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College Football Preview: 16. Stanford Cardinal

16. Stanford Cardinal Returning Starters: 14 Returning Star: LB Chase Thomas Key Loss: QB Andrew Luck Player to Watch: QB Brett Nottingham This Cardinal team isn't very Lucky. Not only is number one pick Andrew Luck gone but tight end Coby Fleener, guard David DeCastro, tackle Jonathan Martin and safety Delano Howell won't be on this 2012 squad. Though with a scary good front seven and an underrated back Stanford could still win the Pac 12. The obvious weakness on this team is quarterback where sophomore Brett Nottingham will likely start. Junior Robbie Picazo and Josh Nunes could give Nottingham a run for his money. Nottingham has very strong arm but experience is definitely an issue. Nunes served as Luck's top backup in '10 and knows the offense. This offense will rely heavily on back Stepfan Taylor who is back for his senior season. The All Pac 12 back Taylor is durable and is tough to bring down. Also back is senior Tyler Gaffney who is a great receiver out of the backfield. Most of Luck's top receivers also are gone but the Cardinal are more then capable at this spot. Senior Drew Terrell and sophomore Ty Montgomery will be reliable options for whoever is starter. Tight ends have always been big at Stanford and the next big one will likely be Levine Toilolo. The offensive line lost two fantastic players in DeCastro and Martin but the three starters back should keep this one of the conference's best. Sophomores Cameron Fleming and David Yankey are ready for big years and center Sam Schwartstein is productive. The defense should once more carry this squad, especially the front seven. Senior Terrence Stephens is a beast up the middle and end Ben Gardner is tough to stop. Senior outside linebacker Chase Thomas is one of the best in the nation. Also back are juniors Jarek Lancester and Trent Murphy. If Shayne Skov can be at the top of his game after injury this defense should be scary good. The only weakness on defense appears to be the secondary. Junior cornerback Terrence Brown is back along with safety Devon Carrington. Sophomore Jordan Richards is a hard hitter at the other safety slot. The special teams got a big boost when kicker Jordan Williamson returned for his sophomore season. Heisman Hopeful: Stepfan Taylor Pac 12 Rank: 3rd

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