Preview 2008 - Defense
2008 CFN Stanford Preview |
2008 Stanford Depth
2007 CFN Stanford Preview |
2006 CFN Stanford
need to know:
Scott Shafer is now coaching at Michigan, but don’t expect new
co-defensive coordinator Ron Lynn to change a lot from the
attacking defense that was so successful at getting into the
backfield and creating turnovers in 2007. The Cardinal retains
much of the personnel responsible for a No. 5 national ranking
in tackles for loss and second place Pac-10 finish in sacks.
Although the front seven is loaded with players capable of
harassing the quarterback, Stanford’s ability to turn the
linebackers and safeties loose will depend on the play of a
shaky pass defense coming off a rough season. Besides shoring up
the secondary, Lynn needs to develop more depth at defensive
tackle if the run defense is going to take a positive step.
Tackles: Bo McNally, 114
Sacks: Clinton Snyder, 8
Interceptions: Bo McNally, 2
of the defense: Junior LB Clinton Snyder
Player who has to step up and become a star: Junior DT
Unsung star on the rise: Sophomore LB Chike Amajoyi
Best pro prospect: Senior DE Pannel Egboh
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Snyder 2) Egboh 3)
Junior S Bo McNally
Strength of the defense: The linebackers
Weakness of the defense: Pass defense
Projected Starters: The Cardinal returns five
letterman to the defensive line, led by a couple of All-Pac-10
candidates, senior DE Pannel Egboh and junior DT Ekom
Udofia. At 6-6 and 270 pounds, Egboh already has an NFL
frame to go along with next level pass rushing skills. No slouch
in run defense, he had 49 tackles, 13.5 tackles for loss, and
six sacks, saving his best effort for Stanford’s shocking upset
Udofia is the defense’s best interior lineman, a powerful force
with a sudden burst off the snap. He has, however, struggled to
tap all of his potential, requiring shoulder surgery two years
ago and fracturing his fibula midway through last season. Still,
he’s on the cusp of having a breakthrough season worthy of his
Juniors Erik Lorig and Levirt Griffin will battle
it out for the right to start at defensive end, with the loser
still playing an enormous role as a reserve. Lorig’s a former
blue-chip tight end recruit who’s coming into his own on the
defensive line. A terrific athlete at 6-4 and 257 pounds, he was
second among Cardinal linemen with 37 tackles, adding 7.5
tackles for loss and a pair of sacks.
Griffin’s about 15 pounds heavier than Lorig, and thick enough
to move inside, something he did often in 2007. He started six
games after Udofia was hurt, collecting 19 tackles, 2.5 tackles
for loss and a sack. While Lorig is the better pass rusher,
Griffin is harder to move off the ball on running downs.
Junior Brian Bulcke has the most experience of the
remaining tackles, but is only 269 pounds and missed spring to
recover from shoulder surgery.
Although he’s an important part of the line, he’s also
vulnerable to getting passed by redshirt freshman Matt
Masifilo, the gem of Stanford’s 2007 class. The staff loves
his drive, intensity, and quickness off the snap. Bulcke vs.
Masifilo is setting up as one of the hottest competitions of the
Projected Top Reserves: Whether it’s Lorig or
Griffin in the starting lineup, both will play extensively at a
position that has few other reliable options. Ditto Bulcke and
Masifilo, who could be interchangeable parts of the rotation on
the inside. To bolster the depth at tackle, Stanford is moving
redshirt freshman Matt Bentler, a former guard, to
defense. At 6-5 and 292 pounds, he’s already one of the biggest
players at the position, and has the frame to add more weight.
Sophomore Derek Hall has the quick feet and long arms to
be a success at tackle, but, like Bentler, still has a lot to
learn before becoming an integral part of the defensive front.
Watch Out For… Sophomore NT Sione Fua.
Stanford has a glaring problem at tackle that Fua might be able
to address. A former four-star recruit who had 16 tackles as a
freshman in 2006, he’s cutting short his Mormon mission and
returning to the team this fall.
Strength: The ends. There isn’t a whole lot of
depth, but Egboh has the upside of an All-American and Lorig
will keep getting better as a pass rusher now that he’s settling
in at his new position.
Weakness: The tackles. Assuming he’s 100%, Udofia
is a nice place to start, but after him, the Cardinal is chock
full of inexperience and concerns about depth.
Outlook: Although there are enough good athletes
to get penetration, there will be problems stopping physical
teams that commit to a no-nonsense running attack. If the
Cardinal is going to avoid getting pushed around in the
trenches, it’ll need Fua to shake off the rust and either
Bentler or Hall to mature in a hurry.
Projected Starters: While uncertainty plagues most
areas of the two-deep, the Cardinal is well-stocked at
linebacker. The headliner is 6-4, 230-pound Clinton Snyder,
a high energy junior who’s well on his way to being one of the
best at his position in the Pac-10. Versatile and instinctive,
he flourished in last year’s attacking defense, racking up 96
tackles, 14.5 tackles for loss, a team-high eight sacks, four
forced fumbles, and three fumble recoveries. His anonymity
outside the league has a short shelf life.
From the outside, senior Pat Maynor has distinguished
himself as a leader and one of the defensive playmakers. In his
second full season as a regular, he overcame safety size with a
hot motor, great closing speed, and a nose for the ball,
collecting 88 tackles, a team-best 16.5 tackles for loss, and
If Snyder shifts back to strongside, sophomore Nick Macaluso
will take over in the middle, where he started six games and
picked up 23 tackles. He has the size and run-stopping skills
coveted in inside linebackers, two reasons why the coaches
believe he has a great future at Stanford.
Projected Top Reserves: Depending on who plays in
the middle, there might be an opening in the starting lineup for
sophomore Chike Amajoyi, who showed late last year that
he needs to be on the field. Pressed into action as a true
freshman, he delivered 47 tackles, nine tackles for loss, four
sacks, and three fumble recoveries. A running back until just
before the start of the season, Amajoyi picked up his new
position in a snap, using his jets and lateral quickness to make
Although junior Will Powers isn’t much of a threat to the
starters, he gives the unit a veteran presence and a sizable,
242-pound linebacker to clog lanes in run defense. Capable of
playing outside or inside, he had some problems adjusting to
middle linebacker after the Cardinal made the switch to the
Once guys like Snyder, Maynor, and Powers are gone, redshirt
freshman Johnathan Frink will join Amajoyi as a mainstay
of this group. At 6-2 and 224 pounds, he’s an explosive middle
linebacker and an all-around dynamic athlete.
Watch Out For… more blitzing from this group.
There’s a new defensive coordinator in town, but that won’t stop
Lynn from turning loose Snyder, Maynor, and Amajoyi, which
worked wonders for the Stanford pass rush a year ago.
Strength: Speed and athleticism. All of the
Cardinal linebackers are high-effort guys who get to the ball in
a hurry and give away nothing in size or strength. In terms of
overall athleticism, this group measures up with any on the
Weakness: Experience in the middle. Fred Campbell
was to be the successor to Michael Okwo, but a fractured
vertebrae ended his playing career before it started. The onus
is on a pair of underclassmen, Macaluso and Frink, to handle the
job, or else Snyder might have to slide over from strongside.
Outlook: Led by Snyder, this is a terrific
collection of talent that returns its five best players from
last season. If Macaluso shows he’s ready in the middle, Snyder
and Maynor will roam the field freely, wreaking havoc in
Projected Starters: The secondary returns seven
letterwinners from a year ago, including four defensive backs
with starting experience. Junior Kris Evans and senior
Wopamo Osaisai split time at one cornerback spot, but with
Tim Sims and Nick Sanchez graduating, both are being counted on
to be in the every day lineup. The fleet-footed Evans took
playing time away from Osaisai in November, starting the final
four games and performing well on a unit that allowed just two
touchdown passes over that span.
Osaisai, on the other hand, was a disappointment, yielding
enough big plays to lose his starting job late in the year. One
of the Pac-10’s best special teams players as an outside cover
man on punt returns, he has the instincts and playmaking skills
to have a rebound in his final season.
Juniors Bo McNally and Austin Yancy are back at
safety after starting all 12 games a year ago. McNally led the
team with 114 tackles and had a couple of interceptions, earning
honorable mention recognition on the All-Pac-10 team. A
converted linebacker at 6-0 and 208 pounds, he’s a thumper at
free safety and one of the emotional leaders of the defense.
In 2006, Yancy caught 16 passes as one of the Cardinal’s
up-an-coming receivers. Last year, he was making a gradual
transition to strong safety, collecting 49 tackles and breaking
up five passes in his first year on defense. At 6-4 and 215
pounds, he has the size and speed to excel in the secondary, but
still has a lot of learning to do, especially in the area of
Projected Top Reserves: The defensive staff is
thrilled to have sophomore CB Corey Gatewood back on its
side of the ball. An emergency fill-in at running back as a
freshman, he has the speed, hops, and ball skills as a former
high school receiver to eventually be a very effective corner.
Taylor Skaufel lettered as a freshman, making 35 tackles
and contributing on special teams, making him the most
experienced of the backup safeties. Lacking ideal size for the
position, he’s a scrapper who wraps up well and plays
fundamentally sound in run defense.
Watch Out For… Osaisai to bounce back from a sub
par junior season. Although he takes a few too many chances and
can get burned from time-to-time, he also has the ball skills
and athletic ability to pick off a half dozen passes and take a
couple back for scores.
Strength: The safeties. A weak link a year ago,
Stanford brings back both starters and a key reserve who played
extensively in his rookie season. McNally and Yancy were new to
the position in 2007, but will be second-year starters.
Weakness: Depth at cornerback. Losing Sanchez and
Sims leaves the Cardinal dangerously thin at one of the most
important spots on the defense. Although Gatewood is going to be
a player, it’d be premature to expect that to happen so soon.
Outlook: The secondary will only be as good as the
amount of pressure the front seven can create. While it’ll be
just fine in run defense, if opposing quarterbacks get enough
time to throw, they’ll tear through a group that’s vulnerable on
the deep routes and questionable at cornerback.
Projected Starters: The Cardinal is facing the
challenge of replacing all-time leading punter Jay Ottovegio and
last year’s kicker, Derek Belch. Ouch. Redshirt freshman
David Green might be the answer at both positions, but first
he has to make a full recovery from back surgery. Considered
one of the premier kicking prospects of 2007, he has the leg
strength, mechanics, and demeanor to be the team’s leading
scorer for the next four seasons.
Green’s competition at kicker will come from senior Aaron
Zagory, a starter in 2006 who struggled badly with his
consistency and distance.
At punter, Alex Loukas, who’s better known for his work
under center, is taking his cuts in practice to add depth to a
Sophomore Doug Baldwin and junior Chris Hobbs are
back after leading the team in kick returns and punt returns,
respectively, in 2007.
Watch Out For… incoming freshman punter Daniel
Zychlinski. Harbaugh knew he needed to upgrade the situation
at this position, going all the way to Tampa to land Zychlinski.
One of the nation’s top 10 punters in high school, the 6-3,
215-pounder averaged more than 40 yards last year and also has
experience kicking field goals.
Strength: Green. No, he hasn’t played a game yet,
and his back is a concern, but Green has the leg and the poise
in clutch situations to evolve into one of the league’s better
Weakness: Punting. Ottovegio’s departure leaves
the Cardinal with a gaping hole at the position that might be
filled by a true freshman or the backup quarterback.
Outlook: There’s uncertainty everywhere, and the
return game isn’t anything special. If this is going to be
anything more than a liability, it’ll be up to a pair of
freshman, Green and Zychlinski, to carry it to stability.