2010 Stanford Preview
Stanford QB Andrew Luck
Stanford QB Andrew Luck
Posted Jun 18, 2010

CollegeFootballNews.com 2010 Preview - Stanford Cardinal

Stanford Cardinal

Preview 2010

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By Pete Fiutak

Head coach: Jim Harbaugh
Fourth year: 17-20
Returning Lettermen
Off. 19, Def. 20, ST 4
Lettermen Lost: 16
Ten Best Stanford Players
1. QB Andrew Luck, Soph.
2. WR/KR Chris Owusu, Jr.
3. DE Thomas Keiser, Jr.
4. C Chase Beeler, Sr.
5. WR Ryan Whalen, Sr.
6. LB Shayne Skov, Soph.
7. LB/FB Owen Marecic, Sr.
8. NT Sione Fua, Sr.
9. OG David DeCastro, Soph.
10. SS Delano Howell, Jr.
2010 Schedule

Sept. 4 Sacramento St
Sept. 11 at UCLA
Sept. 18 Wake Forest
Sept. 25 at Notre Dame
Oct. 2 at Oregon
Oct. 9 USC
Oct. 23 Washington State
Oct. 30 at Washington
Nov. 6 Arizona
Nov. 13 at Arizona State
Nov. 20 at Calfornia
Nov. 27 Oregon State

Has Stanford peaked, or is this just the beginning?

Three years. That's all it's taken for Jim Harbaugh to completely transform the Cardinal football program, from top to bottom. Tangible proof of his work was most evident a year ago, when the team finished in a second place tie in the Pac-10 and went 8-5, its most wins and first bowl game since 2001. Heck, you want a turnaround? How about spending four weeks in the Top 25 and going 3-0 versus ranked opponents? Yup, these are heady times on the Farm, but can Stanford actually elevate beyond last year's breakthrough campaign? Harbaugh, for one, is banking on it.

Despite the graduation of its signature player, All-American RB Toby Gerhart, the Cardinal realizes that its rise has been about more than just a single part. And while he's virtually irreplaceable, the offense simply plans to shift the focus to its other mega-talent, sophomore QB Andrew Luck. A bit of a bystander at times of his rookie year, he's set to unleash his full array of talent on the rest of the conference. Already being labeled as a future first-rounder in the NFL, he has the arm, head, and veteran receivers to become a household name by midseason. Even without the services of Gerhart, the offense will be fine. The defense, however, is what's standing between the program and that next rung on the Pac-10 ladder. Toothless on this side of the ball in 2009, Harbaugh has hired NFL veteran Vic Fangio to orchestrate a turnaround ... or at least locate a pulse. His efforts will go a long way to determining the team's ultimate fate in 2010.

USC is ineligible. Oregon is without star QB Jeremiah Masoli. Stanford senses an enormous opportunity to play in a Rose Bowl, while really throwing Harbaugh reclamation project into overdrive.

What to watch for on offense: QB Andrew Luck to threaten for a while to become the fourth straight sophomore to win the Heisman. All signs point to him erupting in his second year as the starter. The running game is in a state of transition now that Toby Gerhart is gone. The defense will make shootouts a necessity. Oh, and he has the strong right arm that's already caught the attention of NFL scouts and two terrific receivers in Ryan Whalen and Chris Owusu. He'll have the required numbers, and if the Cardinal winds up being in the Rose Bowl hunt, voters won't have any choice but to pay attention.

What to watch for on defense: The transition of the linebackers to Vic Fangio's new 3-4 alignment. If you're going to employ the 3-4, you better have a deep collection of players at the second level. Stanford is feverishly working on it. Ex-fullback Owen Marecic is switching sides of the ball. Former ends Chase Thomas and Thomas Keiser might both wind up playing outside linebacker. There's a lot of shifting and experimentation that'll continue to go on in the summer, with the hope of having this unit raring to go by the time Sacramento State visits on Sept. 4.

The team will be far better if… the defense becomes even a little less offensive. Hey, no one is counting on an overnight transformation, but if Stanford is to take the next step, it has to begin doing something better. Anything. Even if the Cardinal continues to allow big plays, the defense can still assist the common good by creating more big plays, like sacks and turnovers. Despite employing a frenetic pace, the team ranked ninth in takeaways and eighth in sacks in the Pac-10.

The Schedule: Get .. through ... the first half. The Cardinal starts off with a light scrimmage against Sacramento State, and then the fun begins with three road games in the ensuing four weeks going to UCLA, Notre Dame, and Oregon with the home game against a decent Wake Forest squad. After that stretch the team is rewarded with a home game against USC in what's sure to be fiery battle all the way around. And then things ease up in a big, big way with a week off to catch the breath before getting another week off against Washington State. There are three remaining road games going to Washington, Arizona State, and California, if you can call that a road trip; that's not that bad.

Best offensive player: Sophomore QB Andrew Luck. Don't be fooled by last year's numbers, just 13 touchdown passes and 214 yards a game. Stanford didn't need him to be more prolific, leaning heavily on the running of Toby Gerhart. Now that the workhorse is in Minnesota, Stanford is going to turn the sophomore loose. The prototype in a pro-caliber quarterback, he can make all of the throws, makes plays with his feet, and has the feel for the position of an upperclassmen. He has as much long-term potential as any young hurler in America.

Best defensive player: Senior DE Thomas Keiser. Boy, did a lot of schools miss the potential of this late-bloomer from Pennsylvania or what? In just two seasons, he's already racked up 22 stops behind the line and 15 sacks, growing into a 6-5, 242-pound menace coming off the edge. He plays to the whistle and has good natural instincts as a pass rusher. He also could be playing outside linebacker this season, where his range and athleticism will be in full display.

Key players to a successful season: The defensive backs. While the defense was bad a year ago, the secondary was especially inept, yielding 264 yards a game through the air. The front seven has upside and at least three strong candidates for all-league recognition. The defensive backfield, on the other hand, is precariously light on top-tier talent and in dire need of more stops.

The season will be a success if ... the Cardinal wins eight regular season games and goes to back-to-back bowl games for the first time in 14 years. The Rose Bowl is a possibility. It is not, however, where the bar currently sits. No, the goal in Palo Alto is to further the winning mentality and make the postseason the new normal. After the opener, it has a challenging schedule, but gone for now are the days when two or three games are already off limits.

Key game: Dec. 4 at Cal. While every Pac-10 game is going to be pivotal in this season's race to Pasadena, the Big Game always has special meaning in Northern California. Even more than usual, Stanford would like to return the favor after losing to Cal at home last November to snap one of the most impressive three-game winning streaks in school history.

2009 Fun Stats:
- Sacks: Stanford 21 – Opponents 7
- Time of possession: Stanford 32:05 – Opponents 27:55
- First half scoring: Stanford 267 - Opponents 156

- 2010 Stanford Preview | 2010 Stanford Offense
- 2010 Stanford Defense | 2010 Stanford Depth Chart
- Stanford Previews  2009 | 2008 | 2007 | 2006