We took a somewhat elaborate look at the Stanford Cardinal a little less than a month ago, but now it's time to refresh our memory on the Cardinal and reacquaint ourselves with the team that finished 4-8 last year, but has their sights set much higher this year. We'll start with the defense.
[Update: BONUS MATERIAL! A Stanford defense pronunciation guide has been added at the end of this post. However, We still reccomend that you struggle through reading the entire post without sneaking a peak at the guide. It's better that way.]
The Defense has eight returning starters, which, as DE Erik Lorig says, has allowed them to "focus more on their individual technique and responsibility". That's kinda scary, when you realize that although the Cardinal return eight starters and even more guys with starting experience (injuries seemed to be a problem last year), their biggest loss was the man in charge: former defensive coordinator Scott Shafer. He left for Michigan, which sounds like a promotion, but with his last accomplishment at Stanford being coaching the Pac-10's #9 run defense, we don't understand why new UM coach Rich Rodriguez made the call. If the players are saying that they can focus more on individual technique after loosing a coordinator, that must mean that new co-coordinators Ron Lynn and Andy Buh are doing something right.
The fact that Stanford has new coordinators on defense compounded with the fact that this is Stanford's season opener is likely what keeps Mike Riley up late at night the most. Oregon State really has no idea what Stanford is going to do on defense, and it's not like Riley or Langsdorf can just pop a VHS tape into the VCR (err.. I mean, hit a few buttons on a keyboard) and see what packages and formations Stanford utilized last week.
Likely, it will be a combination of some 3-4, 4-3, 46-Bear, Tampa-2, Cloud-3 Dog, Raider, Nickel, Buffalo Nickel, Buffalo wing, Dime, Quarter, Penny, Wheat Penny, Fifty Cent Piece, Peso, Pound, Sacagawea and Liberty Dollar packages. And that's the problem, right there. [Coach Riley has said that he thinks the new coordinator is bringing some type of Tampa-2 defense, but we won't know until Moevao sticks his hands under Linnenkohl's (lawyers). -ed.]
The Stanford defensive line has quickly persuaded me that they're the strength of the defense. Last month I thought that the linebackers deserved this title, but not the case any more.
In Spring Practice, it seemed like the Cardinal were desperate for defensive linemen, much the same way that the Beavers need a right tackle. (We heard that Mike Remmers got the job over CV3000 and some others, by the way) However, everything has seemingly gone right for < span style="font-style: italic;">this Anne Boleyn (that's sort of what you get when you cross the names of co-coordinators Andy Buh and Ron Lynn), even though they can't seem to produce a male heir to the throne. (I apologize for that unnecessary reference to one of history's more notable homosexuals.)
Getting back on track, I believe that 6-6, 270 pound senior Pannel Egboh (defensive tackle) is the headliner of the line, but we'll talk more about him later. Levirt Griffin seems to be a trusty backup there. Moving over a split to defensive tackle we have junior Brian Bulcke, who the least advertised of all four projected starters on the D-Line. Maybe that means he's the weakest link, but everyone seems to be optimistic about his season as well.
Ekom Udofia is the man at nose tackle. Sione Fua will back him up. The other bookend of the defense is aforequoted Erik Lorig, who again, has plenty of upside. Tom Keiser is listed as his backup, but we don't know much about him.
The Linebackers also impress, as I dubbed them as the strongest part of the defense a few weeks ago (some say the strongest in the conference outside of USC). Although the linemen have overtaken them in that regard, they're still not a group to write off. Far from it.
Sophomore Chike Amajoyi anchors things in the middle, flanked by seniors Clinton Snyder and Pat Maynor. All three have lots of starting experience, but Clinton Snyder seems to have the most talent (and award list nominations). Don't worry, we'll talk much more about this group before gameday.
The Secondary seems to be the weakness of the defense. The Stanford Daily may have put it best:
Last year's team interception leader Nick Sanchez and fellow corner Tim Sims have graduated and rising junior free safety Austin Yancy, who started all 12 games last year, is out for five to six weeks with a hamstring injury.
Who does that leave, you ask?
Wopamo Osaisai at corner, Kris Evans at the other corner, and Bo McNally and the unproven Taylor Skaufel as safeties.
What does that group have going for them?
Osaisai and Evans now have full-time jobs after serving part-time jobs last season. McNally is the most proven of the four, and the leader of the group. Sophomore Taylor Skaufel fills in for the sidelined Austin Yancy, and appears to be the weakest link of the defense, although he could surprise many, including myself. They claim he'll be a factor in Stanford's secondary "for years to come".
Also, Osaisai set the school record in the 100 meters at 10.39, which is only about three tenths slower than what Tyson Gay could do in Beijing, and makes him one of the fastest players in Pac-10 football history, if that matters.
There seems to be lots of optimism surrounding this defensive group, but it's a group that's had some time to rest and has had problems with injuries in the past. It's sort of like returning from a vacation. You feel so refreshed until it's back to work early Monday morning.[that's why we always start the week off right, with a little speed in the coffee.--ed]
APPENDIX A: Stanford Defense Pronunciation Guide. (thanks, OrState GoBeavs for the request.)
Pannel Egboh PUH-nell EGG-bow
Levirt Griffin how it sounds
Ekom Udofia A-kom YOU-dough-fee-uh
Sione Fua See-oeay Foo-a
Chike Amajoyi CHEEK-ay AM-uh-joy
Wopamo Osaisai woe-PAMO O-sigh-sigh