Offensive Line is Long on Experience

Aug. 7, 2008

STANFORD, Calif. - Offensive Line is Long on ExperienceOutland Trophy and Rimington Award Candidate Alex Fletcher Anchors Veteran Unit

There are many more question marks surrounding Stanford's offense heading into the 2008 season.

Who will emerge as the starting quarterback? Will Anthony Kimble and Toby Gerhart be able to go through the season injury-free? Will Doug Baldwin or Ryan Whalen be viable options at wide receiver to complement junior Richard Sherman? Who will emerge from the tight end fray among Tom McAndrew, Austin Gunder, Coby Fleener, Konrad Reuland or Jim Dray?

One group that seemingly has more answers than questions is the offensive line, a unit head coach Jim Harbaugh describes as 'being a strength of our football team.'

Stanford's offensive line is long on experience, with four of the five starting roles expected to be occupied by seniors who have combined to make 58 career starts. The only significant loss is Tim Mattran, who started all 12 games at center a year ago. In addition, the status of senior Allen Smith remains a question mark, as he is still sidelined after tearing his patella tendon last year in the Oregon game.

Fifth-year senior Alex Fletcher, who is a candidate for both the Outland Trophy and Rimington Award, moves back to his natural center position after playing guard last year. A four-year starter with 32 career starts under his belt, Fletcher earned second team All-Pac 10 honors last season after making 12 starts on a much-improved offensive line.

He will be backed up by junior Chase Beeler, who began his collegiate career at Oklahoma.

Fletcher has seen first hand the transformation of this unit during his Stanford career. 'When I came here, we were the weakness of the team and now we are finally the strength,' said the native of Old Brookville, N.Y. 'A lot of guys had to develop and get better. That is one of the best places to have strength, but you are one of five and are only as good as the guy next to you.'

Harbaugh has also noticed a shift in attitude of his offensive linemen since the start of spring drills. 'They are a very tight and confident group and they have been together for a long time so they have a real good feel for the guy on their left and the guy on their right.

'You could see a shift in attitude during spring ball and it has carried over to camp. This is where the leadership on the offense will come from.'

Seniors Chris Marinelli and Ben Muth are expected to hold down the right and left tackle positions, respectively. Marinelli started all 12 games at right tackle last season and now has 17 starting assignments on his ledger dating back to the 2006 season. Muth made nine starts in Smith's absence last year at the ever-important left tackle position.

Senior Gustav Rydstedt will make the transition from defensive line, where he is penciled in to start at left guard. A native of Stockholm, Sweden, Rydstedt is an aggressive, smart and athletic player who picked up the nuances of his new position very quickly in spring workouts. He will likely be backed up by junior Bert McBride (6-3, 285).

Junior Andrew Phillips, who has made tremendous strides over the last three years, is expected to hold down the starting right guard position. He will be backed up by junior Joe Dembesky and sophomore Brad Hallick.

Senior Matt Kopa will make the switch from defensive to offensive line and will see plenty of playing time at both right and left tackle. Sophomore Tyler Mabry also provides versatility up front as a swing tackle. Sophomore George Halamandaris will work with Marinelli and Kopa at right guard.

Cardinal Clips: Willie Shaw, a longtime NFL assistant coach who had two coaching stints on The Farm, was on hand for morning workouts...he is the father of Stanford offensive coordinator David Shaw...the Stanford-Washington game in Seattle on Sept. 27 will kickoff at 7:00 p.m.

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