Preview 2008 - Cardinal Offense
2008 CFN Stanford Preview |
2008 Stanford Offense
2008 Stanford Depth
2007 CFN Stanford Preview |
2006 CFN Stanford
need to know:
After engineering gains in almost every statistical category
versus the prior year, Jim Harbaugh’s attack has to do more. Far
more. There’ll be no shortage of challenges, however, including
deciding on a quarterback, rebuilding the receiving corps, and
somehow milking more consistency from a beleaguered line. The
objective will once again be to attack defenses with an up-tempo
system that leans on the pass, yet still strives for balance
with a power running game. All eyes will be on the battle behind
center, which will introduce a couple of fresh faces, Michigan
transfer Jason Forcier and high-profile recruit Andrew Luck.
Passing: Tavita Pritchard
97-194, 1,114 yds, 5 TD, 9 INT
Rushing: Anthony Kimble
115 carries, 509 yds, 8 TD
Receiving: Richard Sherman
39 catches, 651 yds, 4 TD
of the offense:
Senior C Alex Fletcher
Player who has to step up and become a star: Senior LT
Unsung star on the rise: Sophomore WR Ryan Whalen
Best pro prospect: Fletcher
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Fletcher 2) Junior WR
Richard Sherman 3) Junior RT Chris Marinelli
Strength of the offense: Tight ends
Weakness of the offense: The offensive line
Projected Starter: Harbaugh plans to open up the
competition at quarterback, meaning incumbent, junior Tavita
Pritchard, will be hard pressed to retain his starting job.
Yes, he delivered the game-winning touchdown pass against USC as
an emergency starter, but did little else over the final seven
games to secure his place for this year. For the season, he went
97-of-194 for 1,114 yards, five touchdown passes and nine
interceptions, showing good quickness when the pocket collapsed.
In his defense, the Cardinal offensive line was among the worst
in the nation at protecting the quarterback.
Projected Top Reserves: In just over a year,
Harbaugh has noticeably improved the quarterback depth. For
starters, he brought a Michigan man to The Farm, luring junior
Jason Forcier out of Ann Arbor last April. After spending
a successful year on the scout team, Forcier is ready to compete
for the starting job. One of the top-rated quarterbacks of 2005,
his athletic ability and leadership are two things that have
been from recent Cardinal offenses.
Sophomore Alex Loukas will get his first good shot to
show why he was a coveted dual-threat recruit two years ago.
Like Forcier, he’s more than just a chucker, combining quick
feet and a high football IQ in a pocket passers body.
Watch Out For… Incoming freshman Andrew Luck.
Harbaugh believes he has landed a major talent who can be molded
into a franchise quarterback. A smooth distributor who does all
the little things well, he was a coup for the Cardinal in this
latest recruiting class. While it’s unlikely Luck will win the
job, it’s worth monitoring whether he can jump one of the
veterans on the depth chart.
Strength: Athleticism. While the Cardinal
quarterbacks still have plenty to prove in the passing game, all
three of the veterans are above average scramblers capable of
eluding pressure when the pocket collapses. Playing behind an
offensive line that yielded 48 sacks in 2007 makes dodging jail
breaks necessary for survival.
Weakness: Inexperience. Although Pritchard earned
an unexpected letter a year ago, the Cardinal quarterbacks have
collectively accomplished very little. Pritchard still has a lot
to prove, Forcier threw three passes in two years at Michigan,
and Loukas and Luck have yet to get on the field. Yes, the
future looks good at the position, but there’s still work to do.
Outlook: With Forcier and Loukas breathing down
his neck, Pritchard will struggle to hold on to the top spot.
The competition, however, will be good for everyone involved
with more overall production needed from the position. Harbaugh
needs a quarterback who can make something out of nothing,
especially in an offense that doesn’t pass protect and is thin
at receiver. Advantage Forcier.
Projected Starters: The inability of senior
Anthony Kimble to deliver a breakthrough year isn’t all his
fault. For three years he has received little support up front,
often taking first contact at or behind the line of scrimmage,
and after running for a career-high 509 yards and eight scores
in 2007 before his season was cut short by a shoulder injury.
When healthy and given room to run, Kimble is a 6-1, 210-pounder
who can be elusive in the open field and a load for defensive
backs to bring down. A converted receiver with 45 career
catches, he’s also a nice option in the passing game. He has
NFL skills, even if the Cardinal has a difficult time getting
them to the surface.
The offensive line may be a liability, but Kimble does have the
luxury of running behind sophomore FB Owen Marecic. He
started all 12 games as a true freshman, earning Honorable
Mention All-Pac-10 honors after probable starter Emeka Nnoli was
lost to a hip injury. Marecic loves contact, possessing the
selfless mindset needed to be a successful fullback.
Projected Top Reserves: Junior Toby Gerhart
returns after sitting out all but the opener with a knee injury.
A physical north-south runner who doubles as the DH on the
baseball team, he ran for a career-high 140 yards on just 12
carries in his only appearance of 2007.
After Kimble was injured, true freshman Jeremy Stewart
moved into the lineup, starting four of the final five games and
rushing for 343 yards and two scores. A year older, he’s better
prepared to have an even bigger role in the Cardinal running.
On a roster dominated by 210-pound bruisers, sophomore Tyrone
McGraw gives the offense a change-of-pace with his ability
to get to the outside and make defenders miss. Just 5-9 and 180
pounds, he impressed in back-to-back games with Washington and
Washington State, commanding more touches as the backfield’s
best homerun hitter.
Watch Out For… Kimble to give Stanford its first
1,000-yard rusher since 1991. He’ll need to stay healthy for all
12 games and get more help from his blockers, but Kimble has the
ability to give the Cardinal its most consistent ground threat
in years. At this time next year, some pro team is going to
consider him a draft day bargain.
Strength: Between-the-tackle runners. Kimble,
Gerhart, Stewart, and even Marecic have the necessary girth and
mentality to soften opposing defenses when the offense needs to
move the chains in short yardage.
Weakness: The offensive line. For years, the
Cardinal has had one of the nation’s most futile rushing
attacks, largely due to what’s happening at the point of attack.
The line has been perennially putrid in run blocking, keeping
the backs from ever getting out of the blocks.
Outlook: The Cardinal may not be the Pac-10’s
worst rushing team this season, but don’t expect a dramatic
shift in the recent trend on the ground. Although the back will
move the chains against teams like San Jose State and
Washington, it’ll be three yards and a cloud of dust against the
balance of the schedule.
Projected Starters: Now that Mark Bradford and
Evan Moore have finally exhausted their eligibility, it’s time
for junior Richard Sherman to step up and perform like
the leader of the receiving corps. While he’s caught at least 34
balls in each of the last two years, there’s a feeling around
the program that he’s nowhere near his full potential. A
terrific all-around athlete at 6-3 and 190 pounds, he’ll be the
preferred target of whichever quarterback wins the job.
The line to join Sherman in the lineup is a long one that
includes a number of imports from different positions. Doug
Baldwin has the most experience, having played in 12 games
as a true freshman and catching 11 passes. At just 5-11 and 180
pounds, he makes up for being one of the team’s smaller
receivers with good speed and even better leaping ability.
After Jim Dray suffered a serious knee injury, junior
Ben Ladner filled the pass-catching void, leading all tight
ends with 27 receptions, despite not starting a single game. Now
on his third position since coming to Stanford, he showed the
quickness and hands that‘ll make this his final destination on
the depth chart.
Projected Top Reserves: Sophomore Ryan Whalen
was one of last year’s rookie eye-openers, going from
walk-on to a certain contributor for the next three seasons.
Despite only catching one pass, he routinely wowed the staff in
practice with his toughness, route running, and sticky hands.
His role is about to mushroom with a starting job within reach.
To bolster the team’s thinnest position, Harbaugh has relocated
redshirt freshman Coby Fleener, sophomore Marcus Rance,
and junior Chris Hobbs from tight end, safety, and
cornerback, respectively. At 6-6 with a good burst, the Cardinal
is hoping to turn Fleener into the second coming of Moore, sans
the injury problems.
When healthy, Dray is the team’s most complete tight end.
Unfortunately, last fall’s knee injury was so severe, it’ll keep
the junior from taking contact until at least September. He’s
already used a redshirt year so he’ll have to play or burn a
year of eligibility.
If Dray takes time getting back on the field, the Cardinal will
rely on senior Austin Gunder for a second straight
season. A steady pass-catcher and solid blocker, he started the
final six games, catching 10 passes and a pair of touchdowns.
Watch Out For… incoming freshman Chris Owusu.
At a position battered by graduation, Owusu is the type of
speedy downfield threat who might crack the two-deep as a
rookie. He has to bulk up, but he has as much upside and natural
ability as anyone but Sherman.
Strength: Tight end. Assuming Dray returns to
form, the Cardinal will have three tight ends capable of
starting and assisting a receiving corps that’ll be a year-long
Weakness: Playmakers after Sherman. A year ago,
Stanford had three receivers defenses had to worry about, but
today, there’s just one. If coordinators commit extra attention
to Sherman, it’ll be up to a bunch of young, unproven players to
make them pay for it.
Outlook: Unless Sherman or Owusu explodes into an
unstoppable force, this will be a sore spot for the Cardinal.
Whalen is a terrific story, but if he’s the No. 2 option, it’ll
be another sign that depth and big-play ability are going to be
scarce. As an alternative, the quarterbacks will spend plenty of
time looking for the tight ends underneath.
Projected Starters: No matter what happens at
quarterback or in the running game, the offense will be grounded
if the line can’t make marked improvements everywhere. Two
starters are gone from a unit that paved the way for the
nation’s 102nd-ranked running game and was 116th
in sacks allowed. As if things couldn’t be more dicey, Allen
Smith, the Cardinal’s best tackle, fractured his
kneecap working out in February and could miss the entire
There is some good news. Alex Fletcher, a member of the
All-Pac-10 Second Team, put off the NFL to return for his
senior season. A ferocious run blocker with 31 career starts,
he’s moving to center for the second time after playing guard in
The likely replacement at left tackle is senior Ben Muth,
a veteran of 26 games and nine starts after Smith was injured
last September. He’s had issues in pass protection, a major
concern now that he’ll be protecting the quarterback’s
On the opposite side is junior Chris Marinelli, who
started 12 games in 2007 and was named honorable mention
All-Pac-10. At 6-7, the former high school tight end has the
wingspan and light feet to continue emerging during the second
half of his career.
After backing up both guards and earning a letter as a freshman,
Andrew Phillips is poised to move into the starting
rotation. One of the gems of the 2006 class, the 6-5,
295-pounder has the strength and toughness to become an asset in
the running game.
After making a successful shift from the defensive line, there’s
hope junior Gustav Rydstedt can lock down a starting
assignment. Still learning the position, his footwork and
tenacity have been pleasant surprises to the coaching staff.
Projected Top Reserves: Depth was a concern for
line coach Chris Dalman before Smith was injured. Now, it’s a
crisis. The Cardinal is especially thin at tackle, where any
more casualties will put the unit in a precarious position.
Junior Matt Kopa is the lone backup with any experience,
earning letters in each of the last two seasons. A former
can’t-miss defensive lineman prospect, he looks the part at 6-6
and 285 pounds, but he needs more seasoning and fewer injuries
to be a weekly factor.
If Stanford decides to move Fletcher back to guard, sophomore
Bert McBride will assume the starting job at center. Quick
off the snap and capable of also playing guard, he earned
valuable experience as Tim Mattran’s understudy.
If there’s a need at guard, the Cardinal can turn to McBride or,
it hopes, sophomore Chase Beeler, a transfer from
Oklahoma who also plays the pivot. Coveted by numerous Big 12
schools two years ago, he plays smart and could wind up being a
heist for Harbaugh.
Watch Out For… Beeler’s progress. With his
versatility and understanding of the game, it’s only a matter of
time before he’s logging important minutes. The only concern
right now is that Beeler might get shoved around at just 276
Strength: Fletcher. More than just the best
blocker on the roster, he can intimidate opponents and incite
teammates around him. By making him the quarterback of the line,
he’ll have an even bigger voice to light a flame under the rest
of the unit.
Weakness: Pass protection. The Cardinal has been
awful at keeping the quarterback upright, a problem that
worsened when Smith was lost for an extended period of time. If
there isn’t consistent pass protection, the offense will
continue to struggle.
Outlook: Although hope can be found in
individuals, such as Fletcher, Marinelli, and Phillips, as a
whole, this unit will continue to be the Achilles’ heel of the
offense. If Muth can’t make handle the promotion at left tackle,
opposing ends will habitually blow up Harbaugh’s offensive