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.
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
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
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
- 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.
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
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
- 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.
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
Linebacker Rating: 6
- Mike Silva, Sr. - 57 tackles, 1 sack, 2.5 TFL, 1
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.
- 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
- 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
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
The key to the unit: Give up fewer big plays and come
up with more interceptions.
Secondary Rating: 6
- 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.
- 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
- S David Lofton, Sr. - 35 tackles, 1 TFL, 1 broken up pass
The 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
- 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.
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.
Special Teams Rating: 7
- 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.