Five Things You Should Know About Stanford Football
Dave Fowkes, Stanford beat writer for the Examiner.com joined us for the second straight year to preview the USC-Stanford football game. Here are the main takeaway points:
1. An Unproven Quarterback, Josh Nunes – According to Fowkes, the first-year starting quarterback has decent accuracy, but it’s too early to determine whether or not he’ll be consistently accurate when throwing downfield. Opposing defenses tend to put nine guys in the box and force Nunes to show what he’s got. Fowkes believes we’ll be able to answer that question (does he possess downfield accuracy?) five or six games into the season.
2. A Developing Offensive Line – With David DeCastro and Jonathan Martin getting drafted in the first two rounds of April’s NFL draft, the Cardinal feature a young offensive line that’s still coming together as a unit. One unique strategy Stanford is employing involves breaking in a freshman left tackle by subbing him in the middle of a series, as David Yankey switches to his natural position of left guard. Again, it’s way too early to tell how long the offensive line will take to fully develop, but Fowkes maintains that the “offensive line is good, not great.”
3. Talented Tight Ends – Even though Coby Fleener is in Indianapolis with Andrew Luck playing at the next level, the Cardinal boast two talented senior tight ends, Levine Toilolo and Zach Ertz. Toilolo, 6-foot-8, and Ertz, 6-foot-6, create matchup problems for defenders, especially in the red zone. Fowkes says Nunes and Toilolo will need to work on their chemistry, just as Luck had to do with the tight end. Ertz runs crisp routes with good speed, but more importantly has “the best hands I’ve ever seen,” according to Fowkes.
4. Standout Linebackers Lead A Tenacious Defensive Unit – Stanford’s linebackers run seven or eight-deep. Shayne Skov and Chase Thomas are the big names, and for good reason, but fellow linebacker Jarek Lancaster was Stanford’s leading tackler last season and A.J. Tarpley recovered the game-winning fumble in last year’s meeting between these teams. These four guys will stay fresh by rotating in the middle. Stanford will be going after Matt Barkley in an effort to limit his time in the pocket. Defensive pressure is one of the Cardinal’s strong suits.
5. Special Teams Scouting - Kicker Jordan Williamson has a great leg and good accuracy. He did, however, miss three of four field goal attempts in the Fiesta Bowl against Oklahoma State, a game in which the Cardinal lost in overtime by three points. Although he’s rebounded well, Williamson hasn’t kicked in a pressure situation since. It should be interesting if the game is close near the end. It should be noted, however, that Trojans kicker Andre Heidari will be unavailable for the game. USC does not have a reliable backup kicker on its roster. At least not yet.
Sophomore wide receiver Ty Montgomery has not been used much on kick returns because he is the team’s No. 1 receiver, but Fowkes believes he’ll be given an opportunity to generate a spark or two for the Cardinal on special teams Saturday. As far as punt returns are concerned, senior wide receiver Drew Terrell returned one for a TD in last week’s victory over Duke.
Thanks again to Dave.