Print and Go Back ESPN.com: NCF Nation [Print without images]

Wednesday, January 11, 2012
Stanford front seven stacked for 2012

By Kevin Gemmell

With the announcement over the weekend that outside linebacker Chase Thomas is coming back for another season, it's worth taking a quick look at what Stanford's front seven will look like next season -- because the Cardinal are loaded.

With six of the starting seven returning (plus a seventh, Shayne Skov returning from injury), the Cardinal figure to be even better than this year's group, which finished with the No. 4 rush defense in the country (88.3 yards per game), 11th in sacks (3 per game) and 28th in tackles for a loss (6.8 per game).

Here's a look at the starters coming back and the one guy leaving.

CHASE THOMAS, OLB, 6-4, 240
Chase Thomas
Stanford's Chase Thomas should be one of the best outside linebackers in the nation next season.
TRENT MURPHY, OLB, 6-6. 242
JAREK LANCASTER, ILB, 6-1, 226
A.J. TARPLEY, ILB, 6-2, 231
TERRENCE STEPHENS, NT, 6-2, 287
BEN GARDNER, DE, 6-4, 263
SHAYNE SKOV, ILB, 6-3, 244
MATT MASIFILO, DE, 6-3, 278

And this just covers the starters. Players like Anderson and Mauro saw playing time this season, along with nose tackle David Parry, outside linebackers Alex Debniak and Blake Lueders and inside linebackers James Vaughters and Joe Hemschoot.

The Cardinal are in fantastic shape if everyone stays healthy. And if they encounter another situation like they did this past year with a season-ending injury, they should be deep enough and experienced enough to absorb the blow. Plus, we'll see how head coach David Shaw and his staff treat some of the incoming freshman, like standout outside linebacker Noor Davis.