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Stanford Football: 5 Newcomers to Watch for the Cardinal

Stanford Football: 5 Newcomers to Watch for the Cardinal in 2019

Stanford Football: 5 Newcomers to Watch for the Cardinal in 2019

The hallmark of Stanford's David Shaw era is how the university alum-turned-head coach has leveraged academic prestige to establish a national recruiting base. Stanford's rigorous standards leave a more shallow recruiting pool than most programs can work with, but Shaw and his staff have successfully used that to cast a wide net.

In 2019, the Cardinal welcome players from 11 states, including the District of Columbia. What's more, it's a class as talented as it is geographically diverse, evident in its No. 21 national ranking.

Upperclassmen have been critical to Stanford's success over the past decade, and the talent returning to The Farm in 2019 will lead the pursuit of a fifth divisional title. However, the incoming crop of freshmen including some players whose talent and ability to help address certain voids should make them immediate contributors.

Elijah Higgins, WR

Arguably the biggest loss from Stanford's roster, in terms of 2018-specific contributions, is wide receiver J.J. Arcega-Whiteside. Fortunately, the 2019 class welcomes a recruit to whom David Shaw said on December's National Signing Day draws "obvious comparisons" to Arcega-Whiteside.

Higgins was a late but important add. At 6-foot-3 and 215 pounds, the UnderArmour All-American from Texas already has the frame to be a red-zone threat. Higgins also was a standout in both the long jump and triple jump for Bowie High School's track & field team. Look for him to use those skills going over the top to catch more than a few K.J. Costello long bombs.

Along with 2018's promising freshman, Michael Wilson, Stanford may have its new Arcega-Whiteside/Trenton Irwin combination.

Austin Jones, RB

Stanford found itself in unusual territory last season, ranked No. 11 in the Pac-12 for rushing offense. Entering the season as the Heisman Trophy runner-up, Bryce Love's nagging ankle injury left a hole that various other ball-carriers struggled to fill with consistency. Jones may be the person to step up for his hometown Cardinal.

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Jones rushed for 23 touchdowns and a whopping 10.8 yards per carry at Oakland's Bishop O'Dowd in 2017. Last fall, he upped the ante with 24 scores and broke the 2,000-yard mark, capped by a 157-yard, one-touchdown effort in his school's CIF Championship win over Marin Catholic. It's a big step transitioning to college football, but the return of veterans Trevor Speights and Cameron Scarlett would allow Jones to integrate as an electric option in Stanford's backfield committee.

Stephen Herron Jr., OLB

Shaw got one over on his former colleague, Michigan's Jim Harbaugh, when he landed a commitment from Herron. The four-star defensive end flipped from the Wolverines to the Cardinal last summer and signed in the early period.

Herron's precisely the kind of aggressive pass rusher who has thrived in the Stanford defense over the years, whether it was Derek Mason or Lance Anderson doing the coordinating. His size (6-4, 238) could make him a backfield nuance in the same fashion as former Cardinal All-American Trent Murphy.

Joshua Pakola, DE

How Stanford will fare against Notre Dame and USC come fall is uncertain, but the Cardinal scored a win against their rivals on the recruiting trail with the signing of Pakola.

The four-star defensive end adds to the talented bevy of youngsters making up Stanford's defensive line next season, which includes 2018 freshmen Thomas Booker and Andres Fox. Pakola was credited with seven sacks and 10 hurries last season at Saint Francis in Mountain View, California. If he can replicate some of that pass-rushing success, the days of #PartyInTheBackfield will return to Stanford football.

Salim Turner-Muhammad, CB

Last year, redshirt freshman Paulson Adebo emerged as a lockdown corner for the Cardinal. This year, Turner-Muhammad could be a contender to do the same. A four-star recruit, Turner-Muhammad had offers from Michigan and Notre Dame before participating in last summer's The Opening Finals.

He committed to Stanford late in the process, and could now be in the running to replace NFL-bound Alijah Holder.

— Written by Kyle Kensing, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and a sportswriter in Southern California. Kensing is publisher of Follow him on Twitter @kensing45.