Pac-12: Francis Owusu

Stanford Cardinal season preview

August, 13, 2013
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We continue our day-by-day snapshots of each Pac-12 team heading into the 2013 season in reverse alphabetical order with the Stanford Cardinal.

Stanford

Coach: David Shaw (23-4)

2012 record: 12-2 (8-1 Pac-12 North)

Key losses: RB Stepfan Taylor, TE Zach Ertz, TE Levine Toilolo, OLB Chase Thomas

Key returnees: QB Kevin Hogan, OT David Yankey, LB Shayne Skov, LB Trent Murphy, DE Ben Gardner, S Ed Reynolds

Newcomer to watch: Stanford loves to rotate its linebacking corps, and outside linebacker Peter Kalambayi is impressive. He was a five- or four-star recruit, depending on which service you follow, and was one of the highest-rated OLBs in the country. He has a strong chance to play his way into the rotation.

[+] EnlargeDavid Shaw
Brian Murphy/Icon SMIStanford coach David Shaw has smiled a lot since Kevin Hogan became the starting QB late in the 2012 season.
Biggest games in 2013: The eyes of a college football nation will be tuned in on Thursday, Nov. 7, to see Oregon’s trip to Palo Alto. But there are plenty of big games before and after that -- including Arizona State (Sept. 21), Washington (Oct. 5), UCLA (Oct. 19), USC (Nov. 16) and the finale against Notre Dame (Nov. 30). If the Cardinal repeat as conference champs, they will have earned it.

Biggest question mark heading into 2013: It might have been the running back situation and the fact they have to replace Taylor. But Tyler Gaffney’s return from professional baseball adds experience and depth and bolsters a committee that should be able to mimic Taylor’s production. Receiving production, however, is still up in the air. Five of the top six receiving options from last year are gone -- including tight end Zach Ertz, Taylor and Drew Terrell. Ty Montgomery was sensational in 2011 and if he returns to form, could be a bona fide stretch-the-field threat. Behind him are a host of talented, but mostly unproven players. Look for Devon Cajuste, Michael Rector, Kodi Whitfield and freshman Francis Owusu (yes, that name should ring a bell), to work into the rotation.

Forecast: Expectations have never been higher for the Cardinal as they enter the year a preseason top-5 team. This is a veteran-heavy team that’s built to win tight games and grind opponents down in the fourth quarter.

The offensive focal point will be the progress of quarterback Kevin Hogan, who took over last season and went 5-0 as a starter -- including a 4-0 mark against Top 25 teams. He’s got one of the top offensive lines in the country -- headlined by All-American David Yankey -- protecting him, and a stellar defense has his back. Often forgotten is fullback Ryan Hewitt, who returns as one of the best in the country.

The running back group will be interesting to watch. Coach David Shaw strayed from his preferred by-committee method last season as Taylor carried 322 times -- most of anyone in the Pac-12. But he was that reliable. Gaffney, Anthony Wilkerson, Barry Sanders et al should all contribute and carve out their niche in the offense.

Aside from the aforementioned receiving position, many are eager to see what tight end Luke Kaumatule can do stepping in as a full-time player. The Cardinal were spoiled the past few years with Ertz, Levine Toilolo and Coby Fleener. Now it’s Kaumatule’s turn to carry the torch for what has been the nation’s most productive tight end-driven offense the past couple of years.

There are no real weak spots on Stanford’s defense. Five of the front seven are back from last year -- including DE Ben Gardner, ILB Shayne Skov and OLB Trent Murphy. The defensive backfield features, arguably, the nation’s top safety tandem in Ed Reynolds and Jordan Richards and Usua Amanam doesn’t get as much credit as he deserves as an outstanding nickel.

As noted above, the Cardinal play a very difficult schedule -- including four straight rivalry games to close out the season. This may seem daunting, and it is. But the Cardinal could have as many as 18 juniors or seniors in the starting 22, so chances are there isn’t a situation they haven’t seen or played through before. That experience will be invaluable as the Cardinal look to defend their conference title and try to make a run to another Rose Bowl -- or beyond.
Continuing with the hits and misses from Pac-12 recruiting.

CALIFORNIA

Needs filled: The Bears added nice depth to the offensive line with tackles Aaron Cochran and Erik Bunte. Junior-college transfer Sione Sina can also be a nice stopgap at defensive end. They went heavy in the trenches with five offensive linemen and seven defensive linemen.

Holes remaining: Cal is looking for a quarterback to run the new-look offense under new head coach Sonny Dykes. Could be Zach Kline of the 2012 recruiting class. Could be Jared Goff of this year's class, an early enrollee. The Bears addressed a lot of positions, but whether some youngsters can step up remains to be seen. The 11th-hour flip of offensive guard Cameron Hunt to Oregon has to sting.

OREGON

Needs filled: The Ducks went heavy on offense, and running back Thomas Tyner highlights a group that is loaded with speed (what did you expect, it's Oregon). They added two stellar offensive guards in Hunt and Evan Voeller and a premier defensive end in Torrodney Prevot, previously a USC commit. There are speedy receivers down the line like Darren Carrington. And they added kicker Matt Wogan. The Ducks were 11th in the conference in field goals made in 2012.

Holes remaining: The Ducks still have holes to fill at linebacker. Junior-college transfer Joe Walker, an outside linebacker, could step in to help immediately. But with the losses of inside linebackers Michael Clay and Kiko Alonso, the Ducks have mostly untested talent at the position and this year's class didn't add much depth to a position that is already a question mark.

OREGON STATE

Needs filled: When you look at the top two players the Beavers lost -- Jordan Poyer and Markus Wheaton -- it's nice to look at their recruiting class and see a cornerback and wide receiver as the two highest-rated players. Dashon Hunt and Hunter Jarmon might never develop into a Poyer or a Wheaton, but the Beavers saw the holes and addressed them. JC defensive tackles Kyle Peko and Edwin Delva should help immediately and Kyle Kempt could develop into the quarterback of the future in a couple of years. a href="http://espn.go.com/college-sports/football/recruiting/player/_/id/136903/jordan-villamin">Jordan Villamin, 6-foot-4 wide receiver, might also develop into a nice red zone target.

Holes remaining: The JC transfers help with the defensive line in the immediate future, but the Beavers signed only two high school defensive linemen, leaving some questions about depth in the future. It's likely a position they'll address heavily next season.

STANFORD

Needs filled: This is a class low on numbers, but extremely high on potential. If quarterback Ryan Burns is as advertised, it's possible he could challenge for the starting job as early as 2014. Francis Owusu has tremendous upside as a receiver and Peter Kalambayi adds depth to one of the best front sevens in the nation. Plus, three tight ends (Austin Hooper, Greg Taboada and Eric Cotton Jr.). How very Stanfordish of them.

Holes remaining: The Cardinal loaded up on defensive linemen with five last year and there is plenty of depth, albeit untested, at running back. The Cardinal didn't sign any running backs or defensive linemen this year. It's not a bad thing -- for now. But if a couple of guys get injured or if there is any attrition, it could bite them. For now, the Cardinal seem to be in good shape across all positions.

WASHINGTON

Needs filled: The Huskies added some much-needed depth on the defensive line with five linemen -- headlined by ESPN 150 defensive tackle Elijah Qualls. Damore'ea Stringfellow and Darrell Daniels -- both ESPN 150 wide receivers -- provide a nice one-two offensive punch. Troy Williams, the nation's No. 3-rated dual-threat quarterback -- could potentially be the heir apparent to Keith Price. It was a good class that fills a lot of needs.

Holes remaining: For solid as the defensive line class was, the Huskies signed only three offensive linemen -- though one of them is Dane Crane, the nation's No. 4-rated center. If you recall, however, the Huskies were decimated with offensive line injuries this year and coach Steve Sarkisian made it a point to talk about the team needing more depth to be able to absorb that kind of injury hit. Three more guys helps; but is it enough to sustain them if another injury bug ravishes the line?

WASHINGTON STATE

Needs filled: This was quietly a very good encore recruiting class for Mike Leach in his second season at the helm. It's heavy on linemen, heavy in the secondary and it's headlined by a four-star wide receiver in Vince Mayle -- a JC transfer from Rocklin, Calif. Interestingly enough, it also has two fairly highly rated running backs. We know Leach isn't going to be a run-first guy -- but the Cougars could certainly use the help after rushing for 29.1 yards per game last season.

Holes remaining: Who is going to run the offense? It could be Connor Halliday. But it's also possible Leach pulls the trigger on Tyler Bruggman, the No. 22-rated pocket passer in the country from Phoenix. That remains the No. 1 priority for the Cougars in the offseason. Otherwise, this recruiting class plugged a lot of holes. The question is whether they are the right guys to help immediately.

Pac-12 recruiting primer

February, 6, 2013
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ESPN RecruitingNation has signing day covered. Follow ESPNU’s coverage, chat with analysts and get breaking news on our Signing Day Live page beginning at 7:30 a.m. ET through 7 p.m. ET. For more on what to expect on signing day, check out the Pac-12 conference breakdown Insider.

Bold prediction for the Pac-12: UCLA is in a position to shock the conference and perhaps the country on signing day. Already in possession of a top-12 class, the Bruins have a chance to close with a bang, as UCLA is in a good position with ESPN 150 prospects Eddie Vanderdoes, Isaac Savaiinaea and Asiantii Woulard. If all goes well in Westwood on signing day, Jim Mora could finish the day with a top-five recruiting class.

Arizona
Biggest need: Linebacker. Arizona’s defense is in need of some immediate help in all three levels, but the Wildcats will add some serious depth at linebacker with five commitments at the position.
Biggest recruit: QB Jesse Scroggins. A case could be made for either quarterback commitment -- Anu Solomon is the other -- but with Scroggins’ experience at USC and his status as an early enrollee, he could have an advantage when it comes to battling for the vacated starting quarterback spot.

Arizona State
Biggest need: Secondary. Arizona State is set to add plenty of help at the offensive skill positions, but the Sun Devils needed to add depth on the defensive side of the ball, and they did so. Safeties James Johnson and Jayme Otomewo are strong additions, as are cornerbacks Damarious Randall and Will Earley.
Biggest recruit: DT Marcus Hardison. Getting defensive tackle Will Sutton back for another year was a big win for Arizona State’s defense. Getting the No. 5 junior college player in Hardison, a 6-foot-4, 275-pound defensive tackle who can help Sutton inside this year, is another big win.

California
Biggest need: Offensive line. With head coach Sonny Dykes and offensive coordinator Tony Franklin, Cal is looking to take off offensively, but that can’t happen without a dominant front. Six offensive line commitments, including four-star tackles Aaron Cochran and Erik Bunte, are a good way to continue building up front.
Biggest recruit: OT Aaron Cochran. This is true figuratively and literally. Cochran, at 6-foot-8 and 364 pounds, is an important recruit for Cal, as the offensive tackle plays a position of need. He is the younger brother of Cal lineman Matt Cochran. Honorable mention here to Cameron Hunt, who committed to Cal last summer but opened his recruitment after the coaching change and now appears to be headed to Oregon.

Colorado
Biggest need: Offensive line. The Buffaloes need help everywhere, but solidifying the offensive line is step one for the new regime. Colorado holds commitments from five offensive linemen as it looks to take a step forward in the Pac-12.
Biggest recruit: QB Sefo Liufau. While building along the lines is important, Colorado needs to add playmakers at every position, and Liufau is definitely that at quarterback. He understands and appreciates the challenge at Colorado and is the kind of player the Buffs need to bring in and build around.

Oregon
Biggest need: Running back. While the Ducks have been blessed with an embarrassment of riches at tailback, it’s important that they continue to stock the cupboard in order to keep finding those gems and running the blur offense. Three tailbacks were a possibility in this class, as there will be an opportunity for playing time.
Biggest recruit: RB Thomas Tyner. This was big on two fronts as Tyner has an opportunity to contribute as a freshman, and the Ducks were able to keep Oregon’s top recruit from leaving the state. Tyner’s commitment became even more important when Dontre Wilson flipped from Oregon to Ohio State on Monday.

Oregon State
Biggest need: Defensive line. The Beavers looked to get bigger and better up front and did so in a big way. Six defensive linemen are headed to Corvallis, including four junior college defensive tackles capable of playing as soon as they arrive on campus.
Biggest recruit: CB Dashon Hunt. Oregon State needed to add talent in the secondary as well and Hunt -- the Beavers’ lone ESPN 300 commitment -- will help there. Hunt’s commitment also helped Oregon State continue its presence in Southern California, which it recruited extremely well with this class.

Stanford
Biggest need: Wide receiver. The Cardinal needed to add receiving threats in this class, and adding wide receivers Francis Owusu and Taijuan Thomas did that. Of course, at Stanford, no position poses more of an offensive threat than tight end, and the Cardinal have commitments from three high school standouts who will suit up there.
Biggest recruit: WR Jordan Cunningham. As the Cardinal continue to hunt for pass-catchers in this class, snagging Cunningham -- an ESPN 150 wide receiver -- on signing day would nicely cap an undermanned but still impressive recruiting class. It would also carry over Stanford’s terrific signing-day success from last year.

UCLA
Biggest need: Offensive line. While it might not be the most immediate need for the roster, the UCLA coaches saw a need to infuse the offensive line with young talent and they went out and did just that. There are offensive line recruits, including two ESPN 300 prospects and a third four-star lineman.
Biggest recruit: DT Eddie Vanderdoes. The country’s top defensive tackle will announce at 5 p.m. PT and the Bruins are thought to be in good position. Landing Vanderdoes -- a former USC commitment -- would be another positive sign for the Bruins in their quest to tip the rivalry in their favor.

USC
Biggest need: Secondary. The Trojans have been shaky in the secondary for several years now and are in need of players capable of adding depth and perhaps playing as freshmen. Signing day could offer a disappointment if cornerback Jalen Ramsey goes elsewhere, but the early enrollee group of safeties Su’a Cravens and Leon McQuay and cornerback Chris Hawkins, gives the Trojans three players capable of stepping in and offering a solution to the pass defense troubles.
Biggest recruit: S Su’a Cravens. USC is set to add plenty of impact players in this recruiting class, but landing Cravens as an early enrollee was huge. A local player who plays a position of need and has the talent to make an impact as a freshman, Cravens was as close to a must-get recruit as the Trojans had in this class.

Utah
Biggest need: Running back. With John White finished at Utah, the Utes have just one player returning in 2013 who logged more than 25 carries last season. While there are several tailbacks on the roster, Utah looked to add talent at the tailback position in this class and did so with four commitments from running backs, including junior college back Devontae Booker.
Biggest recruit: DT Lowell Lotulelei. There is no guarantee that the defensive tackle will turn into his older brother, Star Lotulelei, a likely top-five pick in the upcoming NFL draft. But getting a commitment from Lowell Lotulelei was arguably the most important piece of Utah’s recruiting puzzle. The four-star defensive tackle is Utah’s top-ranked commitment and will look to take over where his brother left off.

Washington
Biggest need: Offensive line. The Huskies hoped to find several big bodies to position as the future of the offensive line in this class and have commitments from three high school linemen, including four-star center Dane Crane. While the Huskies lost a commitment from Sean Harlow, who flipped to Oregon State, they could make up for it in a big way by grabbing ESPN 300 tackle Nico Falah away from USC on signing day.
Biggest recruit: WR Damore’ea Stringfellow. The highest-ranked player in the class, the ESPN 150 wide receiver is a playmaker capable of providing an immediate spark for Washington’s offense. He also gives the Huskies a big recruiting win in Southern California, as he was sought after by UCLA and USC.

Washington State
Biggest need: Offensive line. While much of the attention with Mike Leach’s offense goes to the offensive skill players, it can’t take off without an effective offensive line. Six offensive linemen, including junior college tackle Jacob Seydel, are headed to Pullman in this class.
Biggest recruit: QB Tyler Bruggman. The Cougars won a big recruiting battle for Bruggman, as they were able to pull him away from hometown Arizona State. He was someone Washington State targeted early on as a player who could fit into and succeed in the offense.

Busy days on recruiting trail

June, 19, 2012
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The past few days have seen a flurry of activity in Pac-12 recruiting with several players committing around the conference.

Here's a quick rundown on some of the new players coming in.
  • Oregon State finally got on the recruiting board with defensive specialist Terin Solomon (Murrieta, Calif). Per ESPN.com's Erik McKinney, he could go either direction at the next level. He's 5-foot-11, 183 pounds now, but could bulk up to linebacker or focus on being a safety.
  • There's going to be another Owusu on The Farm as Francis Owusu (Westlake Village, Calif.), brother of the recently graduated Chris Owusu, committed to the Cardinal. He's Stanford's fourth commit, and all four are ranked in the ESPN 300. Last season, Owusu caught 35 balls for 705 yards and eight scores.
  • Oregon landed tight end John Mundt (Modesto, Calif.), whose stock was trending up after earning a strong rating at last month's Northern California Nike weekend. He recorded the highest rating of any tight end nationally in Nike's SPARQ Combine Tour.
  • Colorado picked up commitments from wide receiver Elijah Dunston (West Hills, Calif.) and offensive lineman John Lisella (Littleton, Colo.).
  • Washington State picked up verbals from linebacker Peyton Pelluer (Sammamish, Wash.), wide receiver River Cracraft (Rancho Santa Margarita, Calif.) and defensive back Markell Sanders (Bellevue, Wash.). Pelluer had offers from Arizona State and Colorado.
  • Arizona got commitments from linebacker Philip Wright (Santa Rosa, Calif.), quarterback Thomas Woodson (Monroeville, Pa.) and Hutchinson (Kan) Community College athlete Prince Holloway. Wright told McKinney that Arizona was his first offer, and he jumped at the chance to give the Wildcats his commitment. He's the first linebacker commit to the 2013 class. Arizona was also the first to offer Woodson.
  • Finally, Cal picked up a verbal from kicker Matt Anderson (Danville, Calif.). Rivals.com reported that Anderson had drawn interest from Stanford, UCLA and USC. He's the sixth Cal commit, and was a teammate of current Cal quarterback Zach Kline.

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