Pac-12: Devon Carrington

There were 34 Pac-12 players selected during the NFL draft, but there will be more than twice that many rookies in NFL training camps this summer. Shortly after the draft ended, the dominoes started falling and those who went undrafted started signing free-agent contracts.

The following list of undrafted free agent signings, which was compiled from various announcements and media reports, could change in the coming days:

Arizona
Arizona State
California
Note: K Vincenzo D'Amato will reportedly attend Green Bay's rookie minicamp.

Colorado
Oregon
Oregon State
Stanford
Notes: S Devon Carrington (Pittsburgh) and LB Jarek Lancaster (Oakland) will attend rookie minicamps.

UCLA
USC
Utah
Notes: DT LT Tuipulotu will attend Green Bay's rookie minicamp and C Vyncent Jones told the Deseret News he will attend minicamps for Pittsburgh and Kansas City.

Washington
Note: S Sean Parker will reportedly attend Washington Redskins rookie minicamp.

Washington State
Note: K Andrew Furney will attend Seattle Seahawks rookie minicamp.

Ed Reynolds leaving for NFL

January, 14, 2014
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Stanford safety Ed Reynolds will forgo his final year of eligibility and enter the NFL draft, the school announced Tuesday.

A two-year starter for the Cardinal, Reynolds was twice named first-team All-Pac-12 and ranked third on the team with 87 tackles this year.

“After much thought and discussion with my family and mentors, I have decided to enter the NFL sraft,” Reynolds said in a statement. “I would to thank the Stanford football family for putting me in this position and preparing me for the next level. A very special thanks to our coaching staff, support staff and my teammates for making the memories of these past four years last a lifetime."

He's the second Stanford player in two days to declare for the NFL draft, joining guard David Yankey. Right tackle Cam Fleming has yet to announce whether he'll return for his final year on the Farm. The deadline to declare is Wednesday.

Reynolds is among the top free safeties in the country and is ESPN.com's eighth-ranked safety overall. He was a key member of two Pac-12 championship teams and a pair of defenses that both ranked No. 10 in the country in scoring.

Without Reynolds, the Cardinal will have to break in a relatively inexperienced player to play next to strong safety Jordan Richards next year. His immediate backup this season, Devon Carrington, is out of eligibility and Kyle Olugbode and Zach Hoffpauir, the most experienced replacement candidates, have both worked primarily at strong safety.

Despite the loss of Reynolds, Stanford's secondary still figures to be a strength of its team next year with the return of starting corners Alex Carter, Wayne Lyons and Richards. The Cardinal will also need to fill holes at defensive end, two linebacker spots and nickleback due with the losses of Ben Gardner, Trent Murphy, Shayne Skov and Usua Amanam to graduation.

Reynolds replaced current Miami Dolphins safety Michael Thomas in the starting lineup in 2012 and finished the season with six interceptions -- the most by a Stanford player since 1973. His 301 interception yards that year led the nation and fell 1 shy of the FBS single-season record.

Preseason position reviews: safety

August, 1, 2013
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Safety is a strong position in the conference. Only UCLA has almost no experience returning to man the middle of its back-half, while the battle for the two All-Pac-12 teams should be tight.

So how do things stack up?

GREAT SHAPE

[+] EnlargeStanford's Ed Reynolds
Ed Szczepanski/US PRESSWIREStanford's Ed Reynolds had six interceptions last season, returning three for a touchdown.
Stanford: Just as Oregon might have the best combination of cornerbacks in the nation, so do the Cardinal at safety. Ed Reynolds is a preseason All-American and Jordan Richards is an all-conference sort. Devon Carrington -- recall a certain notable play in the Oregon game -- is a strong No. 3. Stanford yielded just 13 touchdown passes last year.

Oregon: The Ducks welcome back Erick Dargan and Brian Jackson, but Avery Patterson is back from injury, so expect him to break back into the starting lineup. Again, this might be the nation's best secondary, with the Cardinal also in that discussion.

Oregon State: We're already on record noting Ryan Murphy could be poised for a breakout season, but veteran Tyrequek Zimmerman also is back. Depth is a little questionable. The Beavers, who welcome back three of four secondary starters, ranked third in the conference in pass efficiency defense in 2012.

GOOD SHAPE

USC: Although the Trojans lost mainstay T.J. McDonald, they welcome back Josh Shaw, who mostly played corner last year, and Dion Bailey, who mostly played linebacker. Both were mostly out of position and are highly skilled. Throw in big-time talents such as frosh Leon McQuay and Su'a Cravens, and there aren't many teams that wouldn't trade their safeties for USC's. And no more Tampa 2 confusion also should help.

Arizona State: Team leader Alden Darby was second-team All-Pac-12 last season as the Sun Devils led the Pac-12 in pass efficiency defense. Redshirt freshman Viliami Moeakiola topped the post-spring depth chart at free safety, but the competition remains open heading into fall camp. Watch out for Damarious Randall.

Washington: Sean Parker is back, and he was honorable mention All-Pac-12 a year ago. Redshirt freshman Brandon Beaver is competing with experienced senior Will Shamburger for the other spot.

Arizona: Everyone is back in the Wildcats secondary, and just like the cornerbacks, the safeties will look good if the pass rush is at least adequate. Former walk-on Jared Tevis was a revelation last season, while Jourdon Grandon also returns. Tra'Mayne Bondurant is a hybrid linebacker/safety sort. Patrick Onwuasor was kicked off the team.

Washington State: Deone Bucannon was second-team All-Pac-12 last season and he packs a punch, while Casey Locker also is a returning starter. Sophomore Taylor Taliulu is in the mix. What holds the Cougars back here, not unlike Arizona, is poor 2012 pass efficiency defense.

Utah: Eric Rowe is back and he's flashed plenty of potential, but Brian Blechen is -- wisely, the Pac-12 blog thinks -- moving back to linebacker. Though Tevin Carter was listed as an "Or" beside Rowe on the post-spring depth chart, expect him to compete with Tyron Morris-Edwards for the spot opposite Rowe. Charles Henderson offers depth.

California: Michael Lowe is a returning starter, but he was listed behind Alex Logan on the post-spring depth chart. Avery Sebastian is solid at strong safety. Again, this seems like a solid crew, but Cal gave up 32 touchdown passes last season, second most in the conference.

WE'LL SEE

UCLA: It was a big blow when Tevin McDonald, brother of T.J. and the secondary's lone returning starter, got kicked off the team. It also didn't help when the career of the star-crossed Dietrich Riley ended because of injuries. Sophomore Randall Goforth is the likely starter at free safety, while touted incoming freshmen Tahaan Goodman and Tyler Foreman figure to be in the mix opposite him. There are plenty of opportunities here for youngsters and veterans to make a fall camp move.

Colorado: The Buffaloes lose Ray Polk, but there's no lack of returning experience here among Josh Moten, Terrel Smith, Parker Orms, Marques Mosley and Jered Bell. But, as we noted with the corners, when you rank last in the nation in pass efficiency defense, it's difficult not to rank a "we'll see."

You can see previous previews here:

Quarterback

Running back

Receiver

Tight end

Offensive line

Kicker

Linebacker

Defensive line

Cornerback
Unlike last year, there is no quarterback competition at Stanford. But the recently released post-spring depth chart does reveal some potentially interesting developments to eye-ball heading into fall.

Starting on offense -- there are only two running backs listed -- Anthony Wilkerson "or" Tyler Gaffney as the starter. Both are trying to replace three-time 1,000-yard rusher Stepfan Taylor, though it's widely believed the Cardinal will take more of a committee approach than they did last year, when Taylor led the Pac-12 with 322 carries. There is plenty of depth, albeit mostly inexperienced, behind Gaffney and Wilkerson.

Also of note offensively is the addition of Kevin Danser on the depth chart at center. He's slated to start at right guard, though there is also an "or" separating Khalil Wilkes, Conor McFadden and Danser at center. It will be interesting to watch in the fall if Danser continues to get work at center. And if he wins the job, it would allow the Cardinal to insert Josh Garnett into the starting rotation at guard. That would give the Cardinal a starting front of Andrus Peat (LT), David Yankey (LG), Danser (C), Garnett (RG) and Cam Fleming (RT).

With the news of Josh Nunes' retirement yesterday, Evan Crower is locked in as the backup to Kevin Hogan and, for now, Devon Cajuste looks like he'll start opposite Ty Montgomery at receiver.

Fullback Geoff Meinken also announced he'll retire after struggling to return from a knee injury that kept him out of 2012.

At tight end -- Stanford's go-to receiving position the last couple of years -- Luke Kaumatule and Davis Dudchock are separated by an "or." However both will probably get a ton of work in Stanford's two-tight-end sets.

Defensively, there are only two "ors" on the depth chart. Henry Anderson and Josh Mauro have a good competition going at defensive and Blake Lueders and James Vaughters are undecided at the outside linebacker spot to release Chase Thomas. Though the Cardinal rotate backers and defensive linemen so frequently that "starter" is more of an honorary title.

Worth noting also that Devon Carrington, who has spent his career at safety, is also listed as a backup with Usua Amanam at right cornerback behind Wayne Lyons. Amanam is Stanford's go-to nickelback and Carrington is also backing up Ed Reynolds.

Looking at the specialists, up for grabs is the punter, which could go to either Ben Rhyne or Conrad Ukropina. Montgomery looks set at kick return while it's a four-way race between him, Kodi Whitfield, Keanu Nelson and Barry Sanders to return punts.

You can see the complete depth chart here and interpret it as you see fit.

Stanford notes: Who replaces Luck?

April, 6, 2012
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STANFORD, Calif. -- Stanford kicked off its second spring session after a three-week break this week, and here are some notes from the Pac-12 blog's visit on Thursday.

  • And the first quarterback of the post-Andrew Luck Era is ... Yeah, right. It's likely going to be either junior Brett Nottingham or senior Josh Nunes, but coach David Shaw said the competition will extend into fall camp. "I want them to finish spring in competition mode. And I want them to start fall camp in competition mode," he said. "I don't want to name a starter the week of the first game. I'd like to do it before that so we can start to settle in." Shaw called the competition "Neck and neck."
  • A recurring theme from the coaches -- Shaw and both coordinators -- is that members of the 2012 recruiting class are going to play in the fall. Several, in fact. Particularly in need areas such as the offensive line and secondary. Yes, those touted frosh O-linemen are going to see immediate action.
  • As for the competition among existing players to replace left tackle Jonathan Martin and right guard David DeCastro, those spots are still up in the air. Brendon Austin and Cole Underwood are in the mix at LT, and Khalil Wilkes and Kevin Danser are in a battle for DeCastro's guard spot.
  • Talented sophomore James Vaughters will get on the field, and don't be surprised if he ends up at inside linebacker. At least, that seems to be where defensive coordinator Derek Mason envisions him at present. Part of this appears to be his comfort with Kevin Anderson, who's been playing defensive end, and Alex Debniak backing up outside 'backers Trent Murphy and Chase Thomas.
  • By the way, Mason loves his linebacker depth. He said as many as 10 could play in the Cardinal's 3-4 next year.
  • Henry Anderson and Josh Mauro are locked in a tough competition to replace underrated defensive end Matt Masifilo.
  • The Cardinal need to replace both starting safeties. The name that comes up the most is Ed Reynolds, who was out last season with a knee injury. Jordan Richards, Kyle Olugbode and Devon Carrington are in the mix also, but Mason doesn't hesitate to bring up incoming freshmen Drew Madhu and Zach Hoffpauir.
  • It's pretty clear that the not-entirely-unreasonable questioning of whether Stanford can remain an elite team post-Andrew Luck is serving as motivation in the locker room. While the topic is hardly obsessed over, it's also fair to say everyone is aware of the widespread doubts heading into 2012.
Stanford's secondary is going to be young next season. Not exactly breaking news, but that's the reality when four seniors, three of them starters, graduate. But the players returning also have some experience and quality playing time, which should help compensate for their youth.

In other words, there no excuses.

"I think [defensive coordinator Derek] Mason might have been a little more tolerant with us last year, a little more patient," said safety Jordan Richards. "Not anymore. We've all been here and have a full season under our belts. This is on us -- and coach Mason is making sure we know that."

[+] EnlargeJordan Richards
Jason O. Watson/US PresswireJordan Richards is one of many young Cardinal defensive backs that will have to replace three senior starters.
The back four -- two cornerbacks and two safeties -- have to be getting tired of hearing how good the front seven is going to be. They are so experienced. This guy is back and that guy is back. It gets old. And if the front seven is considered Stanford's defensive strength, by virtue of elimination, the back four can't be.

That perception is something the group is looking to alter. But first they'll need to settle some competition. Gone are safeties Delano Howell and Michael Thomas. Gone are cornerbacks Johnson Bademosi and Corey Gatewood.

Terrence Brown and Barry Browning are back at cornerback, along with the highly-touted Wayne Lyons who is returning from a foot injury. Usua Amanam should also be in the mix and don't be surprised if Alex Carter makes an immediate impact when he arrives in the summer. Also returning are Richards and Devon Carrington at the safety spot along with Ed Reynolds, who is also returning from injury. Kyle Olugbode has also seen reps this spring.

Richards was one of the true freshman called into action when Howell went down for several games with a hand injury. He started three games for Stanford last year -- the most brutal stretch of the season that included at USC, at Oregon State and home to Oregon. Tough detail.

"It was, at times, a blur," Richards said. "And other times, I felt like I was in control and the game slowed."

The telling part of that quote is the "at times" portion. Richards notched eight tackles in his first start against USC. Then a couple of games later he watched Oregon run all over the Cardinal. Sometimes good, sometimes bad. In his second year, he's striving for more consistency. And having had the chance to learn behind Thomas and Howell, he thinks he's found it.

"I learned how to see the game from those guys," Richards said. "As a freshman, you come in with tunnel vision. You need to learn to see how things move around. Now it's a transition. You've been here for a year, you learn to read formational cues and the game slows down a lot more. You know what the offensive tendencies are. That's the biggest difference. You're not a deer in the headlights anymore. You just go out and play and try not to over think it."

Brown has the most experience at cornerback, followed by Browning who started three games last season. According to Richards, Brown and Reynolds have taken on the leadership roles vacated by the departed seniors.

"As a group, it's been TB and Ed," Richards said. "Those guys have been around. But we all know what's at stake, and we're all trying to be leaders and be on our game as a group because we know that we are going to be young and people are going to try to come after us."

Like in Week 3, when the Cardinal host USC -- a pass happy offense with the Heisman front-runner at quarterback, the top wide receiving duo in the country and possibly the No. 1-ranked team in the nation. So this group is going to have to find a way to come together quickly.

"That's what the spring is all about," Richards said. "We're working hard to be a cohesive group. Coach Mason is pushing us and I think we're going to come together."

Q&A: Stanford's Wayne Lyons

March, 14, 2012
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Wayne Lyons, Stanford's highly-touted cornerback, never really got a chance to show what he could do in his true freshman campaign. The week before the season-opener against San Jose State, he broke a bone in his foot, but still played against the Spartans and the following week against Duke before shutting it down for the season.

Now, following surgery that placed a screw in his foot, the cornerback says he is 100 percent (some reports say 75, others 85) and poised to have the big year that eluded him.

How are you feeling?

Wayne Lyons: I'm feeling great. 100 percent. It feels great to get back out there. It was a struggling sitting out the entire season on the sidelines. In high school you play every game and then you make it to the next step in college and you can't play because injuries stop you. It's heartbreaking in a way. But I made it through and I'm happy to be back out there.

How tough was it to watch from the sideline and watch the team have the kind of season it did?

WL: Part of me was upset, but I took everything into consideration and learned everything I could while watching on the sideline. I was looking at every play, every break and closing in on what I can learn to better myself for next year. I just learned as much as I could.

Like what? What did you learn?

WL: How to read the quarterback and the mechanics of a quarterback. How to read different drop steps and different formations and how to pick up different alignments and assignments and position on the field -- having an overall awareness of where to be on the field.

There is so much talk about Stanford's front seven for next season. Is the secondary feeling the pressure to match those guys?

WL: There is pressure, but there's not. It kind of goes both ways. We work together so well and we complement each other. We're going to be an exciting defense next year. Our defensive line is going to attack and pressure, the linebackers are going to make their tackles and the secondary will handle the passing game so we'll all come together and make great plays.

Last year the defense only had seven interceptions, and only three came from cornerbacks. I assume that's a point of emphasis this spring?

WL: Yes. We definitely need to catch more balls. That's something that Coach [Derek] Mason stressed. We need to attack more balls. That's one thing we're working on is catching interceptions and creating turnovers.

Coach [David] Shaw told reporters he expects you to be up for the nation's best cornerback award at some point in your career. No pressure, right?

WL: Ah, man. There's no pressure. It's an honor that he thinks so highly of me, but personally I have to prove myself. It's great he said that about me, but I feel like I have to perform on the field and prove myself to be a great player. I need my film to talk. I need my film to dictate who I am. Words can't tell who a player is. Only film can tell the kind of player I am.

What are some of your personal goals for the next season?

WL: My freshman goal was to be a freshman All-American. That's what I'm striving for again since I'll be a redshirt freshman.

When you look at the defensive back rotation, it's going to be a very young secondary. Is there something to be said for having a young group that is hungry to make plays?

WL: Definitely. Nobody has a name yet. I don't have a name. Jordan [Richards] doesn't have a name. DC [Devon Carrington] doesn't have a name. Terrence Brown -- he started to make a name last year -- but almost everyone who is going to be out there is trying to make a name for themselves and prove who they are and what they can do on the field. There is a lot to prove this year.

Stanford has some holes to fill

February, 9, 2012
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It takes a quarterback to know when a quarterback will be missed. So it's no surprise that when looking at the teams with the biggest voids to fill, ESPN's Brock Huard started with schools losing elite quarterbacks. Stanford is among the top five schools that Huard examined as having the biggest offseason holes Insider.

Huard on Stanford:


Stanford might be losing the most prolific quarterback in the program's history in Andrew Luck -- which is saying something, given that John Elway and Jim Plunkett once grazed on The Farm -- but the Cardinal clearly are not losing their ground-and-pound identity. Signing three of the top offensive line prospects in the country will pay dividends in the long term, but filling the enormous shoes of Luck and three other probable first-round picks in this year's draft (OG David DeCastro, OT Jonathan Martin and TE Coby Fleener) will be a mighty task for coach David Shaw.

As a fan, player and now analyst who has been immersed in the Pac-10, now Pac-12, for more than three decades, watching what Jim Harbaugh did to reverse the fortunes of the Stanford program was remarkable. He changed the culture, provided an edge and energy desperately needed on the gridiron, and did so with the help of a once-in-a-generation quarterback who was both brainiac and maniac.

Huard is right on by identifying more than just Luck who is gone. And I'll go a step further and say that losing Delano Howell and Michael Thomas at the safety positions could be just as difficult to overcome. The Cardinal have a lot of good athletes who could step in at the safety spots -- Jordan Richards and Devon Carrington both saw extended action this season. But both are still very raw and lack the experience the outgoing duo possessed.

Having that outstanding front seven should give the secondary a little cover -- at least in the first couple of games -- for the new starters to get acclimated.

I'm also curious -- and sort of excited -- to see who plays the Fleener role in the three-tight-end formations. Zach Ertz and Levine Toilolo both bring different skill sets to the position, but neither has the burst of speed that Fleener brought going over the middle on those deep routes. Following the Notre Dame victory, Shaw said that he and his staff have been searching the country for a tight end who can do what Fleener can do. Not surprising, he said they haven't found anyone. I'm expecting Ertz and Toilolo to have very productive seasons -- particularly since they are the veterans of the receiving corps.

Perhaps with the ongoing development of Ty Montgomery and some of the incoming talent at wide receiver, the Cardinal won't have to rely as much on a tight end for a deep-threat option. But knowing Shaw's penchant for tight ends, you have to figure they'll continue to play a major role in the receiving game.

Cardinal finally starting to heal

December, 27, 2011
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A healthy Stanford is a happy Stanford. And for the first time since about the midway point of the regular season, the Cardinal are as close to 100 percent as they are going to be.

When Stanford takes on Oklahoma State in the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl on Jan. 2, several key players will be moving quicker than they were in the final few games of the regular season. Understanding just how beat up his team was heading into the postseason, head coach David Shaw said repairs on both sides of the ball were a top priority.

[+] EnlargeZach Ertz
Steve Conner/Icon SMIStanford tight end Zach Ertz is expected to be near full strength for the Fiesta Bowl.
"We've got to get healthy," Shaw said after the Notre Dame victory in the regular season finale. "We played with our three tight ends and two of them were probably 80 percent. Our backs have been beaten up and bruised all year. We have to get them fresh."

Injuries, no doubt, took their toll on the Cardinal this year. It all started in the third game of the season when middle linebacker Shayne Skov -- arguably one of the top run stoppers in the country -- went down against Arizona and was lost for the year with a knee injury. Suddenly one of the best run defenses in the country looked a little thin. A.J. Tarpley and Jarek Lancaster filled in admirably -- better, in fact, than most expected -- but neither is at the level yet of Skov.

Still, they have endured, ranking fifth nationally in rush defense, allowing just 90.3 yards per game.

Like all teams, the Cardinal fell prey to the typical bumps and bruises. But a critical bump occurred against USC, when tight end Zach Ertz suffered a knee injury on the opening kickoff and would go on to miss the next three games.

Why is Ertz so significant? About one-third of Stanford's offensive playbook involves three-tight-end formations. With Ertz, Coby Fleener and Levine Toilolo on the field at the same time, the Cardinal offense was able to exploit numerous mismatches. Ryan Hewitt split time between fullback and tight end during that stretch. But even then, quarterback Andrew Luck would lose Hewitt out of the backfield, one of his most reliable and productive receivers coming out from behind the line of scrimmage.

Ertz returned for the season finale against Notre Dame. Nowhere near 100 percent, he caught one ball for no yards. But the fact that he was even on the field was a morale boost for his teammates. He's expected to be near full-strength -- if not at 100 percent -- for the Fiesta Bowl.

"It's exciting to have the tight ends back together and ready to go," said Fleener, who was recently named to the AP All-America third-team offense. "I think it's just exciting to know that we have a lot of guys back at full strength and hopefully we can be as good as we were before a lot of the injuries. It can only make us better as a team."

Obviously, Skov won't be back. Neither will wide receiver Chris Owusu, who has suffered at least three concussions in the past 14 months -- the scariest (as if they aren't all scary) coming against Oregon State when he was taken off the field in an ambulance.

There was some hope for Owusu's return because he's a senior and one of the emotional leaders of the offense, but head coach David Shaw told reporters last week "it's not going to happen."

"He's just been one of those guys," Shaw said following a practice last week. "And he's gotten beaten up and knocked out, and he comes back. He's been beaten up and knocked out, and he comes back. And the players recognize that as the guy that they look to for courage."

In Owusu's absence, true freshman Ty Montgomery has been filling in, giving Cardinal fans a glimpse of the future. In the final three games, Montgomery caught 10 balls (on 16 targets) for 130 yards and a touchdown in the finale against Notre Dame.

Still, they have endured, ranking 11th nationally in total offense while averaging almost 481 yards per game.

Offensive linemen Cameron Fleming and Jonathan Martin also had lingering lower leg injuries that forced Fleming to miss time. Both are expected to be back at or near full strength.

Offensive lineman David DeCastro offered a more glass-half-empty view of the Cardinal injury situation.

"We're never going to be injury-free," he said, "that's just part of college football."

On the opposite side of the ball -- aside from Skov -- one of the biggest temporary losses was safety Delano Howell. While he convalesced his injured hand for three games -- only to re-injure it in the first half against Oregon -- Michael Thomas stepped in and split time between free and strong safety.

Youngsters Devon Carrington and Jordan Richards got lots of playing experience that will aid the Cardinal in years to come, but Stanford is clearly a better defense when Howell is on the field. He too is expected to be at full strength.

And yet throughout the injury-plagued season, the players have never used injuries as an excuse.

"I think what it comes down to is no matter who is available, the coaches did an awesome job putting us in the best positions to succeed," Fleener said. "Whether it was Zach or Hewitt in there, ultimately our identity is running the football and being a physical team regardless of who is on the field. That shouldn't change with the personnel."
There's a saying among the players in Stanford's secondary: Finish the drive.

What that means is no matter what happened previously -- be it a 76-yard screen pass or a three-and-out -- it's the last play of the drive that counts. And more often than not for Stanford's defense, the last play of the drive usually doesn't end with a touchdown dance.

Stanford's secondary has been an interesting case study this season. It's given up a lot of yards -- 240.6 per game. But it's only yielded four passing touchdowns in five games. And only one of those has been to a wide receiver.

It's been more lockout than lockdown.

"Our mentality is good as far as being aggressive, swarming to the ball and we stop players from getting in the end zone," said safety Delano Howell. "We always play the field. If it's a big play, we get back and defend the rest of the field. If they are in the red zone, our goal is to keep them out of the end zone. We never quit if they have a big play or get a lot of plays. We always want to finish the drive."

[+] EnlargeDelano Howell
Jason O. Watson/US PresswireDelano Howell and the Stanford secondary have been impressive so far this season, but they know there is room for improvement.
Ask head coach David Shaw what he thinks about yards allowed and you'll get an honest answer.

"Passing yards given up is the biggest misleading stat there is," Shaw said. "We've had large leads. And in those large leads we're going to get teams to pass the ball more. But the biggest stat for a defense is touchdowns allowed. We've been able to stop teams from scoring touchdowns and trying to force them into field goals ... we've been able to keep people's scoring down. When it's all said and done, the only thing that matters is how much you score and how much you allow them to score."

The large leads is one reason. Stanford has yet to trail in a game this season so everyone is in constant catch-up mode. Another reason is the run defense. Stanford's front seven has taken away the opponents' rushing attack and made them one-dimensional by the end of the first half. In the first 30 minutes of the game, Stanford is outscoring opponents 104-34 and holding teams to an average of 6.8 rushing yards in the first quarter and 4 yards in the second quarter.

And the pass defense gets stronger as the game goes on. The Cardinal have allowed an average of 53.6 passing yards in the first quarter and 111.8 in the second quarter. Compare that to the second half where they allow an average of 30.4 in the third and 44.8 in the fourth.

But there have also been some missed tackles. Missed tackles lead to touchdowns, and no drive was a clearer example than in Colorado's lone scoring drive last Saturday. Buffs running back Rodney Stewart caught a screen pass that went for 76 yards. Safety Devon Carrington read the play perfectly. He sniffed it out and was in position to make the play at the line of scrimmage. But he missed the tackle. And then several other Cardinal defenders took improper angles and missed tackles. To Carrington's credit, he did rally and make the touchdown-saving tackle 76 yards later.

But two plays later, running back Tony Jones caught a 5-yard inside screen -- in which Stanford missed two tackles -- and he scored.

"We are missing out on some opportunities to make plays," Howell said. "We're leaving some production on the field, so we do realize that in order to eliminate the yards against, we need to eliminate missed tackles."

Despite the one hiccup, the secondary is coming off one of its best games of the season against Colorado, where it broke up nine passes.

"We've had our hands on balls," Shaw said. "It's not like guys have been running all over the place wide open."

Plus, Stanford nabbed its first interception of the season, courtesy of safety Michael Thomas, which was a bit of a relief.

"It's great that it happened," said Shaw. "Now, let's try to get it some company. Even with that chatter the last two weeks [about not having an interception yet], our guys haven't been jumping at things and taking chances. They've been playing the coverages like they're supposed to be playing them.

"... There is nothing we have to change schematically to get more. Our guys just need to keep playing in the structure of the defense and they will come."

This week against Washington State, Stanford faces an offense that's similar to what it saw a couple of weeks back in Tucson, Ariz. Mostly spread formations. But the Cougars have tried to be more balanced the past couple of games. If recent history has anything to say about it, Wazzu will abandon the run if it gets into a deep hole. That's been the trend this season. So it'll likely lean on the pass. Which means the defense will have to lean on the secondary.

"We like to play tight coverage," said cornerback Johnson Bademosi. "We like to play top down and we can't give up touchdowns. We just keep everything in front of us and not let things fly over our heads.

"And you got to tackle. You have to get your man down every time. You can't just be a cover guy. You have to be well-rounded and we take tackling really seriously."

Given the fact that so many teams pass against Stanford, it's no surprise that the top three tacklers on the team come from the secondary. Thomas and Bademosi lead the Cardinal with 22 tackles apiece and Howell is right behind with 22. Howell and Bademosi also lead the team with four breakups each.

"Those few opportunities you have to make a play, you have to make them," Howell said. "You have to play sound, technical football and trust the defense."

The Cardinal were working on a four-man rotation at cornerback until freshman Wayne Lyons injured his foot and has been inactive the past three games. That leaves Bademosi, Terrence Brown and Barry Browning as the primary rotation.

"We've been playing together for a while," Bademosi said. "We know each other really well. There is a lot of verbal and non-verbal communication. We all see the same thing so we know how to react to it."

Stanford all attitude in victory

October, 9, 2011
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PALO ALTO, Calif. -- Considering the score and considering the field position, there really wasn’t much need for Stanford to go for it on fourth-and-2 at the Colorado 13. The Cardinal were up by 20 coming out of the locker room and were more than in control on their opening drive of the second half. A field goal would have made it a three-possession game against a team that was hardly moving the ball.

But in David Shaw’s eyes, a field goal wasn’t enough. It wasn’t going to make the point that the Stanford head coach wanted to make. It would have been a comma. He wanted an exclamation point.

“Attitude. Attitude. Our attitude is that if it’s close, with the line that we have, with the fullbacks we have, with the tight ends we have, with the backs that we have we should pick up anything that’s less than fourth-and-3,” Shaw said. “We should pick it up. We don’t bat an eyelash. We don’t think about it. We don’t even talk about it on the headset. We just get the next call ready. That’s the kind of mentality we need to have up front in order for us to play games the way we want to play them.”

The Cardinal exerted their will -- and their attitude -- on Colorado in a 48-7 win at Stanford Stadium. No. 7 Stanford (5-0, 3-0) has won nine straight games at home while extending the nation’s longest winning streak to 13.

For all the funky formations and misdirection motions on offense; for all the exotic looks and blitz packages on defense; at its core, Stanford is very simplistic in its approach to the game: smash-mouth. Hit first, ask questions during film.

“Everything starts with being physical,” said co-defensive coordinator Jason Tarver. “We start with three things; alignment, angle departure and vision progression. We get aligned right, we go in the angle we’re supposed to, we look where we’re supposed to look and we hit whatever is on those lines.”

It's an attitude thing.

[+] EnlargeTyler Gaffney
Jason O. Watson/US PresswireStanford is hoping that Tyler Gaffney can return to his 2011 form, where he averaged 6.1 yards per carry.
From the opening kickoff, the Cardinal were in a hole but dug themselves out. Jeremy Stewart fumbled the kickoff and Colorado recovered at the Stanford 36. Suddenly the defense found itself on the field sooner than expected.

“When there is a sudden change, we don’t see it as a momentum swing, we see it as an opportunity,” said safety Michael Thomas, who nabbed Stanford’s first interception of the season later in the game. “Opportunity is knocking and it was time for us stand up.”

And they did, yielding to their own 12 before forcing Colorado into field goal formation. Linebacker Max Bergen came plowing through the line untouched, blocked the kick, picked up the one-hopper and returned it 75 yards for the game’s opening score. The Cardinal are yet to trail a game this season.

The Cardinal continued to mix up their looks on offense. They ran the no-huddle for the second-straight week, motioned tight ends in and out and piled on 553 yards of total offense -- their second highest total of the season (567 at Arizona).

“We want the [opposing] defense to move,” Shaw said. “We want them to move and communicate. We try to put them at a disadvantage to a certain degree … we’ve got personnel that we can do those things. We’ve got three tight ends that are NFL tight ends that are athletic and can run all kinds of routes and we can flex them out and then we can bring them back in and pound the rock. We’ve got a guy like Ryan Hewitt that was recruited as tight end but playing fullback. We can flex him out and play like a tight end. The guys we have allow us to do the thing we do.”

And they’ve got quarterback Andrew Luck -- who turned in another sensational performance on 26-of-33 passing for 370 yards and three touchdowns. The lone stain on his stat sheet was an interception off the hands of wide receiver Chris Owusu that fell right into the hands of Colorado defensive back Terrel Smith.

Luck was liberal with the football, connecting with 10 different receivers. Hewitt had touchdown catches of 1- and 10 yards and receiver Griff Whalen added four catches for 92 yards and a score.

“Luck’s the best quarterback, no doubt,” said Colorado head coach Jon Embree. “He’s got a good enough arm that he can throw the ball down the field without putting a lot of air on it. Not a lot of kids at college can do that like that. Like I said, he runs their offense to a tee.”

Stanford's running game started slowly, netting just 19 yards on eight carries in the first quarter. That was to be expected, Shaw said.

“We knew it was going to be tough sledding early on,” Shaw said. “We know a lot of games it’s going to be like that running the ball because we will put a lot of bodies in the box and we will cram it in there. We’re going to run the ball between the tackles a whole lot. And we do it early in games to establish who we are.”

It’s an attitude thing.

Eventually, those 1- and 2-yard runs gave way to bursts of 21 and 18 yards. Tyler Gaffney led all Stanford rushers with 61 yards on nine carries. He rushed for a score, as did Stepfan Taylor (13-58) and Stewart (4-12). The Cardinal finished with 161 rushing yards, averaging 4.6 per carry.

Colorado, meanwhile, struggled on the ground, as teams tend to do against Stanford. Through three quarters, it had just 38 yards on 19 carries. The Buffs (1-5, 0-2) totaled 264 yards. A huge chunk came on a 76-yard screen pass to Rodney Stewart. Safety Devon Carrington sniffed out the play and was in position, but failed to make the tackle.

“We need to make sure we put our face on guys and not lunge and dive,” Shaw said. “… there is no credit for almost making a play.”

It’s an attitude thing.

Still, Stanford’s players were dissatisfied with their effort.

“We need to pick it up on the physical end,” said Bergen.

“I think we need to improve. It wasn’t good enough,” Luck said.

“When we look at the film, we’ll see some plays we left out there,” said Thomas.

Shaw gave a devilish smile when informed none of his players were satisfied with the 41-point victory.

“They better have said that,” Shaw said. “It’s the truth. We can’t let the scoreboard dictate our feeling about how we played. If we can play better, we should know it and we should play better.”

It’s an attitude thing.

Which true freshmen are ready to play?

August, 17, 2010
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The ink dries on the national letters of intent and the recruiting class rankings are handed out, then the real business begins: Which true freshmen are ready to play right now?

Here's an early list for every Pac-10 team.

A caveat: This is hardly a scientific survey, evaluations are still in their early stages and I've only personally seen a handful of these guys play. These names are here because of news reports and comments from coaches and other observers (sports information directors also chipped in).

Further, some schools will start or play a lot of freshmen -- USC and UCLA for example -- while that doesn't appear likely for other schools (Oregon State may only use freshmen on special teams).

So here we go.

Arizona
CB Shaquille Richardson, S Marquis Flowers

Note: Frosh will bolster the Wildcats secondary. Richardson was kicked off UCLA's team for being one of three freshmen who allegedly tried to steal a purse. Coach Mike Stoops told the Arizona Daily Star that Richardson is "as good a corner as I've coached at this young stage."

Arizona State
RB Deantre Lewis, WR Kyle Middlebrooks

Note: Lewis turned in a good scrimmage over the weekend for an offense that needs playmakers. Middlebrooks should at least get into the rotation and may return punts.

California
WR Keenan Allen, WR Kaelin Clay, WR Tevin Carter, LB David Wilkerson

Note: Receiver is a need position for the Bears -- not all of the passing game struggles can be hung on QB Kevin Riley. All three likely will be in the rotation, with Allen a candidate to start. Wilkerson is pushing for time at OLB.

Oregon
DT Ricky Heimuli, K Alejandro Maldonado

Note: The 320-pound Heimuli offers a big body in the middle of the D-line. Maldonado is in the thick of the race to start at kicker. (The two touted frosh RBs could get into the mix, but No. 3 is deeper than we want to go).

Oregon State
WR Kevin Cummings, LB Michael Doctor

Notes: No true freshman has cracked the Beavers two-deep and both of these guys are grayshirts. Cummings could get into the rotation at flanker behind James Rodgers. Both are expected to play special teams.

Stanford
CB Barry Browning, S Devon Carrington

Note: Browning is the highest true freshman on the depth chart at present, though he's not with the first-team, according to Jim Harbaugh. He and Carrington could provide help in a questionable secondary.

UCLA
SS Dietrich Riley, F Anthony Barr, OG Chris Ward, DT Cassius Marsh, DE Owa Odighizuwa

Notes: This list, by the way, could have been much longer. The Bruins signed a strong recruiting class last February and a lot of those guys will play this fall. Riley, Barr and Ward are in the mix to start.

USC
WR Robert Woods, RB Dillon Baxter, WR Markeith Ambles, CB Nickell Robey

Notes: Woods may end up starting, and Baxter has been a spectacular playmaker since he showed up during spring drills, though he's suspended for the opener. Robey is the leading candidate to be the nickelback.

Washington
RB Jesse Callier, S Sean Parker, DE Hau'oli Jamora, TE Michael Hartvigson

Note: It doesn't appear at this point that any of these four will start, but they each are expected to play. Callier steps to the fore with Deontae Cooper out with a knee injury. Jamora and Hartvigson provide depth at need positions.

Washington State
WR Marquiss Wilson, WR Kristoff Williams, OT John Fullington, LB C.J. Mizell, DT Kalafitoni Pole

Notes: All five of these guys will play. Fullington has seen some action with the first-team. Mizell might be the Cougars fastest LB.

Pac-10 recruiting wrap: Stanford

February, 4, 2010
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Stanford signed a class of 22 that ranked 18th in the nation and featured three players ranked among the ESPNU 150.

Coach Jim Harbaugh was pleased, to say the least.

"The afterburners have ignited, and we are excited for the talented and ambitious newcomers who have made the decision to come to Stanford," he said. "Across all positions, this signing class is full of playmakers that possess athleticism and explosiveness that will help us reach multiple Pac-10 championships and a national championship."

Golly.

Top prospects: Defensive end Blake Lueders, a former Notre Dame commit, leads a class that should bolster the Cardinal defense. Harbaugh compared him to Brian Urlacher. Safety Devon Carrington should immediately compete for playing time. Harbaugh was able to lure quarterback Brett Nottingham away from a UCLA commitment.

Under the radar: Offensive lineman Dillon Bonnell is expected to be ready this fall after missing the 2009 season due to a knee injury.

Issues? The class took a hit when committed linebacker Jordan Zumwalt opted to sign with UCLA. Linebacker was a need area and the class didn't include one who was highly rated. Two other committed players signed elsewhere: cornerback Louis Young (Maryland) and running back Brandon Bourbon (Kansas). It will be interesting to see who ends up at cornerback, a position in which the Cardinal need an athletic upgrade.

Notes: Quarterback Dallas Lloyd is expected to go on a Mormon mission and won't enroll until 2012 ... Harbaugh said his father, Jack, won't stay on staff as running backs coach, a position the elder Harbaugh served in during the Sun Bowl ... The class features athletes from 12 states.

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