After earning three consecutive BCS bowl appearances, the bar is set high for Stanford in 2013. And the Cardinal return 14 starters from a team that won 12 games last season, so it's not out of the question David Shaw's team can compete for a spot in the national championship this season. The Cardinal has a favorable path to a Pac-12 North title but play Oregon and USC in a challenging November slate. Even if Stanford doesn’t make for the national title in 2013, another appearance in the Rose Bowl is certainly within reach.
Stanford Cardinal 2013 Spring Preview
2012 Record: 12-2 (8-1)
Spring practice dates: Feb. 25-April 13
Returning Starters: Offense – 6, Defense – 8
Passing: Josh Nunes, 124 of 235, 1,643 yds., 10 TDs, 7 INTs
Rushing: Kevin Hogan, 55 car., 263 yds., 2 TDs
Receiving: Ty Montgomery, 26 rec., 213 yds.
Tackles: Shayne Skov, 81
Sacks: Trent Murphy, 10
Interceptions: Ed Reynolds, 6
Redshirts to watch: RB Barry Sanders, OL Nick Davidson, OL Johnny Caspers, WR Michael Rector, WR Conner Crane, LB Noor Davis, DE Jordan Watkins, C Graham Shuler, WR Dontonio Jordan, TE Alex Frkovic, TE Chris Harrell
Sept. 7 San Jose State
Sept. 14 at Army
Sept. 21 Arizona State
Sept. 28 at Washington State
Oct. 5 Washington
Oct. 12 at Utah
Oct. 19 UCLA
Oct. 26 at Oregon State
Nov. 7 Oregon
Nov. 16 at USC
Nov. 23 California
Nov. 30 Notre Dame
Offensive Strength: Quarterback Kevin Hogan still needs to develop as a passer, but there’s a lot to like about the Virginia native going into 2013. Hogan finished with 1,096 passing yards and nine scores, while adding 263 rush yards in 2012. Even though center Sam Schwartzstein finished his eligibility, the offensive line should be a strength. David Yankey is one of the best linemen in the Pac-12, while Khalil Wilkes, Kevin Danser, Cameron Fleming and a solid group of youngsters form one of the nation’s top offensive lines.
Offensive Weakness: The passing game. While Hogan is capable of guiding this team to another Pac-12 title, he has very little options in the receiving corps. Stanford’s top two receiving threats from last year – Zach Ertz and Levine Toilolo – left early for the NFL, and Drew Terrell and Jamal Rashad-Patterson finished their eligibility.
Defensive Strength: Even with linebacker Chase Thomas and nose tackle Terrence Stephens finishing their eligibility, Stanford will have one of the best front sevens in the nation. The linebacking corps is stacked with talent, including senior Shayne Skov and first-team All-Pac-12 selection in Trent Murphy. The secondary also has first-team All-Pac-12 safety Ed Reynolds returning, along with rising star Alex Carter at cornerback.
Defensive Weakness: Is there really a weakness on this defense? Finding a replacement for Thomas will be a challenge, but the Cardinal has depth at linebacker. If there is an area of concern, it might be on the interior of the defensive line. Stanford gave up over 200 rushing yards in wins against UCLA and Wisconsin, which just happened to be two of the games Stephens missed at nose tackle.
Spring Storylines Facing the Cardinal
1. Upgrading the passing game. Considering Stanford’s strength in the trenches, it doesn’t need to throw the ball 35-40 times to win each week. However, with running back Stepfan Taylor gone, the Cardinal needs to find a spark in the passing game. Quarterback Kevin Hogan didn’t top more than 160 yards in each of his final three starts, but that’s not the biggest problem. With Zach Ertz and Levine Toilolo departing at tight end, the receiving corps lacks weapons. Ty Montgomery was slowed by an injury last season, but he could be a go-to threat for Hogan. Outside of Montgomery, the Cardinal needs a big spring from receivers Kodi Whitfield, Kelsey Young, Michael Rector, Conner Crane and Dontonio Jordan. Sophomore Luke Kaumatule will likely work as the No. 1 tight end this spring.
2. A new go-to back? Stepfan Taylor capped off an excellent career at Stanford by winning offensive most valuable player honors in the Rose Bowl. During his four years with the Cardinal, Taylor rushed for 4,300 yards and 30 scores. Needless to say, Taylor will be missed. However, Stanford caught a break this spring, as Tyler Gaffney decided to return to school for his senior year. Gaffney left the team last year to play minor league baseball and recorded 449 yards on 74 carries in 2011. He will battle with Anthony Wilkerson, Remound Wright and touted redshirt freshman Barry Sanders for the starting nod this spring, but the Cardinal will likely lean on more of a committee approach. There’s plenty of depth and talent, but Stanford just needs to develop a pecking order this spring.
3. Who starts at center? It’s not a glamorous position battle, but Stanford has a large void at center with the departure of Sam Schwartzstein. He earned second-team All-Pac-12 honors last season and was a crucial part of Stanford’s success on the ground. Starting guard Khalil Wilkes is expected to slide to center this spring, with Conor McFadden, Kevin Reihner and Graham Shuler also getting snaps. The Cardinal also needs to figure out whether David Yankey sticks at left tackle or moves to guard, which would allow talented sophomores Andrus Peat or Kyle Murphy to win a starting spot. Stanford has depth and talent on the offensive front but cannot afford to have subpar play from center if it wants to win the Pac-12.
4. Replacing Chase Thomas at linebacker. Overall, Stanford is in great shape at linebacker with the return of Trent Murphy, Shayne Skov, A.J. Tarpley, Jarek Lancaster and James Vaughters. However, Thomas is a big loss from a leadership and production perspective. He recorded 7.5 sacks last season and ranked second on the team with 71 stops. Sophomore Kevin Anderson will get the first crack at replacing Thomas, but keep an eye on redshirt freshman Noor Davis.
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