Stanford Preview 2006 - Defense
Stanford Cardinal
Posted Aug 8, 2006

Stanford Cardinal Preview 2006 - Cardinal Defense

What you need to know ... No one stopped anyone in the Pac 10 last season, so the numbers (442 yards and 30.6 points per game) are a little out of whack. There was a problem coming through with a key third down stop and slowing down long drives, and there should be more of the same issues this season. The D will shift between a 4-3 and a 3-4 depending on the situation, but going with four linebackers will probably be the way to go with a shaky group up front. The back seven, or eight, has a tremendous array of athletes, but not a lot of proven depth. Linebackers Mike Silva and Michael Okwo and safeties Brandon Harrison and Trevor Hooper have to go from being nice starters to stars.

Returning Leaders
Tackles: Nick Sanchez, 71
Sacks: Chris Horn, 3
Interceptions: Brandon Harrison, 3

Star of the defense: Senior SS Brandon Harrison
Player that has to step up and become a star: Junior CB Thaddeus Chase
Unsung star on the rise: Sophomore CB Kris Evans
Best pro prospect: Harrison
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Harrison, 2) LB Michael Okwo, 3) LB Mike Silva
Strength of the defense: Athleticism, linebacker
Weakness of the defense:
Second corner, proven pass rush

Defensive Line
The line was hardly a rock last year, but it had a few strong performers in Babatunde Oshinowo and Julian Jenkins. There will be plenty of movement with the defense switching up on the fly between a 4-3 and a 3-4, and now the Cardinal has to start from near scratch with Gustav Rydstedt to build around in the middle. Some pass rushers need to emerge with Pannel Egboh, Chris Horn, and converted linebacker Udeme Udofia needing to get into the backfield on a regular basis. There will be a regular tackle rotation with James McGillicuddy and Ekom Udofia battling with David Jackson for an inside spot.
The key to the unit: Find some sort of a steady pass rush and hope for the inexperienced tackles to come through right away.
Defensive Line Rating: 5.5

Projected Starters
- DE Pannel Egboh, Jr. - 15 tackles, 1 sack, 2.5 TFL
Big enough to be a tackle and quick enough to start at end, the 260-pound junior was starting to come into his own on the inside before getting injured. He's a far more natural end and should shine as a pass rusher in the full-time role.

- DT Ekom Udofia, Soph.
The 335-pound sophomore is the team's biggest defensive lineman and has to grow into a run-clogger on the inside. He was one of the team's top defensive recruits a few years ago and now has to play like it.

- DT Matt Kopa, Soph.
Originally a top defensive end prospect, the 270-pound Kopa projects to be a quick pass rushing tackle. He has room on his frame to add 10-15 pounds of muscle without losing an athleticism.

- DE Udeme Udofia, Sr. - 36 tackles, 1 sack, 5 TFL, 1 interception
The former linebacker will be used as an end when the defense goes to a 4-3. He has plenty of starting experience with enough speed on the outside to grow into a good pass rusher. However, the 6-4, 240-pound senior isn't expected to be an every down end and will still see time at linebacker.

Top Backups
- DE Chris Horn, Sr. - 15 tackles, 3 sacks, 5 TFL
The team's most productive returning pass rusher will battle with Pannel Egboh for a starting spot on the outside. At 270 pounds he's the bigger of the two options who's just now growing into a good defender after coming to Stanford as a tight end.
- DT James McGillicuddy, Soph.
The 285-pound sophomore is a bigger tackle option than David Jackson on the inside. He's tremendously strong and will get every chance at the starting job, but he doesn't have any experience.
- DT Gustav Rydstedt, Jr. - 6 tackles
The 290-pound Swede is still learning the ropes and will be counted on to be one of the team's top run defenders after the loss of Babatunde Oshinowa. He's tough as nails with good athleticism and size. Now he has to play like he knows what he's doing.

The loss of Kevin Schimmelmann and Jon Alston will sting when it comes to toughness and play against the run, but Mike Silva and Michael Okwa are great pieces to build around. There's a ton of athleticism and potential among the reserves, and now they have to play up to their promise. There will be plenty of work for everyone with the Cardinal working in both a 3-4 and a 4-3.
The key to the unit: The reserves and new players in the mix can run, and now they have to prove they can play. Mike Silva and Michael Okwo have to stay healthy and be among the team's top five tacklers.
Linebacker Rating: 6

Projected Starters
- Mike Silva, Sr. - 57 tackles, 1 sack, 2.5 TFL, 1 interception
Silva grew into a top tackler in a starting role on the outside finishing fourth on the team in stops and was one of the steadier defenders. He's tough enough to play in the middle and fast enough to get in the backfield on the outside ... eventually. He has too much speed not to be a more dangerous pass rusher.

- Michael Okwo, Sr. - 34 tackles, 2 sacks, 5.5 TFL, 1 interception, 2 broken up passes
He has been a tremendous special teamer and a was starting to be a top linebacker before getting banged up. He has the speed and instincts to be one of the Pac 10's top tacklers and a top playmaker now that he'll star in the middle. He might only be 6-0 and 220 pounds, but he isn't afraid to throw his body around.

- Clinton Snyder, Soph.
A top recruit for the Cardinal a few years ago, the 215-pound sophomore is potentially going to be a tough tackler on the outside. He has the athleticism and the smarts; now he has to prove he can be consistent.

Top Backups
- Fred Campbell, Soph.
Campbell was a good recruit for the Cardinal a few years ago and now has to use his tremendous speed and range as a key reserve behind Mike SIlva on the outside. He redshirted last year and should come out roaring with the toughness and potential to become a major player.
- Emmanuel Awofadeju, Sr. - 5 tackles
He hasn't even been close to living up to his prep hype. He's 6-4 and 240 pounds with cornerback speed, but he hasn't been able to do much of anything so far with seven career tackles. He'll get his chance on the outside to grow into a devastating pass rusher if he plays up to his athleticism.

- Austin Gunder, Jr.
The former tight end will bring his size and athleticism to the outside battling for time as a defensive end as well as at linebacker. He'll get every chance this fall to win a starting spot needing to show consistency and big-play ability.

Defensive Backs
The numbers look lousy allowing 286 yards per game and having a nightmare of a time with efficient passers, but the secondary was middle-of-the-road by Pac 10 standards and should be again. There aren't any sure-thing stars with corner Nick Sanchez and safeties Brandon Harrison and Trevor Hooper solid, but unspectacular. A second corner has to emerge quickly or things could be ugly early with Thaddeus Chase and Kris Evans needing to become steady contributors.
The key to the unit: Give up fewer big plays and come up with more interceptions.
Secondary Rating: 6

Projected Starters
- CB Nick Sanchez, Sr. - 71 tackles, 2 interceptions, 4 broken up passes, 4.5 TFL, 2 forced fumbles
Sanchez isn't the best cover-corner around, but he's a fantastic tackler finishing second on the team in stops. He's a fantastic open-field tackler who came up with double-digit stops against both Arizona and Notre Dame, but he has to make more big plays against the pass.

- FS Trevor Hooper, Sr. - 40 tackles, 4 broken up passes
Hooper can start at either safety position with decent range. He's a sure tackler who's more suited for free safety with his range. Now he has to figure out how to stay healthy for a full season after starting six games last year.

- SS
Brandon Harrison, Sr. - 67 tackles, 3 interceptions, 4 broken up passes, 2 TFL
Harrison finished third on the team in tackles in his second season as a starter. The 6-2, 210-pound senior has been one of the few steady playmakers in the secondary as a good hitter. He has too much experience not to make more big plays and not to grow into even more of a leader.

- CB Tim Sims, Sr. - 4 tackles
Sims hasn't done much over his career seeing time on special teams and as a nickel back, but he'll play a key role battling with Carlos McFall for the starting corner job. He has excellent speed and decent hands, and now he'll have to show he can be a steady pass defender.

Top Backups
- CB Kris Evans, Soph.
One of the team's fastest players, Evans will get every opportunity to win a starting cornerback job. He's not as big as Thaddeus Chase and doesn't have the practice time, but he's a promising young player who'll see starting work at some point.
- CB Carlos McFall, Jr. - 1 tackle
He has it all with good size, decent quickness, and good all-around skills. Now he has to prove he can put them all together and be a decent corner. He's being given every shot to win the starting job across from Nick Sanchez.
- S
David Lofton, Sr. - 35 tackles, 1 TFL, 1 broken up pass
former walk-on was a top reserve last season with his combination of 6-4, 220-pound size and 4.5 speed. The son of former Stanford and NFL great James Lofton has the experience to shine in the starting spot at strong safety, or be a major factor at free safety.

- SS Bo McNally, Soph.
A very fast, very promising option at strong safety, McNally redshirted last year learning the job. He has the speed to play free safety if needed.
- SS Thaddeus Chase, Jr.
The former wide receiver has moved over to strong safety bringing excellent speed and decent size. He'll be in for a battle to keep the job and needs a while to learn the position, so he'll have to be expected to get picked on whenever he's in the game.

Special Teams
PK Michael Sgroi will be missed, but wasn't quite as automatic as he should've been last season hurt by four blocks. It'll be a battle between Derek Belch and Aaron Zagory up until the opener. The punting situation is rock-solid with Jay Ottovegio on the verge of All-America status. The coverage units were great last year, but the punt return game could use more pop after averaging 6.6 yards per try.
The key to the unit: Get steady production from the new field goal kicker and find a solid return man to replace T.J. Rushing.
Special Teams Rating:

Projected Starters
- PK Derek Belch, Sr.
Belch will battle with Aaron Zagory to replace Michael Sgroi. The walk-on has a big leg, but he's untested and has to show the consistent range Sgroi had.
- P Jay Ottovegio, Soph. - 67 punts, 2,723 yds, 40.6-yard average, 22 inside the 20
Ottovegio had a tremendous first season helping Stanford to finish second in the conference and 21st in the nation in net punting. He doesn't have a huge leg, but he gets fantastic hang time able to force 16 fair catches.

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Stanford Preview 2006 - Further Analysis
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