Stanford opens spring practice with a few holes to fill and some new faces on the coaching staff, but the program is poised to build off last year’s 11-3 mark. The Cardinal has won at least 11 games in each of the last four seasons and has claimed back-to-back Pac-12 titles. Coach David Shaw is an impressive 25-4 in Pac-12 contests (including conference championship games), while Stanford is looking for its third consecutive trip to the Rose Bowl in 2014.
The Pac-12 is one of the top conferences in college football, and Stanford will be up against a North Division that features Oregon and an improving Washington team. Shaw has been a model of consistency through his first three years on the Farm. And as any college football program has success, new challenges are created. That motto holds true for the Cardinal in 2014, as there’s some key personnel and coaches to replace.
Stanford Cardinal 2014 Spring Preview
2013 Record: 11-3 (7-1 Pac-12)
Spring Practice Opens: February 24
Spring Game: April 12
Five Things to Watch in Stanford's 2014 Spring Practice
1. New faces on the coaching staff. Considering Stanford’s success, it’s no surprise its assistants have been targeted by other programs. Defensive coordinator Derek Mason left to be the head coach at Vanderbilt, Mike Sanford was named the offensive coordinator at Boise State, and David Kotulski followed Mason to Vanderbilt. Shaw promoted Lance Anderson to defensive coordinator, hired Peter Hansen to replace Kotulski and Lance Taylor was brought aboard to coach running backs. Shaw has one more opening to fill, but there’s not expected to be a significant transition period under the new staff. Anderson has worked at Stanford since 2007, and his experience under Mason should ensure the defense remains one of the best in the Pac-12.
2. Who steps up at running back? Stanford has produced a 1,000-yard rusher for six consecutive seasons. Will that streak run to seven? Tyler Gaffney and Anthony Wilkerson combined for 2,062 yards last season but expired their eligibility after the Rose Bowl. The cupboard isn’t completely bare for coordinator Mike Bloomgren, as Remound Wright, Barry Sanders and Ricky Seale return. Sanders was a four-star recruit in the 2012 signing class and high expectations surround the Oklahoma native. But Sanders won’t have to carry the entire workload, as Wright and Seale have experience, and incoming freshmen Christian McCaffrey and Isaiah Brandt-Sims are capable of playing this season. While running back is a question mark, there’s enough talent returning for Shaw and Bloomgren to feel alright about this position.
3. Restocking the trenches. The Cardinal expect quarterback Kevin Hogan to take another step in his development this spring, and Shaw and Bloomgren want to rely on their ground game to set the tone on offense once again. But there’s a glaring issue on the offense. The line was hit hard by personnel losses, with guards David Yankey and Kevin Danser, tackle Cameron Fleming and center Khalil Wilkes all departing. That’s the bad news. The good news? Talent isn’t an issue. Left tackle Andrus Peat is a future All-American, and Joshua Garnett and Kyle Murphy are highly-touted prospects waiting for their chance to start. Graham Shuler is the frontrunner to replace Khalil Wilkes at center, while Johnny Caspers is likely to replace Danser at right guard. There’s no question Stanford has talent here. But how quickly can this line jell?
4. Filling the voids in the front seven. Not only must Stanford’s defense adapt to a new coordinator (Lance Anderson), but this unit suffered some key losses in the front seven. The Cardinal must replace standout ends Ben Gardner and Josh Mauro, and linebackers Trent Murphy and Shayne Skov also depart. Much like the offense, there’s talent waiting in the wings to step into the starting lineup. Henry Anderson earned honorable mention All-Pac-12 honors last season and is due to become an even bigger piece of the line in 2014. Blake Lueders and Luke Kaumatule shifted from other positions to the defensive line and join Anderson as key cogs in the trenches. Aziz Shittu is another name to watch at end, but Anderson also needs to develop more depth behind tackle David Parry. While the losses on the line are huge, the departures at linebacker are even bigger. Murphy and Skov’s production and leadership will be difficult to replace, but there’s a solid foundation to build around in A.J. Tarpley and Kevin Anderson. James Vaughters, Joe Hemschoot, Blake Martinez and Noor Davis are other names to watch this spring.
5. Who replaces Ed Reynolds at safety? The losses in the defensive line and linebacking corps were more significant, but Reynolds will be tough to replace. He recorded 87 tackles and earned first-team All-Pac-12 honors last season. Of course, having a standout like Jordan Richards back at the other safety spot will help Stanford’s secondary remain one of the best in the Pac-12. The Cardinal has options to replace Reynolds, including converted receiver Kodi Whitfield and converted quarterback Dallas Lloyd. Devon Carrington was listed as the backup to Reynolds last year and expired his eligibility after the Rose Bowl. If Lloyd or Whitfield doesn’t win the job, Zach Hoffpauir or Kyle Olugbode could be the answer.
2014 Early Projected Win Range: 9-11
Yes, Stanford has some personnel losses and a few changes on the coaching staff. But David Shaw won’t allow the Cardinal to fall too far in the win column. Assuming the line jells early in the year, quarterback Kevin Hogan should take another step forward in his development. It’s a lot to ask the defense to replicate last year’s numbers without Murphy, Skov, Reynolds, Gardner and Mauro. However, this unit is still one of the best in the Pac-12. Stanford will be in the mix for another BCS bowl and will contend with Oregon for the North Division title.