2008 Spring Football Outlook
Feb. 26, 2008
Jim Harbaugh wants it known that Stanford Football is far from satisfied with its headline wins over USC and Cal in 2007.
Perhaps Harbaugh is being a little hard on himself and his team after taking a squad that was 1-11 the previous season and improving them by three wins. The Cardinal also beat both the Trojans and the Golden Bears for the first time since 2001. But, the enthusiastic and energetic young coach is far from satisfied and has set his sights much higher than Stanford's 2007 achievements.
Harbaugh has repeatedly iterated Stanford's goal to win multiple Pac-10 Championships, and he knows that there is still much work ahead following the Cardinal's seventh-place finish at 3-6 in the conference in his first season in 2007.
He has good reason to think that Stanford is headed in the right direction and is optimistic in 2008.
A quick look at the 2008 Cardinal shows strength on the defensive side of the ball, where Stanford returns 12 players that made at least four starts a year ago. Stanford will have 10 of its top 11 tacklers back in 2008 from a defense that was third in the conference in both sacks and tackles for loss, as well as fifth nationally in tackles for loss and 11th in sacks.
Offensively, the Cardinal should be strong at running back with the top four rushers last season all returning. At quarterback, Tavita Pritchard should be challenged by some upstarts for the starting job. Whoever does win the job will have Richard Sherman as a primary target, but other receivers will need to emerge to replace Mark Bradford and Evan Moore after the duo wrapped up productive Stanford careers in 2007. The offensive line looks solid again with four members possessing extensive collegiate starting experience.
One position where new faces will abound is the kicking game, where four-year starters Jay Ottovegio and Brent Newhouse have finished their collegiate eligibility at punter and long snapper, respectively. The team will also need to replace 2007 senior starter Derek Belch at placekicker.Following is a position-by-position look at the 2008 Cardinal heading into spring ball.
The quarterback position is normally one of the most watched on a football team and last year was no different for Stanford. T.C. Ostrander started the first four games before being replaced by backup Tavita Pritchard, who responded in his first collegiate start the following Saturday by throwing the game-winning touchdown pass to Mark Bradford to knock off No. 1 ranked USC, 24-23. Pritchard tripped the Trojans on their home field and sent more than 90,000 fans in the Los Angeles Coliseum into a state of shock. But the young quarterback was inconsistent for the remainder of the season and won just once more in his next six starts. Pritchard finished the season by completing just 50% of his passes, throwing 97-of-194 for 1,114 yards and nine interceptions compared to just five touchdowns. Ostrander answered the call when he stepped back into the starting role for the season finale and his last game at Stanford and led the Cardinal to another upset, this time over California in the 110th Big Game. Although Pritchard's experience offers him a head start in the battle for the starting quarterback job, he is expected to be pressed heavily by Michigan transfer Jason Forcier and Alex Loukas - a pair of signal callers yet to play a down for the Cardinal. L.D. Crow and Nicholas Ruhl will also work out at the position during 2008 spring camp, while highly-touted incoming freshman Andrew Luck begins his career in the fall.
A glut of injuries often left Stanford short at running back last year with five different players seeing significant action at the position at one time or another. Al-though injuries disadvantaged the Cardinal significantly last season, they also allowed more players the opportunity to pick up valuable experience heading into the 2008 campaign. Anthony Kimble is the team's top returnee after picking up a career-best 509 yards on 115 carries for a 4.4 average despite playing in just seven of the club's 12 games. Kimble has developed toughness, elusiveness and speed during his time at Stanford and has a chance to be one of the top backs in the Pac-10 conference in 2008. Three other running backs - Toby Gerhart, Tyrone McGraw and Jeremy Stewart - could all play significantly in 2008 as all three had flashes of brilliance last season. Stewart was second on the club in rushing with 347 yards on 105 carries and came on strong at the end of the campaign, setting or equaling new season-highs in each of his last three games. Stewart's grand finale was an 80-yard performance against California in the Big Game while Kimble was sidelined with an injury. McGraw had back-to-back games of 89 and 79 yards against Washington and Washington State. Gerhart picked up a career-high 140 yards on only 12 carries against San Jose State in his only game of 2007 before suffering a season-ending knee injury in the third quarter. The others listed at running back head-ing into 2008 spring ball are Xxavier Carter, converted wide receiver Stephen Carr and converted safety Blaise Johnson.
Owen Marecic is expected to return as Stanford's fullback in 2008 after starting all 12 games as a true freshman in 2007. The honorable mention All-Pac-10 selec-tion was a primary blocker in the Cardinal offense. Josh Catron and Kellen Kiilsgaard are the team's other fullbacks.
Richard Sherman will be expected to step into a leadership role and lead a young wide receivers group in 2008 after both being productive and learning the ropes from two of the best receivers in recent Stanford history over his first two seasons. Sherman has led the Cardinal in receiving yards both seasons and has accumu-lated 1,232 yards to go along with 73 receptions, seven touchdown catches and a 16.9 yard per catch average to put him well on his way into the Cardinal record book in all categories. But Sherman will have to move on this season without Mark Bradford and Evan Moore, both of whom finished their collegiate careers in 2007. Bradford is among Stanford's all-time leaders in receiving yards (2,431, #4) and receptions (169, #5) to go with 14 touchdown catches. Moore was able to produce 103 receptions as well as 1,555 receiving yards over his career despite a series of injuries that forced him to miss many games and also limited his effectiveness.
Doug Baldwin seems the most likely player to try to fill the void left by the departure of Bradford and Moore. Baldwin showed promise as a true freshman in 2007, playing in all 12 games and catching 11 balls for 93 yards. Ryan Whalen and Nate Wilcox-Fogel also return to the position, while three others that were previously at other positions - Coby Fleener (TE), Chris Hobbs (CB) and Marcus Rance (S) - will work out at wide receiver during 2008 spring practice sessions.
Stanford's affinity for using the tight end as a receiving weapon in the offense was much different in 2007 under Jim Harbaugh than it had been in the recent past. Tight ends were often used in the passing game, compared to limited action the previous season, and the Cardinal will return in 2008 all of its tight ends that recorded recep-tions in Harbaugh's first season as head coach. The three Stanford tight ends that caught balls in 2007 combined for 46 catches, 400 yards and four touchdowns last season. Ben Ladner heads into spring camp as the starter after leading all Stanford tight ends with 27 catches and 198 receiving yards a year ago, fourth on the team in both categories. But Ladner should be challenged heavily for the starting position come the start of the fall season by a pair of players - Jim Dray and Austin Gunder - who will miss spring ball while recovering from injuries. Dray started the first six games of 2007 and caught nine balls for 116 yards and a touchdown before suffering a season-ending injury. Gunder then started the next six contests and made 10 catches for 86 yards and two touchdowns. The Cardinal also will feature Tom McAndrew at the position after he moved there during the second half of the 2007 campaign and proved to be an effective blocker.
Stanford has the potential to have the best offensive line it has had in many years in 2008, with four experienced seniors making up the core of the group. Alex Fletcher is the most decorated and experienced member as a 2007 Second Team All-Pac-10 selection last year and an honorable mention Freshman All-American and First Team All-Pac-10 Freshman in 2005. He has started 31 games over the last three seasons at both right guard and center, and is expected to work out at center during spring 2008 practices after having made all 11 of his starts at right guard in 2007. Chris Marinelli, an honorable mention All-Pac-10 choice in 2007, is back as the team's right tackle. Marinelli moved into the spot in 2007 and responded with an effective campaign as one of only two Stanford offensive linemen to start all 12 games. Tackles Allen Smith and Ben Muth are also both expected to see action at tackle. Last season, Smith extended his consecutive games started streak to 23 before suffering a sea-son-ending injury in the third contest of the year. Muth took over and started in his place for the final nine games and established himself as a solid offensive lineman. Stanford has a challenge in replacing starting center and sixth-year senior leader Tim Mattran, who made all 12 starts at the position in his final collegiate campaign. Bert McBride also gained some experience last year at the center position and could return to the job if Fletcher is moved back to a guard position. Stanford has four guards - Chase Beeler, Brad Hallick, Andrew Phillips and Gustav Rydstedt - who have very limited collegiate experience at the position. Those four will need to replace both Fletcher and Mikal Brewer. Brewer finished his collegiate eligibility after starting the final 15 games of his career, including all 12 at left guard in 2007. Other tackles on the 2008 roster include Joe Dembesky, George Halamandaris, Matt Kopa and Tyler Mabry. Kopa moves back to the position after spending much of 2007 as a blocking tight end.
Stanford has reason to be excited with the return of defensive end Pannel Egboh, who has been both steady and spectacular over the last two seasons. Egboh has a chance to develop into one of the best defensive ends in the country in his final season on The Farm. After a strong showing in 2006, Egboh had what could still rightly be considered a breakthrough campaign in 2007, when he led all Stanford defensive linemen with 49 tackles (fifth on the club) and extended the longest consecutive games started streak on the team to 24. Egboh put up other lofty numbers in 2007, ranking second on the team with career-highs of 13.5 tackles for loss (#9 Pac-10, #64 NCAA) and three forced fumbles (#4T Pac-10). He was also tied for second on the team with 6.0 sacks (#78T NCAA) and added a pair of fumble recoveries. Egboh has risen to the challenge in big games, most notably in Stanford's 2007 upset of No. 1 USC when he recorded a career-high 10 tackles, a career-high-tying 2.5 TFL, 1.5 sacks and his first blocked kick - ultimately the winning margin in the Cardinal's 24-23 victory - to earn Pac-10 Player of the Week honors. On the opposite side of Egboh at the other defensive end, Stanford is expected to use either Erik Lorig or Levirt Griffin. Both are exciting athletic players who have ar-rived at the outside spot in different ways. Lorig converted to the position in 2007 after spending his first two seasons on The Farm as a tight end. He responded with a solid season by recording 37 tackles, 7.5 tackles for loss and 2.0 sacks while playing in all 12 games and making eight starts. Griffin has been used mostly on the inside of the defensive line over his first two seasons but is expected to compete for playing time in 2008 on the outside. Tom Keiser is the also listed at the defensive end spot for 2008 spring practice.
There are six players currently on the roster at the virtually interchangeable defensive tackle and nose tackle positions during 2008 spring practices, but depth could be an issue. Ekom Udofia has the most experience of the group, having spent time as a starter on the inside of the team's defensive line in both 2006 and 2007. Udofia had a huge season in 2006 to earn Third Team All-American recognition from The Sporting News but struggled at times last year before suffering a season-ending injury in game nine versus Washington, in addition to missing two earlier games in the campaign due to injury. He is also expected to be out due to injury for at least the first of Stanford's two spring sessions. Brian Bulcke is the only other Cardinal player to have taken a collegiate snap for Stanford on the defen-sive line. He started a pair of games last season but is also injured and will not participate in spring ball. Four other Stanford inside defensive linemen - Matt Bentler, Derek Hall, Matthew Masifilo and James McGillicuddy - are all looking for their first action at Stanford in 2008 and will get plenty of reps during the spring. Masifilo has a huge upside and is expected to gain much needed experience during 2008 spring practice. McGillicuddy is returning from injury and hopes to be healthy in 2008 for the first time at Stanford, starting with important snaps at nose tackle in the second spring session.
Stanford's strongest spot on the field in 2008 will arguably be at linebacker, with most of its players able to play all three positions in the middle, or on the weak or strong side. The Cardinal will feature two of its top three tacklers from a year ago and a pair of potential honors candidates in the duo of Clinton Snyder and Pat Maynor. Snyder has already established himself among the elite linebackers in the Pac-10, earning honorable mention all-conference honors in 2007 after ranking among the Pac-10 leaders in nearly every defensive category including fumbles forced (4, #1T,), tackles for loss (14.5, #5), fumbles recovered (3, #4T), sacks (8.0, #7) and tackles (89, #9T). He was also tied for 32nd in the country in sacks and tied for 42nd in tackles for loss in 2007. Snyder is Stanford's active career leader in tackles (179), sacks (10.0) and fumbles forced (7), while ranking tied for first in fumbles recovered (3) and second in tackles for loss (18.0). Maynor is right behind Snyder among the club's active career leaders in tackles (135) and ahead of him in tackles for loss (19.5), while adding 6.0 sacks to place third among the team's active players. Maynor had a huge season in 2007 in his second campaign as a full-time starter but will miss at least the first part of spring practice with an injury. Maynor finished with 88 tackles (#9T Pac-10) a year ago, as well as a team-high 16.5 tackles for loss (#2 Pac-10, #13 NCAA) and 6.0 sacks (#11T Pac-10) to rank tied for second on the club, and also added a fumble recovery. Snyder and Maynor are expected to be joined by Chike Amajoyi and Nick Macaluso as the team's top linebackers, with both players earning Pac-10 All-Freshman honors from The Sporting News in 2007. Amajoyi had a monster freshman campaign in 2007 and came on late in the year, starting five of the team's final six games and finishing with 47 tackles, 9.0 tackles for loss, 4.0 sacks, a forced fumble, an interception and four quarterback hurries as he was constantly applying pressure to opposing quarterbacks. Macaluso started six consecutive games at middle linebacker for the Cardinal from game three to eight and finished the year with 23 tackles, 2.5 tackles for loss and 1.0 sack. Will Powers and Thaddeus Chase also return at the position after limited action a year ago. A trio of promising players - Max Bergen, Andrew Fowler and Johnathan Frink - will be looking to see their first game action at Stanford in 2008.
Stanford spread significant starting experience at the cornerback position among four players in 2007, and that should come in handy this season when the club is faced with the task of replacing two of those four. Nick Sanchez and Tim Sims are gone after productive collegiate careers, with Wopamo Osaisai and Kris Evans the frontrunners to take over the jobs in a full-time capacity in 2008. The two ostensibly shared one starting job last year, with Sanchez and Sims splitting time on the other corner. Osaisai brings speed and toughness to the position and is arguably the team's fastest player. A year ago, he contributed 45 tackles, one key intercep-tion at USC, 1.0 tackles for loss and a team-high eight pass breakups despite being beaten out by Evans late in the season. Evans was fantastic at the end of 2007 as he moved past Osaisai on the depth chart for the past four games, after he made the most of an opportunity off the bench at Oregon State and recorded a career-high-tying seven tackles. He would go on to record 31 of his 40 tackles over his last five games and also break up all seven of his passes during those contests. The most intriguing player at cornerback in 2008 could be Corey Gatewood, who will move back to the position after filling in as an emergency running back for the Cardi-nal in his 2007 true freshman season. Gatewood is lightning fast like Osaisai and should be a major factor, pushing both Osaisai and Evans for a starting job. The other three corners on the roster are C.J. Easter, converted wide receiver Mark Mueller and Tyler Porras.
Stanford should be very good at safety in 2008, as the Cardinal returns its top three players at the position from a year ago in Bo McNally, Austin Yancy and Taylor Skaufel. McNally and Yancy were two of only three players on the defensive side of the ball to start all 12 games for the Cardinal in 2007. McNally, an honorable mention All-Pac-10 player last year, caught the nation's attention when he spent most of the 2007 campaign among the NCAA's tackling leaders before finishing the season ranked 39th nationally and second in the Pac-10. He ended up with 114 total stops, while adding two interceptions, 7.5 tackles for loss, 1.5 sacks, six pass breakups, one forced fumble and one fumble recovery. Yancy played solidly alongside McNally and finished with 49 tackles, 1.0 tackles for loss, five pass breakups and one memorable interception that he returned 31 yards for a touchdown in the win over USC. Skaufel was extremely impressive as a true freshman off the bench, playing in all 12 games and picking up 35 tackles and a pass breakup to get noticed by The Sporting News as a First Team Pac-10 All-Freshman. Julian Brooks and Sean Wiser are both looking to see their first playing action on The Farm in 2008.
Stanford has a challenge in replacing its starting specialists in 2008. Gone are the school's all-time leading punter and starter for the last four seasons in Jay Ot-tovegio, as well as four-year starting long snapper Brent Newhouse and placekicker Derek Belch, who took over as the job in 2007. David Green is currently the only punter listed on the 2008 spring roster, while Green and Aaron Zagory will be given looks to replace Belch at placekicker. Green was a highly-touted true freshman in 2007 but did not play a year ago. Zagory was the club's starting placekicker in 2006 but had mediocre results, making just 8-of-13 field goals and 13-of-15 PAT's, and saw very limited action in a kicking role last season. Zach Nolan, Andrew Fowler and Will Powers will all compete for snapping duties this spring. The Cardinal will look for additional competition at all specialist positions this fall from incoming freshmen.
2008 Stanford Football PracticeStanford Football will begin 2008 spring practice at the Elliott Football Practice Fields this Tuesday, February 26. The first nine practices will be held in the first of two sessions from February 26 - March 11, while the second session of six workouts begins April 3 and culminates with the Spring Game on April 12.
2008 Stanford Football Spring Practice Schedule
Day, Date - Start Time - Notes
Session #1 (Practices 1-9)
Tuesday, February 26 - 4:00 pm - Helmets Only
Wednesday, February 27 - 4:00 pm - Helmets Only
Friday, February 29 - 4:00 pm - Full Pads
Saturday, March 1 - 6:00 pm - Full Pads (Stanford Stadium)
Tuesday, March 4 - 4:00 pm - Full Pads
Wednesday, March 5 - 4:00 pm - Full Pads
Friday, March 7 - 4:00 pm - Full Pads
Saturday, March 8 - 6:00 pm - Full Pads
Tuesday, March 11 - 4:00 pm - Full Pads
Session #2 (Practices 10-15)
Thursday, April 3 - 4:00 pm - Helmets Only
Saturday, April 5 - 6:00 pm - Full Pads
Sunday, April 6 - 4:00 pm - Full Pads
Wednesday, April 8 - 4:00 pm - Full Pads
Thursday, April 10 - 4:00 pm - Full Pads
Saturday, April 12 - 6:00 pm - Spring Game (Stanford Stadium)
Practices at the Elliott Football Practice Fields Unless Noted
Schedule Subject To Change All Times Pacific