphy OLB 14 49.5 6.3% 23.5 15.0 1 6 2 0
James Vaughters OLB 6'2, 254 Sr. 4 stars (5.9) 14 28.0 3.5% 6.0 4.0 0 0 1 0
Joe Hemschoot ILB 6'1, 225 Sr. 3 stars (5.6) 14 22.0 2.8% 2.0 1.0 1 1 0 0
Jarek Lancaster ILB 14 20.5 2.6% 1.0 1.0 0 0 0 0
Kevin Anderson OLB 6'4, 244 Sr. 3 stars (5.6) 14 17.5 2.2% 6.0 1.5 1 1 0 0
Blake Martinez ILB 6'2, 234 Jr. 3 stars (5.6) 10 9.0 1.1% 0.0 0.0 1 0 1 0
Noor Davis ILB 6'4, 235 Jr. 4 stars (5.9) 3 4.0 0.5% 0.0 0.0 0 0 0 0
Peter Kalambayi OLB 6'3, 236 RSFr. 4 stars (5.9)
Mike Tyler OLB 6'5, 219 RSFr. 3 stars (5.6)
Joey Alfieri ILB 6'3, 230 Fr. 4 stars (5.8)
Bobby Okereke ILB 6'3, 215 Fr. 4 stars (5.8)








7. Wanted: play-makers

Stanford will be sturdy and experienced in its front seven. Of that, there is little doubt. But the Cardinal have finished in the national top five for tackles for loss in each of the last two seasons. They were a solid 20th in the Havoc rating you see above (percentage of plays with either a tackle for loss, forced fumble, or pass defensed). They were immovable, sure, but they were also capable of taking your head off.

Knowing how good Stanford has been at attacking, it's worth pointing out four players logged more than 6.0 tackles for loss last year -- Josh Mauro, Shayne Skov, Trent Murphy, and Ben Gardner (combined: 56.5 TFLs, more than 12 FBS teams) -- and all four are gone. New play-makers could emerge; in fact, they probably will. But the bar is set awfully high, and any slip-up could result in a few more points allowed here and there, not to mention a few more field position losses.

Secondary

Name Pos Ht, Wt 2014
Year
Rivals GP Tackles % of Team TFL Sacks Int PBU FF FR
Ed Reynolds FS 14 71.0 9.0% 1 0 1 4 0 0
Wayne Lyons CB 6'1, 196 Sr. 4 stars (5.8) 14 55.0 6.9% 4.5 0 2 2 2 0
Jordan Richards SS 5'11, 208 Sr. 3 stars (5.6) 14 54.0 6.8% 4 0 3 3 1 0
Alex Carter CB 6'0, 200 Jr. 4 stars (6.0) 13 48.0 6.1% 1 0 1 8 0 0
Usua Amanam NB 14 44.0 5.6% 4.5 0 0 4 0 0
Devon Carrington FS 14 27.0 3.4% 0 0 0 4 0 0
Ronnie Harris CB 5'10, 174 Jr. 3 stars (5.6) 13 18.0 2.3% 0 0 0 0 0 0
Barry Browning CB 12 10.5 1.3% 0 0 0 3 0 0
Kyle Olugbode FS 6'1, 205 Sr. NR 14 9.5 1.2% 0 0 0 0 0 0
Zach Hoffpauir SS 6'0, 193 Jr. 3 stars (5.7) 10 9.0 1.1% 0 0 0 1 0 0
Ra'Chard Pippens CB 6'2, 202 Sr. 3 stars (5.6)
Kodi Whitfield FS 6'2, 196 Jr. 4 stars (5.8)
Dallas Lloyd FS 6'3, 212 Jr. 3 stars (5.7)
Taijuan Thomas CB 5'10, 171 RSFr. 3 stars (5.6)
Brandon Simmons DB 6'0, 180 Fr. 4 stars (5.8)








8. Star power and depth issues?

Hey, we finally joined Facebook!

In Lyons and Carter, Stanford has two former four-star recruits who have lived up to their billing. And in senior strong safety Jordan Richards, the Cardinal have a steadying force and underrated play-maker. But you need more than three good defensive backs to thrive when opponents are attempting to exploit the pass (especially if the pass rush regresses), and at the very least, the depth chart has been thinned of experience.

Ed Reynolds went pro, and Usua Amanam, an underrated scrapper at nickel back who allowed Stanford to go small-and-fast when it needed to (with no drop-off near the line of scrimmage), graduated. Backups Devon Carrington and Barry Browning are gone, as well. There are few knowns after the big three.

In all, there are some potential cracks in the Stanford defense; they aren't chasms, mind you, and this is still probably a top-15 defense. But let's just say that the offense might want to finish drives a little better this year than last. The defense might not be able to bail it out quite as often.

Special Teams

Punter Ht, Wt 2014
Year
Punts Avg TB FC I20 FC/I20
Ratio
Ben Rhyne 6'2, 203 Sr. 52 42.9 2 13 15 53.8%
Kicker Ht, Wt 2014
Year
Kickoffs Avg TB OOB TB%
Jordan Williamson 5'11, 194 Sr. 46 64.2 25 1 54.3%
Conrad Ukropina 6'1, 185 So. 42 60.5 4 1 9.5%
Place-Kicker Ht, Wt 2014
Year
PAT FG
(0-39)
Pct FG
(40+)
Pct
Jordan Williamson 5'11, 194 Sr. 43-44 15-16 93.8% 3-6 50.0%
Conrad Ukropina 6'1, 185 So 11-12 2-3 66.7% 0-1 0.0%
Returner Pos. Ht, Wt 2014
Year
Returns Avg. TD
Ty Montgomery KR 6'2, 215 Sr. 36 30.3 2
Jackson Cummings KR 3 10.0 0
Kodi Whitfield PR 6'2, 196 Jr. 9 4.4 0
Barry Sanders PR 5'10, 192 So. 7 10.1 0
Category Rk
Special Teams F/+ 2
Field Goal Efficiency 82
Punt Return Efficiency 29
Kick Return Efficiency 1
Punt Efficiency 52
Kickoff Efficiency 15
Opponents' Field Goal Efficiency 117

9. Making the most of special teams

The kickers were pretty much automatic inside of 40 yards. Kickoff coverage was masterful. Punt returns were solid. Oh, and Ty Montgomery was the best kick returner in the country.

Special teams only accounts for about 10-15 percent of a game's outcome, but when you're playing so many great teams, that 10-15 percent can suddenly make a huge difference. It did in 2013, and basically everybody from this unit returns in 2014.

2014 Schedule & Projection Factors

2014 Schedule
Date Opponent Proj. Rk
30-Aug UC Davis NR
6-Sep USC 9
13-Sep Army 110
27-Sep at Washington 28
4-Oct at Notre Dame 25
10-Oct Washington State 68
18-Oct at Arizona State 21
25-Oct Oregon State 43
1-Nov at Oregon 3
15-Nov Utah 45
22-Nov at California 82
28-Nov at UCLA 20
Five-Year F/+ Rk 27.8% (3)
Two-Year Recruiting Rk 39
TO Margin/Adj. TO Margin* 0 / 6.0
TO Luck/Game -2.1
Approx. Ret. Starters (Off. / Def.) 12 (5, 7)

10. What a road slate

Once a program achieves unexpected heights, we find ourselves in a race to be the first ones to predict its downfall. After Stanford's 2012 conference title, we just knew that it was Oregon's turn to take the crown back in 2013. This year, we just know that it's Oregon's turn again (I'm pretty sure I'm going to say just that on Monday), and we just know that UCLA might be making the Pac-12's Big Two a Big Three.

But Stanford's still the king until proven otherwise. We probably shouldn't forget that.

That said ... wow, what a road slate. Last year, Arizona State, UCLA, Washington, and Oregon all came to Palo Alto. This time, the roles are reversed. Trips to Tempe, Pasadena, Seattle, and Eugene loom, and while Stanford won its last trip to three of those four locales (the only slip: 17-13 at Washington early in 2012, when the Cardinal were not yet rolling), this looks like another situation where, if Stanford wins the North division, it's with a 7-2 record. A top-five team might only go 2-2 in those four games.

Stanford has proven play-makers at receiver and defensive back, a veteran quarterback, and plenty of high-end potential at running back and offensive line and on the defensive front seven. The Cardinal are going to be just fine. The schedule is brutal again, but one gets the impression that David Shaw wouldn't want it any other way.