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College Football Preview: 2. Stanford Cardinal

2. Stanford Cardinal

The Cardinal have turned into a legitimate perennial BCS bowl threat. They won the Pac 12, beat Wisconsin in the Rose Bowl and upset Oregon late in the season. Now, quarterback Kevin Hogan returns along with a stacked front seven meaning another BCS bowl, maybe even a National Championship is on the horizon for Stanford.

Backfield: Hogan, the leader of the team late in the season returns for his
Kevin Hogan
sophomore year hoping for a breakout year. He doesn't have any amazing tools but he is very efficient. He has an accurate arm and can make big plays and he is also dangerous running out of the pocket. Though the Cardinal aren't known for throwing the ball over the field and scoring 50 a game. They score thanks in big part to their power running game. Though, star back Stepfan Taylor graduated this off season leaving a big hole. The top candidate to replace Taylor is senior Anthony Wilkerson, a 6-1 monster who hasn't lived up to the hype since arriving in Palo Alto. Smaller, more agile back Ricky Seale should also get a lot of carries to provide a chance of pace to Wilkerson.

Receiving: Hogan a lot of quality targets to pass too. They include players like junior Ty Montgomery, sophomore Kelsey Young and Kodi Whitfield. Montgomery is the most dangerous of these three, with fantastic, home-run speed and the ability to stretch the field. Both Young and Whitfield both have great hands and should be consistent options for an improving Hogan. The tight end position, a real strength for Stanford last year is likely a weakness for the Cardinal this year. Star Zach Ertz is now in the NFL and Levine Toilolo is also gone.

Offensive Line: Once again the Stanford offensive line is stacked with talent. David Yankey had an All-American year last season as a junior and he could still improve in a number of different ways. He is a very versatile linemen, with the ability to protect Hogan as a tackle, and the ability to lead the way for Stanford's ground game as a guard. Another senior, Kevin Danser is also back at the guard position. He is massive, standing at 6-6 and 300 plus pounds. It will be very tough for any of the Pac 12's star pass rushers to gain entry into the Cardinal backfield. Also returning is junior Cameron Fleming who could have a huge year at the tackle position and guard Khalil Wilkes.

Defensive Line: The Cardinal front seven may be the best in the nation. Junior Henry Anderson is one of the best defensive ends in the Pac 12 and has great speed from the edge. He should rack up a ton of sacks and gain a ton of tackles for loss. Another star end is also back to be a possible All-American in senior Ben Gardner. He isn't as big as Anderson but is quicker and gets to the ball as quickly as a lot of linebackers do. He is also smart and is one of the team's leaders on the defensive side of the ball, being a senior. Nose tackle is a question now with the loss of Terrence Stephens. Though, junior David Parry should fill that role nicely. Although he doesn't look like a typical nose tackle being a little small, he should fill in.

Linebackers: This linebacker core is amazing, maybe even historical. Senior All-American Trent Murphy returns to be the leader in the middle. Not a lot of linebackers can make plays all across the field like Murphy when they are 6-6, 260 pounds. Though he can read plays like many experienced NFL linebackers and is a sure tackler. Senior Shayne Skov also returns this year after struggling through injuries much of his career. Though when Skov is healthy he has proved he can be a tackling machine. If he doesn't get any injuries it isn't crazy to think Skov could be right around the 100 tackles mark this year. Junior A.J. Tarpley is also back to have a big year as an inside linebacker. He may take a backseat to Murphy and possibly Skov but he should still be effective. Jarek Lancester should also make some plays possibly starting at the outside linebacker opposite
Ed Reynolds

Secondary: Don't think defensive back Ed Reynolds will take a backseat to the stardom of Anderson, Murphy and Gardner. He is an aggressive, hard-hitting safety who had a breakout sophomore season. If teams want to pass on Stanford, which they will likely want to do more than run at this fantastic rush defense, he should be there a lot. Cornerback Alex Carter is back and could prove to be shutdown. Senior Usua Amanam can also make plays all across the field.

If the Cardinal can find a back and tight end, their ceiling is National Championship. Even if their offense, led by Hogan struggles this season their fantastic defense should make them a title threat.


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