2009 CFN Stanford Preview
Stanford RB Toby Gerhart
Stanford RB Toby Gerhart
Posted May 30, 2009

Stanford made great strides under Jim Harbaugh, but the team failed to come through down the stretch. Is there enough talent to work around Toby Gerhart to get to a bowl game? Check out the CFN 2009 Stanford Preview.

Stanford Cardinal

Preview 2009

By Richard Cirminiello    

Interested in blogging about Stanford football?  Let us know

- 2009 CFN Stanford Preview | 2009 Stanford Offense
- 2009 Stanford Defense | 2009 Stanford Depth Chart
- 2008 Stanford Preview | 2007 Stanford Preview | 2006 Stanford Preview 

Head coach: Jim Harbaugh
3rd year at Stanford: 9-15
6th year overall: 38-21
Returning Lettermen:
Off. 24, Def. 23, ST 3
Lettermen Lost: 12
Ten Best Cardinal Players
1. RB Toby Gerhart, Sr.
2. LB Clinton Snyder, Sr.
3. S Bo McNally, Sr.
4. DE Tom Keiser, Soph.
5. DE Erik Lorig, Sr.
6. RT Chris Marinelli, Sr.
7. FB Owen Marecic, Jr.
8. WR Ryan Whalen, Jr.
9. LT Matt Kopa, Sr.
10. DT Ekom Udofia, Sr.

2009 Schedule
CFN Prediction:
2009 Record:

9/5 at Washington State
9/12 at Wake Forest
9/19 San Jose State
9/26 Washington
10/3 UCLA
10/10 at Oregon State
10/17 at Arizona
10/24 Arizona State
11/7 Oregon
11/14 at USC
11/21 California
11/28 Notre Dame

2008 Schedule
CFN Prediction:
2008 Record:

8/28 Oregon St W 36-28
9/6 at Arizona St L 41-17
9/13 at TCU L 31-14
9/20 San Jose St W 23-10
9/27 at Wash W 35-28
10/4 at No Dame L 28-21
10/11 Arizona W 24-23
10/18 at UCLA L 23-20
11/1 Wash St W 58-0
11/8 at Oregon L 35-28
11/15 USC L 45-23
11/22 at California L 37-16

Half-empty or half-filled? It depends who you ask.

While there’s absolutely no doubt that third-year head coach Jim Harbaugh has Stanford moving in the right direction, the school lost its final three games of 2008 when just one win was needed for bowl eligibility. Sure, the opponents were Oregon, USC, and Cal, but that was just another reminder of how far the program has to go before joining the Pac-10 elite.

While last year ended with a thud, it’s been a terrific offseason for Stanford. First, Harbaugh stayed put, turning away multiple suitors, and then he assembled what could someday be one of the best recruiting classes in school history. He and his staff went as far as New York, Maryland, and Georgia to land blue-chippers, winning some unexpected battles along the way. The future is bright on the Farm. The present doesn’t look so bad either.

Stanford welcomes back eight starters on offense and seven on defense, boasting as much depth as it’s had in years. The most glaring weakness is the passing game, which is why the battle between senior Tavita Pritchard and hot-shot rookie Andrew Luck will remain such a compelling storyline. If Luck can build on the momentum he created in the spring, the Cardinal just might be ready for the next phase of its rebuilding plan.

Stanford won four games in 2007. Last year, it won five times. If it can get No. 6 this season, look out. It could provide the spark this program has been after for almost a decade.

What to watch for on offense
: The Major League Baseball draft. Where would the Stanford offense be without RB Toby Gerhart, the 1,000-yard rusher and All-Pac-10 second teamer? The program hopes not to find out until 2010. The problem is that Gerhart is also a talented slugger, who’s likely to get drafted in June. How high he goes could impact what type of helmet he’s wearing in August. Now, he’s expressed a desire to play football for one final season, but that’s subject to change, depending upon the outlook of his baseball career.

What to watch for on defense: Developments in the secondary. The front seven is fine. The defensive backfield, however, is in a state of flux. The staff has pulled out all the stops, moving some of its better athletes from offense over to the other side of the ball. The Cardinal yielded 18 touchdown passes and picked off just seven in 2008, despite getting plenty of help from the pass rush. The coaches are keeping their fingers crossed that sophomore Michael Thomas can develop into a lockdown cover guy, and former playmakers Delano Howell and Richard Sherman can multi-task in 2009.

The team will be far better if… the passing game can produce more plays. Whether it’s Tavita Pritchard or Andrew Luck at the controls, Stanford needs more production from a passing attack that ranked 103rd nationally last season and had four more interceptions than touchdowns. If nothing else, the quarterbacks must make defenses think twice about stacking the line to stop Toby Gerhart and an improved running game.

The Schedule
: The Cardinal starts off the year with a key Pac 10 game at Washington State. Considering how bad the Cougars were last year, and with a date at Wake Forest to follow, Stanford can't drop the game in Pullman. While playing the Demon Deacons will be tough, seven of the final ten games are at home including four of the final five. Despite what Jim Harbaugh might believe, and even with what happened two years ago, the USC game will almost certainly be a loss so that might as well be on the road. Getting Oregon and Cal at home is a plus, while facing Notre Dame on The Farm will be an interesting way to close out the regular season.

Best offensive player: Senior RB Toby Gerhart. Raise your hand if you saw Gerhart’s junior season before it happened. A year after missing all but one game with a knee injury, he erupted for 1,136 yards and 15 touchdowns on the ground. A 237-pound bruiser, he powered his way through defenses, wearing them out and requiring multiple tacklers to bring him down. More than just Stanford’s best offensive player, he’s the heart and soul of this squad. 

Best defensive player: Senior LB Clinton Snyder. No, Snyder didn’t build on his breakthrough sophomore year last fall, making fewer big plays and missing the All-Pac-10 team. Don’t expect a repeat this season. He plays linebacker as if he belongs in Los Angeles, stopping the run, rushing the passer, and defending the pass like a 231-pound safety. The catalyst for the defense, he brings a contagious fire and intensity to the rest of the unit.  

Key player to a successful season: Redshirt freshman QB Andrew Luck. No, it’s not fair to heap so much pressure on such a young player, but no one doubts he has the potential to really elevate Stanford to another level. It’s been too long since the Cardinal had a quarterback, who could stretch a defense and force it to respect the passing attack. Luck has that potential, provided he can beat out incumbent Tavita Pritchard this summer.   

The season will be a success if ... Stanford manufactures enough wins for a bowl invite. That’s code for six wins in 12 games, or a one-game improvement versus last year. Jim Harbaugh has taken this rebuilding project in steps, making improvements in each of the last two seasons. Getting to the next rung on the ladder requires a postseason game for just the second time this decade, a realistic goal considering all of the returning veterans.

Key game: Nov. 28 vs. Notre Dame. The possibility exists that the Cardinal could need this game in the regular season finale to become bowl-eligible for the first time since 2001. You think that’ll create an unusual level of excitement on the Farm? With a national TV audience in attendance, what better vehicle than the Irish for Jim Harbaugh to showcase how far along his program has come? 

2008 Fun Stats: 
- First quarter scoring: Opponents 53 - Stanford 51
- Second quarter scoring: Stanford 117 - Opponents 113
- Sacks: Stanford 34 for 252 yards - Opponents 21 for 149 yards