Spring Football Outlook; Practice Begins April 3
March 21, 2002
A new era has dawned on The Farm.
Coming off one of the finest seasons in school history, Stanford begins anew in 2002 as Buddy Teevens, a veteran college coach, takes over a Cardinal program that finished 9-3 a year ago and ranked 16th in the final Associated Press poll. It marked only the 11th time in school history that Stanford won at least nine games in a season.
Teevens, who has 12 years of head coaching experience, was most recently the assistant offensive coordinator under Steve Spurrier at the University of Florida for the past three years. His previous head coaching stops were at Maine, Dartmouth and Tulane.
He inherits a team with 37 returning letterwinners and nine starters, including seven on offense. The Cardinal is rich in offensive firepower in 2002, a fact not lost on the offensive-minded Teevens.
'We'd like to be a wide-open team that runs the ball and throws the ball effectively,' said Teevens. 'We'll use multiple formations, spread the field with wide receivers, push the ball down the field through a pro-style passing game while realizing we need a strong run component as well,' he said.
Defensively, the first-year coaching staff will have more of a challenge. Nine starters are gone, including All-America FS Tank Williams, all-conference ILB Coy Wire and some of the finest leaders on the team. Stanford must replace its entire linebacking corps, two starters on the defensive line and its entire secondary.
Teevens, however, will bring an aggressive, attacking style of play to The Farm and look for players who fit that mold.
'We want to have an attacking, pressure-type package as long as our personnel allows us to carry it out,' he said. 'The key here is can our coverage guys play man-to-man and allow our pressure people to get home and force the QB to get rid of then ball quickly, congest running lanes and really pressure in quarterback in passing situations. The defensive personnel will dictate what we're capable of doing,' he said.
The good news heading into the 2002 season is that the cupboard is certainly not bare on the offensive side of the ball. Gone are starters Randy Fasani at quarterback, Brian Allen at running back and offensive lineman Eric Heitmann and Zack Quaccia. But, the other seven starters and some very capable replacements should put the Cardinal among the most explosive offenses in college football.
Replacing Fasani at quarterback will be junior Chris Lewis, who has started seven games the past two years and is ready to take his place among the best QBs in the conference. Senior Kerry Carter, who shared time with Allen at RB, will now take over the No. 1 spot on a full-time basis. Senior Paul Weinacht, another veteran player with starting experience, will move into a starting role on the offensive line.
All-conference lineman Greg Schindler, Kwame Harris and Kirk Chambers are all back, giving Stanford three quality and experienced lineman. The receiving corps returns intact, led by Luke Powell, a First-Team All-America kick returner, Teyo Johnson, the 2001 Co-Freshman of the Year in the Pac-10, and savvy veteran Ryan Wells. The Cardinal is also well stocked at tight end, where returning starter Brett Pierce is joined by two talented backups in Darrin Naatjes and Alex Smith.
Stanford is loaded with talented young players on defense who have patiently waited their turn to take the spotlight - and 2002 will be the year their number is called. Returning veterans Matt Leonard at DT, FS Colin Branch, NT Trey Freeman and NT Craig Albrecht give Stanford a solid corps of experienced players with which to build the defense.
'We lost a lot of great defensive players off last year's team, but there is great potential with the young players on the roster,' said Teevens. 'The key is for the defense to emerge after the spring session as a cohesive and productive group. Our defense needs to have an aggressive, attacking, get-to-the-football mindset. We feel like we have players to do just that.'
'We want to be a very disciplined team with high energy and a relentless style of play on both sides of the ball,' he said.
Before Stanford can think about the season opener at Boston College on September 7, the Cardinal, both players and coaches, will take the spring to get to know one another.
'Our expectations this spring are to seek players who are competing very hard for playing time and who take football very, very seriously,' said Teevens. 'Our job as first year coaches at Stanford is to assess their talent level and determine where to best plug them into our system. It will be a learning process for both players and coaches. The type of team we will become next fall will be forged during the spring.'
A position-by-position breakdown of the 2002 Cardinal follows:
For the record, junior Chris Lewis is a two-year backup quarterback who was the team's No. 2 signal-caller behind Randy Fasani in 2000 and '01. Lost in that statement is the fact that Lewis started seven games the past two years, threw for 2,456 yards and 20 touchdowns and beat some of the finest teams in the nation. He is, in fact, no stranger to the starting quarterback role. In both 2000 and 2001, injuries to Fasani brought Lewis off the bench and into the starting position. His improvement from freshman to sophomore year was dramatic and indeed impressive. He is well known throughout the Pac-10 as one of the league's most talented, young players and his transition to No. 1 starter will be no transition at all. Consider that in 2001, Lewis came off the bench to spark a memorable 49-42 come-from-behind win at No. 5 Oregon. He followed that with an upset win over No. 4 UCLA the next week in his first start of the season. For the season, Lewis, who went 3-1 as a starter in '01, completed 90-of-163 for 1,277 yards and 12 touchdowns. He could emerge as one of the top QBs in the Pac-10 this season. Behind Lewis will be junior Ryan Eklund and sophomore Kyle Matter.
Like Lewis, senior Kerry Carter is not considered a 'returning starter' heading into the 2002 season. Those familiar with Stanford football know that Carter has shared the starting duties with Brian Allen the past two years and, in fact, has carried the ball more than any Cardinal back during this time. He will take over as the team's bonafide No. 1 rusher this season. He has rushed for 1,515 yards in his career and will crack the school's all-time top-10 list after his first 159 yards of the season. Carter has also scored 23 touchdowns in his career, eighth best all-time on The Farm. A 6-2, 235 pound back with both speed and power, Carter should be included in a list of the top rushers in the Pac-10. Depth at the running back position is one of the team's strengths, where three talented rushers are waiting in the wings. Sophomore Kenneth Tolon was impressive when he touched the ball last year, gaining 346 yards on 54 carries (6.4 ypc). Junior Justin Faust carried the ball 40 times for 152 yards in 2001 and freshman J.R. Lemon, who redshirted the '01 season, is now ready to compete for playing time. At the fullback spot, senior Casey Moore returns for his fourth season as a starter. Moore, who has started the last 33 games at FB for the Cardinal, has rushed for 613 yards (5.9 ypc) and 10 TDs while catching 34 balls for three more scores in his career. Backing up Moore will be junior Eran Landry and freshman Chris Rudiger. Stanford gained 2,211 yards on the ground in '01 and led the Pac-10 with a 201 yards per game average. It was also the third best single season output in school history. The Cardinal returns depth and quality at running back and on the offensive line and should once again field a powerful rushing attack.
Stanford returns its entire receiving corps from a year ago, including junior flanker Luke Powell (40 receptions, 790 yards, 7 TDs in 2001), a First-Team All-America kick returner, sophomore Teyo Johnson (38-565-7), the Pac-10's Co-Freshman of the Year, and senior Ryan Wells (19 starts, 55 career receptions). In fact, Stanford returns 168 of the team's 176 receptions from a year ago. Powell, of course, is the team's big play threat. His career yards per reception average of 22.3 (58 receptions, 1,292 yards) places him first in the Cardinal record book. He averaged 16.0 yards per punt return in '01 and was named the Football Writers' All-America team. Johnson, who doubles as Stanford's starting power forward on the basketball team, came on a year ago in his first season as a receiver and proved to be a handful for opposing defenses. His 6-7 frame and athleticism is a tremendous weapon for the Cardinal offense. Wells caught 31 balls last season as the team's starter at split end. Stanford has quality and quantity at both the flanker and split end positions. Behind Powell at flanker are talented freshmen Grant Mason and Gerren Crochet, senior Caleb Bowman, junior Evan Combs, sophomore Brandon Royster. Behind Wells and Johnson at split end are sophomore Nick Sebes, freshman Justin McCullum and senior Greg Camarillo.
The Cardinal has a trio of tight ends in 2002 that has to be considered one of the strengths of the team. In junior Brett Pierce (6-6, 245), junior Darin Naatjes (6-7, 240) and sophomore Alex Smith (6-5, 238), Stanford can go three-deep with athletic, experienced and talented players - not to mention their average height of 6-6. Pierce started all 12 games last season and caught 19 balls for 258 yards (13.6 ypc) and three touchdowns, but both Naatjes and Smith received extensive playing and made big plays of their own. Naatjes, a pitcher on Stanford's nationally-ranked baseball team, caught three passes, two of which went for touchdowns. The Cardinal has many options and weapons with its trio of outstanding tight ends.
While the Cardinal loses First-Team All-America and First-Team All-Pac-10 guard Eric Heitmann and Second-Team All-Pac-10 center Zack Quaccia, Stanford returns three starters who all garnered all-conference recognition in 2001: guard Greg Schindler and tackle Kwame Harris, both Second-Team selections, and tackle Kirk Chambers, an honorable mention pick. The threesome has combined to start 67 games in their collective careers, providing the Cardinal with a solid base of experienced, battle-tested lineman. Schindler begins his fourth season in the starting lineup. He was the team's starter at right guard last season after starting at right tackle in 1999 and 2000. Chambers has started the last 23 games at left tackle while Harris moved into the starting lineup last year at right tackle. The leading candidate to replace Heitmann at left guard is Paul Weinacht, who has been a key reserve the past two seasons. Weinacht has started 10 games in '00 and '01 and appears ready to assume a full-time position in 2002. At center, senior Tom Kolich was Quaccia's backup the past two seasons and is now in position to compete for the starting job. Junior Dustin Stimson, who can also play guard, and sophomore Andy Clavin are also in the mix at center. Adding depth at the tackle positions are juniors Mike Sullivan and Edmond O'Neal while Stimson and freshman Brian Head add depth at the guard spots.
2001 starting ends Austin Lee and Marcus Hoover and key reserve Travis Pfeiffer have graduated, leaving the Cardinal will three key holes to fill on the defensive line. However, senior Matt Leonard, a three-year letterwinner at tackle, nose tackles Craig Albrecht and Trey Freeman and ends Amon Gordon and Louis Hobson are all back to spearhead the defensive line. Leonard, the most experienced of the bunch, was the Cardinal's starter last season, but was forced to miss several games with a back injury. He is one of the top defensive lineman in the conference and will be counted on in 2002 to be one of the team leaders of the defensive unit. Freeman and Albrecht shared the starting duties a year ago with Freeman beginning the season as the starter, then giving way to Albrecht after he suffered an injury. Both are seasoned veterans who will give the Cardinal a tough duo in the middle of the line. At one defensive end spot, Gordon, who showed tremendous promise last season, looks to be the front-runner to earn the starting nod. The depth will come from junior Drew Caylor, sophomore Will Svitek and freshman Mark Anderson. At the rush end position, Hobson appears to be the heir-apparrant. He, too, was impressive when he got on the field in 2001 and proved to be an active, play-making defender capable of putting pressure on the quarterback. Junior Cooper Blackhurst and freshman Michael Lovelady will also battle for playing time at rush end.
Stanford will have to replace its entire linebacking corps from a year. The candidates are young, talented, hungry and inexperienced. Gone are 2001 starters Coy Wire and Matt Friedrichs at inside linebacker and Anthony Gabriel at outside linebacker. Under Teevens, the Cardinal will utilize two outside linebackers and one middle linebacker. In the middle, the contenders are junior Brian Gaffney, a two-time letterwinner and the most experienced player in the group, junior Jake Covault, sophomore Jared Newberry, freshman Kris Bonifas and sophomore Pat Jacobs. At one outside position, freshman Michael Craven will be given a long look as a starter as will another freshman, Jon Alston, and junior Brian Brant. The other outside linebacker position will be a battle between sophomore David Bergeron, freshman Capp Culver and senior Scott Giles.
A new group of defensive backs will emerge for the 2002 season. That's because all four starters have graduated, including All-America FS Tank Williams, SS Simba Hodari and cornerbacks Ruben Carter and Ryan Fernandez. Several players received extensive playing time in 2001 and will now be called upon to take it to the next level. At the cornerback spots, sophomores Stanley Wilson and Leigh Torrence are both quick, agile and improving young players. They will be challenged for the starting assignments by senior Garry Cobb, freshman Calvin Armstrong and senior Chijioke Asomugha. Senior Colin Branch moved into the starting lineup last season at strong safety when Hodari went out with an injury, but will be looked upon this year to start at free safety. He will be backed up by senior Jason White and freshman Timi Wusu. At strong safety, sophomore O.J. Atogwe has a chance to crack the starting lineup. He will be pushed by freshman Kevin Schimmelmann and junior Jim Johnson.
Starting punter Eric Johnson returns to the lineup, but three-year placekicker Mike Biselli has graduated, leaving the job to freshman Michaal Sgroi. Johnson averaged 38.1 yards per punt in 2001 in his first season in a starting role and looks to improve upon those numbers in '02. Sgroi, from Plymouth, Mich., redshirted the 2001 season as a true freshman. He came to Stanford as one of the nation's top prep placekickers with a reputation for accuracy and a strong leg. He will get his chance in 2002.