Season In Review
The 2021 Stanford Football season will most be remembered for two memorable wins against Top-15 opponents, including an exhilarating, unlikely, overtime win against No. 3 Oregon at Stanford Stadium. With the highs came some lows, too, as the Cardinal ended the season with seven straight losses and finished the campaign 3-9 overall. With that said, there is a lot to look forward to in 2022.
Awards: Stanford's scholar-athletes really shined during the 2021 season. Thomas Booker was named a first team Academic All-American, a National Football Foundation Scholar-Athlete, a William V. Campbell Trophy finalist and a Senior CLASS first teamer. Isaiah Sanders was the recipient for the Wuerffel Trophy, college football's premier community service award, while Noah Williams joined Booker as a first team Academic All-American for the second straight season.
On the field, Kyu Blu Kelly and Booker earned second team All-Pac-12 honors, while Tanner McKee, Benjamin Yurosek, Drake Nugent and Branson Bragg earned honorable mention.
Offense: Quarterback Tanner McKee started nine games for the Cardinal and completed 206-of-315 for 2,327 yards and 15 passing touchdowns. He also added four TDs on the ground, setting Stanford's new freshman QB record for total touchdowns (19) in a season. McKee is the third quarterback in school history to throw for 2,000 yards as a freshman, and his 15 passing scores tied the school freshman record. The Cardinal started four quarterbacks – and played a total of five – setting a new school record for QBs to start a game in a single season.
At running back, juniors Austin Jones and Nathaniel Peat combined for 782 yards on 186 carries (4.2 ypc) and five touchdowns. Of Stanford's 13 rushing touchdowns in 2021, seven of them came by quarterbacks. Sophomores E.J. Smith and Casey Filkins continued to play expanded roles when healthy, totaling 177 yards on 37 carries (4.78 ypc).
Stanford's talented receiving corp was led by senior-to-be Elijah Higgins (45 catches for 500 yards and four touchdowns) and junior-to-be TE Benjamin Yurosek (43 catches for 658 yards and three scores). Unfortunately, Stanford's skill positions were hit by injuries throughout the season, as seniors Brycen Tremayne (19 catches for 240 yards and five touchdowns) was injured in the fifth game of the season and Michael Wilson (19 catches for 185 yards) only returned for the final four games of the season. The Cardinal expects to return the bulk of its production at the pass-catching positions – fifth years Tremayne and Wilson; seniors Higgins and Bradley Archer as well as juniors Yurosek, John Humphreys and Bryce Farrell.
No position group on the Cardinal roster has as much experience as the Tunnel Workers Union. The Stanford offensive line owns a combined 104 career starts, with Walter Rouse leading the way 29 career starts – all of which have been consecutive. Barrett Miller has started 26 consecutive games next to Rouse at left guard, while center Drake Nugent started all 12 games in 2021. Branson Bragg (16 career starts), Jake Hornibrook (12) and Myles Hinton (9) make Stanford's OL one of the most experienced entering 2022.
Defense: The defensive line was led by second team All-Pac-12 end Thomas Booker in 2021. Booker started all 12 games and tallied 59 tackles, five TFL, 1.5 sacks, six QB hurries, one pass breakup and one blocked PAT. One thing that Stanford will look to improve in 2022 is its ability to rush the passer, as the Cardinal managed just 15 sacks over its 12 games.
Takeaways will be another focus, as Stanford had just six interceptions and five forced fumbles during the 2021 season.
The linebackers will be a strength in 2022, as Stanford is expected to return Levani Damuni, Ricky Miezan and Jacob Mangum-Farrar. Damuni was Stanford's leading tackler for the second straight season with 87, while Miezan was second with 68 tackles. Those two combined for 11.5 tackles for loss, four sacks, three pass breakups, two QB hurries and a fumble recovery.
In the secondary, the Cardinal will return its two most productive players in safety Kendall Williamson (27 career starts) and cornerback Kyu Blu Kelly (25 career starts). Williamson was third on the team with 67 tackles in 2021 and had seven pass breakups, 3.5 tackles for loss and a forced fumble. Kelly finished with 59 tackles, two interceptions, 11 pass breakups, and a fumble recovery. Jonathan McGill, who missed all but the final two games of the season due to injury, expects to play a major role for the Cardinal in 2022 – he intercepted a pass in each of his two appearances this season. In total, Stanford returns 94 career starts in the secondary, plus the addition of graduate transfer safety Patrick Fields.
Special Teams: Joshua Karty handled the kickoff and placekicking duties in 11 of 12 games during the 2021 season, Karty, who will be a junior in 2022, has a strong leg and made 10-of-15 field goal attempts with a long of 51 yards. He had 33 touchbacks on 46 kickoff attempts and averaged 61.1 yards per kick.
Senior-to-be Ryan Sanborn handled the punting duties for the Cardinal, averaging 43.3 yards per punt on 60 attempts. He had a long of 60 yards with 19 downed inside the 20 and 16 of 50-or-more yards.
The Cardinal return game was strong in 2021, as Nathaniel Peat led the conference averaging 24.6 yards per kickoff return. Casey Filkins averaged 14.9 yards per punt return, but only was able to play in six games during the 2021 season.