Stanford 2003 Football Outlook
Aug. 15, 2003
Overview: Stanford looks to bounce back from a subpar 2002 season and there are indicators that they will do just that. There are loads of questions on the offensive side of the ball as the Cardinal returns just three starters. Conversely, the defense returns eight starters to what was a young but promising group of defenders last year.
Offense: Long associated with offensive fireworks, Stanford found itself derailed by injuries last year and the offensive unit never seemed to get fully in sync. The Cardinal return just three starters on offense, fewest of any team in the Pac-10. Included among the departed are two early entries to the NFL - All-Pac-10 tackle Kwame Harris and receiver Teyo Johnson - who were drafted in the first and second rounds, respectively. It would seem Stanford has sufficient talent at the 'skill' positions, but must put together a new group on an offensive line that returns just one player. Chris Lewis entered last season as heir apparent for the starting quarterback job after performing well in 2001. He ended up playing in only five games as a rotator cuff injury never allowed him to get to full health. Redshirt freshman Kyle Matter took over for Lewis with mixed results. The starting job heading into the season is up for grabs among Lewis, Matter and highly-regarded redshirt freshman Trent Edwards. Veteran running backs Kerry Carter and Casey Moore have graduated, but the Cardinal have some experience coming back. Kenneth Tolon II averaged 5.2 yards per carry and has more breakaway speed than his predecessors. Returnee J.R. Lemon is a strong inside runner. This is an area where some incoming freshmen may help right away. Luke Powell will be the leader of the wide receiver corps. He was slowed by an ankle injury last year, but has averaged nearly 19 yards per catch over the course of his career. Tight end is an area of strength for the Cardinal. Alex Smith performed well in 2002 after starter Brett Pierce was lost for the year in the season opener. Both are back and healthy this year. The offensive line will be young and inexperienced. Left tackle Kirk Chambers, a Pac-10 All-Academic selection, is the only returnee. Chambers has started 34 straight games over the last three seasons and will be the anchor up front. The O-line could end up populated by a large number of redshirt freshmen.
Defense: While the Stanford offense returns the fewest number of starters in the Pac-10, the Cardinal defense returns the most, as eight are back from 2002. Six underclassmen started on last year's extremely young group, and at times they took their lumps. But while young, the defense was not untalented and should be one of the most improved units in the Pac-10 this year. In fact, this group should have a two-year run, as there are only two seniors in the projected starting lineup. Defensive ends Louis Hobson and Amon Gordon return, but the talented Gordon is slated to move inside to tackle. Drew Caylor and Julian Jenkins will compete for the vacated end position. Casey Carroll and Babatunde Oshinowo Jr. will fight it out for the remaining tackle slot. The Cardinal returns its top six linebackers from a year ago giving them a seasoned, experienced group at probably the deepest position on the team. Jack Covault and David Bergeron will man the middle, with Jon Alston, Michael Craven and Jared Newberry lining up outside. Three starters return to the secondary, all of them thrust into the lineup as sophomores last year. The returning corners are Leigh Torrence and Stanley Wilson. Oshiomogho Atogwe, who led the team in tackles last year, is a rising star at safety.
Kicking Game: Both starting kickers from a year ago return in placekicker Michael Sgroi and punter Eric Johnson.
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