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2007 Stanford Preview - Offense

CollegeFootballNews.com
Posted May 31, 2007


Preview 2007 Stanford Cardinal Offense Preview

 

Stanford Cardinal

Preview 2007 - Cardinal Offense

- 2007 Stanford Preview | 2007 Stanford Defense Preview
-
2007 Stanford Depth Chart | 2006 CFN Stanford Preview 

What you need to know: Jim Harbaugh wants to attack defenses with an up tempo offense that’ll feature lots of pre-snap motion and a ball control element that harkens back to the Bill Walsh days of the West Coast offense.  It worked swimmingly at the University of San Diego for the past couple of years, but this is Stanford where ten points and less than 250 yards a game was the norm last year.  The Cardinal is experienced everywhere and pretty deep at the skill positions, but none of that will matter unless the offensive line does a complete 180 off last year’s atrocious performance. 

Returning Leaders
Passing: T.C. Ostrander
72-158, 918 yds, 3 TD, 5 INT
Rushing: Anthony Kimble
114 carries, 470 yds, 2 TD
Receiving: Richard Sherman
34 catches, 581 yds, 3 TD

Star of the offense: Senior WR Mark Bradford
Player that has to step up and become a star: Junior RT Ben Muth or sophomore Chris Marinelli
Unsung star on the rise: Sophomore WR Richard Sherman
Best pro prospect: Sherman
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Bradford  2) Sherman  3) Junior LT Allen Smith
Strength of the offense: Wide receiver
Weakness of the offense: Offensive line

Quarterbacks

Projected Starter
: Sure, it hurts losing Trent Edwards to the Buffalo Bills, but Jim Harbaugh and the Cardinal feel pretty good about the quarterbacks.  Senior T.C. Ostrander is back for a fifth season after spending the previous four as Edwards’ apprentice.  He started seven games last years and played in 22 overall, putting up pedestrian numbers that are more indicative of poor pass protection than poor passing skills.  Although he’s an accurate passer, what’s really impressed the coach is his mental sharpness, comfort with audibles, and general game management skills.  In a season of change at Stanford, he brings an important air of stability, and possibly some decent numbers if given time to set up in the pocket.                  

Projected Top Reserves: The battle to determine who’ll be first off the bench this season is a tight one between sophomore Tavita Pritchard and redshirt freshman Alex Loukas.  The nephew of former Washington State legend Jack Thompson, Pritchard made a good case for the No. 2 job in the spring, showing off his arm strength and quick feet.  Loukas will spend the next few seasons trying to live up to the hype of being one of the highest-rated prep quarterbacks of 2006.  While he’s not ready to be at the controls just yet, his dual-threat potential in a 6-4, 205-pound frame gives him the look of the heir apparent under center by next season.   

Watch Out For… Ostrander to double the number of touchdown passes Edwards tossed in 2006.  Okay, so he threw just six last year, but Harbaugh’s presence, and a deep cast of receivers, will help spark a passing game that pulled up the rear in the Pac-10 last year.           
Strength: Ostrander’s experience and leadership.  In the huddle and on the sidelines, he conducts himself like a fifth-year senior should.                              
Weakness: Inexperienced backups.  Stanford quarterbacks just don’t remain upright for an entire season, which means there’s a good chance that either Pritchard or Loukas will be pressed into duty before he’s ready.                     
Outlook: In several ways, Ostrander is the perfect man for this job.  He’s mature enough to handle the uncertainty of being the Stanford quarterback and relishing the opportunity to be a leading man in his final season. The backups are extremely talented, but they need time.
Rating: 6.5


Running Backs

Projected Starters: Junior Anthony Kimble is beginning to establish himself as the leader and premier player of the offense; now all he needs is a little more help from his offensive line.  Although Kimble led the Cardinal in rushing last season, he could only manage 470 yards and two scores, rarely getting much running room before two or three defenders were draped all over him.  At 6-1 and 200 pounds, he accelerates well and can make people miss in the open field.  A former receiver, he also displays nice hands on swing passes.  While Kimble has the tools to ignite one of the nation’s worst rushing attacks, he’ll only go as far as the front wall will allow him.

It’s taken a long time, but Emeka Nnoli has finally adjusted to his role as the team’s blocking back and infrequent ballcarrier. While it may be a far cry from his days as a prep All-American, it will get the 6-1, 235-pound senior on the field more than the last four seasons combined.  More focused than ever on becoming a better blocker, Nnoli will also be used as an occasional receiver out of the backfield.

Projected Top Reserves: Senior Jason Evans and sophomore Toby Gerhart will be the primary backups to Kimble in 2007.  A couple of big backs, Evans is most similar to Kimble in his ability to make big plays in the open field.  Gerhart, on the other hand, is a 6-1, 230-pound north-south bruiser in the mold of former Stanford great Brad Muster.  He was second on the team in rushing last year, gaining 375 yards on 106 carries and catching 15 passes.

Redshirt freshman Sam Weinberger is in the process of making a successful switch from linebacker to fullback, pushing Nnoli and establishing himself as the frontrunner for the job in 2008.  A 6-2, 230-pound plower, he’s the kind of pile mover that can benefit the Cardinal running game.         

Watch Out For… redshirt freshman Tyrone McGraw.  In a unit dominated by big, strong runners, McGraw is the type of shifty scatback that can inject a little explosiveness into the mix.  Only 5-9 and 173 pounds, he’s got an extra gear and a little wiggle that energized the offense at times during the spring.                                 
Strength: Pass-catching.  All of the Cardinal runners are skilled receivers out of the backfield, which creates a real nice security blanket for T.C. Ostrander, especially when the quarterback’s protection is breaking down.                                    
Weakness: The offensive line.  The Cardinal boasts a few former prep all-stars at the position, but you sure wouldn’t know it from the last two years when the team averaged well under three yards a carry.  The line has been routinely horrendous in run blocking, keeping the backs from ever getting out of the blocks.                                
Outlook: Kimble has the potential to be much better than his numbers, but it’ll be a non-issue if he doesn’t get a ton more help from his blockers.  Although Stanford is driven by the passing game, finishing 115th on the ground, as it did in 2006, is a trend that can’t continue.
Rating
: 6


Receivers

Projected Starters: For a change, can the Stanford receivers actually stay healthy for an entire season?  If so, they stack as deep as any Pac-10 corps, a testament to just how high the ceiling is for this group in 2007.  Jim Harbaugh’s first big victory as the Cardinal coach was getting seniors Mark Bradford and Evan Moore to resist the NFL, and return to the amateur ranks for one final year.  Neither was at full strength last year, with Bradford lasting just more than a game and Moore missing time and managing just 14 catches for 242 yards and three touchdowns. 

Bradford is a polished, 6-2 deep threat with good football speed and 118 career catches.  Moore, on the other hand, is a human mismatch at 6-7 with the leaping ability to pluck just about any jump ball out of the air.  Recovering from a foot injury of his own, he’s averaged more than a touchdown every six catches and just under 17 yards a reception throughout his career. 

The best of the Cardinal receivers?  It could turn out to be sophomore Richard Sherman, who stepped in for his elders last year to lead the team as a freshman with 34 catches for 581 yards and three scores.  A wonderfully gifted all-around athlete at 6-3 and 185 pounds, he’s on the tarmac with stardom as his destination.

Leading a very deep group of tight ends will be sophomore Jim Dray, yet another long Cardinal target that pulled down 19 receptions in his debut a year ago.  More of a receiver than a blocker at this stage of his career, the 6-5, 240-pounder will victimize opposing defenses that invest too much to defending the outside receivers.

Projected Top Reserves: One of the bright spots of the spring was the emergence of redshirt freshman Stephen Carr.  From an evenly-matched group of receivers of pass-catchers, he elevated to the No. 4 spot behind Sherman, flashing uncommon speed for a 6-3, 215-pound player, good hands and crisp route running. 

Junior Kelton Lynn caught 19 balls and started five games, yet isn’t even on the two-deep; a testament to just how deep the Cardinal receivers are.  A former walk-on with track speed, he provides valuable depth for a unit that’s needed it the last few years.

Junior Austin Gunder and sophomore Ben Ladner won’t catch many balls, but both are better blocking tight ends than Dray.  They’ll battle for the No. 2 position right up until the opening kickoff.  Ladner, in particular, has exhibited a lot of toughness since making the switch from fullback before the beginning of the spring session.  Stanford is deep at tight end, and that’s even before factoring in senior Matt Traverso, a three-year letterman that’s played in 34 career games and is about to begin his sixth season in Palo Alto.

Watch Out For… Sherman to out perform his more heralded teammates en route to a breakthrough sophomore season.  While Bradford and Moore are real good, Sherman oozes greatness every time he runs a pattern.
Strength: Size.  On the Farm, they only grow receivers one size—extra large.  Up and down the roster, the Cardinal is brimming with tall receivers that have the athletic ability and the hops to embarrass opposing secondaries.
Weakness: Durability.  The biggest knock on the Stanford receivers of late is their inability to last an entire season without suffering a devastating injury. Just for kicks, wouldn’t it be fun to see what Bradford, Moore and Sherman can do if they all get on the field at the same time for games?
Outlook: It’s been beaten to death, but Sherman is about to become something special and the receivers as a whole are good enough to breathe life into this offense if a broken bone or torn ligament doesn’t get in the way.
Rating: 8

Offensive Line

Projected Starters: The quarterback is a capable fifth-year senior.  The backs are big and fast.  The receivers could be as good as any group in the Pac-10.  None of that matters if the offensive line doesn’t improve exponentially from last year when it allowed more sacks than any team in the nation and paved the way for the nation’s 115th-ranked running game.  A good starting point will be junior left tackle Allen Smith, a third-year starter who’s started 20 straight games and is on the verge of becoming one of the league’s better all-around linemen.  Light on his feet in pass protection, he also can knock people down on running plays; a rare dual-threat on this unit. 

On the opposite side is junior Ben Muth, who played in a career-high 10 games in 2006, often struggling badly in pass protection.  At 6-6 and 295 pounds, he has to do a much better job this year of walling off pass rushers and giving T.C. Ostrander clear throwing lanes.

The return of senior Tim Mattran for a sixth season gives a nice boost at the pivot for the Cardinal line.  A six-game starter in 2005, he missed all of last year with a stress fracture of the right fibula.  Mattran has the experience and the intelligence to be the quarterback of this unit.

Mattran will be flanked on the right by junior Alex Fletcher and to the left by senior Mikal Brewer.  After filling in at center in 2006, the versatile Fletcher is banking on the huge season that has escaped him in his first two years as a starter.  A top recruit in 2004 that’s already started 20 games, he can be nasty on running plays, yet disappear on passing downs.  Brewer’s experience and athleticism give him an edge at left guard, but junior Gustav Rydstedt, a converted defensive lineman, is closing the gap.  He has plenty to learn at the new position, but showed enough finesse and tenacity to mount a challenge in August.

Projected Top Reserves: While Rydstedt is a surprise provider of depth at guard, junior Bobby Dockter and sophomore Chris Marinelli have locked down the tackle spots on the second team.  Dockter has played in just three games in three years, making the switch this season from guard to tackle to better utilize his good footwork. 

Marinelli has a very bright future with Stanford after starting five games and earning Pac-10 All-Freshman honors in his first season of action.  At 6-7, he has the long arms needed to seal off the edge and break the stride of opposing ends.  Marinelli will either beat out Muth in 2007 or be the man on the right side in 2008.

Watch Out For… the influence new line coach Chris Dalman has in his first season with this underachieving collection of talent.  A former Stanford lineman himself with NFL coaching experience, if he can get these guys to even approach their potential, he ought to be a finalist for the Broyles Award.
Strength: Experience.  Now that Mattran has been granted a sixth year of eligibility, this year’s first unit could feature five players that have started games at one time or another.
Weakness: Pass protection.  The Stanford line has a lot of problems to address, but none more important than keeping the quarterback from getting obliterated for a fourth consecutive season.  The Cardinal allowed 50 sacks in 2006, which is just the kind of futility that’ll sink Jim Harbaugh passing game.
Outlook: After last season’s meltdown, the only direction is up for the offensive line.  How far they progress will have a ripple effect on the rest of the offense.  There are no longer any excuses for a line with so much good individual talent to be so abysmal as a whole.
Rating: 6

  

Related Stories
2007 Stanford Preview
 -by CollegeFootballNews.com  May 30, 2007
2007 Stanford Preview - Defense
 -by CollegeFootballNews.com  May 30, 2007
2007 Stanford Preview - Depth Chart
 -by CollegeFootballNews.com  May 30, 2007








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