Pac-12: Josh Mauro

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.
Headed into his fifth year at Stanford this past season, Josh Mauro's future as a football player was unclear. The defensive end had never been a starter, wasn't slated to become one and largely represented depth on one of the nation's best defenses.

While not exactly the profile of a future NFL player, Mauro still had hope.

[+] EnlargeJosh Mauro
George Frey/Getty ImagesFormer Stanford DE Josh Mauro had a breakout season for the Cardinal in 2013.
"After my redshirt junior year, I heard from different people that I'd have a chance [at the NFL]," he said. "I was told I had the body for the NFL and put some good stuff on film, but just wasn't consistent at times."

While consistency showed up as a potential flaw, it had more to do with opportunity than ability. He was stuck behind Henry Anderson and Ben Gardner -- two players with NFL futures of their own -- and so long as his playing time came intermittently, consistency was a tough fix.

That changed following the third game of the 2013 season, when Anderson went down with a knee injury that cost him the next five games. It was a minor setback for Anderson's career but provided a major opportunity for Mauro.

He took advantage.

"Once he got more playing time, he actually got better playing in games to the point where I told multiple people in the NFL, 'He's going to play and he's going to be on somebody's team,'" Stanford coach David Shaw said. "He's got the ability to do it, he's got the physical nature to do it. Especially for a lot of these 3-4 teams in the NFL, he's a good fit for those guys."

Mauro's impact was noticeable even before Anderson went down, but when he saw regular playing time, those consistency issues went away. Anderson's return against Oregon on Nov. 7 coincided with a season-ending injury to Gardner, which kept Mauro in the starting lineup the rest of the season.

The Texas native finished the year with 51 total tackles, 12.5 tackles for loss and four sacks and was a midseason add to the watch list for the Bednarik Award, given to the best defensive player in college football.

"I would describe Josh as the anchor of our defense. So much of what guys like [linebacker] Trent Murphy and I were able to do was a result of Josh being so disruptive on the line of scrimmage," linebacker Shayne Skov said. "He was able to hold the edge and keep guys off of us so we could run free and make plays. On top of that, he made a ton of impact plays himself, especially in big games."

Mauro's season earned him an NFL combine invite, but he left Indianapolis with mixed feelings about his performance. He was happy with his performances in the vertical jump (32 inches), broad jump (116 inches) and three-cone drill (7.43 seconds) but fell short of his goals in the 40-yard dash (5.21) and bench press (21 reps).

The 40-yard dash time and bench press will be two of his priorities at Stanford's pro day on March 20, but the big change will be his weight. Mauro dropped 10 to 15 pounds from his playing weight and tipped the scales at 271 in Indianapolis, but he plans on adding that weight back with a more regular diet. He said he doesn't think it will affect his explosiveness and will feel more comfortable.

Among the coaches Mauro met with at the combine were Raiders defensive coordinator Jason Tarver, who served as the Cardinal's co-defensive coordinator in 2011, and former Stanford coach Jim Harbaugh of the 49ers.

Gardner eyes Stanford pro day

February, 10, 2014
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Stanford led the Pac-12 with eight invitations to the NFL Scouting Combine, but the omission of defensive end Ben Gardner has raised some eyebrows.

Gardner, who was named first-team All-Pac-12 despite playing in just the first eight games of the season, wouldn't have been able to perform at the event later this month but still expected to be invited. As he continues to rehab from an injury to his left pectoral muscle that ended his season in late October, Gardner thought he would have the opportunity to meet with teams and their medical personnel in Indianapolis.

He said no one from the combine or NFL reached out to him or his agent to see if he would be physically ready to participate.

"Who knows if injury had something to do with it," Gardner said. "It's a little disappointing, but the thing for me is that it's just another hurdle."

As a senior at Homestead High in Mequon, Wisc., Gardner received no FBS scholarship offers until Jack Harbaugh recommended to his son, former Stanford coach Jim Harbaugh, that he change that. The elder Harbaugh lives in Mequon and on his recommendation, the Cardinal took a look and extended Gardner its final scholarship in 2009.

It paid off, as Gardner went on to become a second-team All-Pac-12 selection after the 2011 and 2012 seasons and the Pac-12 Blog named him the conference's No. 25 player overall heading into this past season.

With the combine not in the picture, Gardner said he expects to be ready for Stanford's Pro Day on March 28. He was initially told the injury would keep him out until late April, but thanks to a stringent rehab program at Stanford that timetable has moved up.

He spends his mornings training at California Strength in San Ramon with Stanford teammates Tyler Gaffney, Shayne Skov, Josh Mauro, Ryan Hewitt and USC defensive end Morgan Breslin, who also didn't receive a combine invitation. When he's done there, Gardner drives back to Stanford for more rehab.

"Motivation has never been a problem for me," Gardner said.

Stanford's group of combine invitees includes David Yankey, Cam Fleming, Trent Murphy, Ed Reynolds, Gaffney, Skov, Mauro and Hewitt.

Pac-12 names all-conference team

December, 2, 2013
12/02/13
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The Pac-12 has announced its first- and second-team all-conference squads and postseason awards for 2013.

[+] EnlargeKa'Deem Carey
Mark J. Rebilas/USA TODAY SportsPac-12 Offensive Player of the Year Ka'Deem Carey was the only unanimous first-team pick.
Arizona running back Ka'Deem Carey has been named the league's offensive player of the year. Arizona State defensive lineman Will Sutton joins an elite fraternity, earning his second straight Pat Tillman Defensive Player of the Year award. Washington's Steve Emtman is the only other player to win the league's defensive player of the year award in back to back years (1990-1991).

UCLA's Myles Jack earned freshman of the year for both offense and defense with his 70 tackles as a linebacker and seven touchdowns as a running back. This is the first time since the awards were introduced in 2008 that the same player has won both sides.

Arizona State coach Todd Graham is the league's coach of the year for guiding the Sun Devils to a conference record of 8-1 and winning the South Division. The Sun Devils host Stanford this weekend in the Pac-12 championship game.

The team is selected by the Pac-12 head coaches.

Offensive player of the year: Ka'Deem Carey, RB, Arizona
Pat Tillman Defensive Player of the Year: Will Sutton, DE Arizona State
Freshman Offense and Defensive Player of the Year: Myles Jack, RB/LB, UCLA
Coach of the Year: Todd Graham, Arizona State

First team offense

QB Marcus Mariota, So., Oregon (2)
RB Ka'Deem Carey, Jr., Arizona (2)
RB Bishop Sankey, Jr., Washington
WR Brandin Cooks, Jr., Oregon State
WR Paul Richardson, Jr., Colorado
TE Chris Coyle, Grad., Arizona State
OL Evan Finkenberg, Grad., Arizona State
OL Hroniss Grasu, Jr., Oregon (2)
OL Marcus Martin, Jr., USC
OL Xavier Su'a-Filo, Jr., UCLA (2)
OL David Yankey, Sr, Stanford (2)

First team defense

DL Ben Gardner, Sr., Stanford
DL Trevor Reilly, Sr., Utah
DL Will Sutton, Sr., Arizona State
DL Leonard Williams, So., USC
LB Anthony Barr, Sr., UCLA (2)
LB Trent Murphy, Sr., Stanford (2)
LB Shayne Skov, Sr., Stanford
DB Deone Bucannon, Sr., Washington State
DB Alden Darby, Sr., Arizona State
DB Ifo Ekpre-Olomu, Jr., Oregon
DB Robert Nelson, Sr., Arizona State
DB Ed Reynolds, Sr., Stanford (2)

First team specialists

PK Zane Gonzalez, Fr., Arizona State
P Tom Hackett, So. Utah
RS Ty Montgomery, Jr., Stanford
ST Soma Vainuku, So. USC

Second team offense

QB Taylor Kelly, Jr., Arizona State
RB Tyler Gaffney, Sr., Stanford
RB Marion Grice, Sr. Arizona State
WR Ty Montgomery, Jr., Stanford
WR Jaelen Strong, So., Arizona State
TE Austin Seferian-Jenkins, Jr., Washington
OL Jamil Douglas, Jr., Arizona State
OL Cameron Fleming, Sr., Stanford
OL Andrus Peat, So., Stanford
OL Isaac Seumalo, So., Oregon State
OL Khalil Wilkes, Sr. Stanford

Second team defense

DL Scott Crichton, Jr., Oregon State
DL Taylor Hart, Sr., Oregon
DL Devon Kennard, Sr., USC
DL Hau'oli Kikaha, Jr., Washington
DL Tenny Palepoi, Sr., Utah
LB Carl Bradford, Jr., Arizona State
LB Myles Jack, Fr., UCLA
LB Hayes Pullard, Jr., USC
LB Chris Young, Sr., Arizona State
DB Dion Bailey, Jr., USC
DB Osahon Irabor, Grad., Arizona State
DB Marcus Peters, So., Washington
DB Rashaad Reynolds, Sr., Oregon State

Second team specialists

PK Vincenzo D'Amato, Sr., California
P Travis Coons, Sr., Washington
RS Nelson Agholor, So., USC
ST Erick Dargan, Jr., Oregon
ST Joe Hemschoot, Sr., Stanford
ST Ryan Hofmeister, Jr., UCLA

RS: Return Specialist
ST: special teams player (not a kicker or returner)
(2): Two-time first-team selection

Honorable mention

Arizona: LB Marquis Flowers, Sr.; DL Tevin Hood, Sr.; WR Nate Phillips, Fr.; DB Jared Tevis, Jr.; LB Scooby Wright, Fr.

Arizona State: DL Davon Coleman, Grad.; Gannon Conway, Sr.; ST D.J. Foster, So.; ST De'Marieya Nelson, Jr.

California: DL Deandre Coleman, Sr.; QB Jared Goff, Fr.; WR Bryce Treggs, So.

Colorado: RB Mike Adkins, Fr.; LB Addison Gillam, Fr.; PK Will Oliver, Jr.

Oregon: WR/RS Bralon Addison, So.; WR Josh Huff, Sr.; OL Tyler Johnstone, So.; DL Wade Keliikipi, Sr.; LB Derrick Malone, Jr.; RB Byron Marshall, So.; DL Tony Washington, Jr.

Oregon State: OL Grant Enger, Sr.; TE Connor Hamlett, JR.; QB Sean Mannion, Jr.; DB Ryan Murphy, Jr.; DB Steven Nelson, Jr.; ST Terron Ward, Jr.

Stanford: DL Henry Anderson, Sr.; DB Alex Carter, So.; OL Kevin Danser, Sr.; DL Josh Mauro, Sr.; P Ben Rhyne, Sr.; DB Jordan Richards, Jr.; LB A.J. Tarpley, Sr.

UCLA: OL Jake Brendel, So.; ST Jayon Brown, Fr.; P Sean Covington, Fr.; TE Thomas Duarte, Fr.; WR Shaq Evans, Sr.; WR Devin Fuller, So.; DB Randall Goforth, So.; QB Brett Hundley, So.; DB Anthony Jefferson, Jr.; LB Eric Kendricks, Jr.; DL Cassius Marsh, Sr.; DL Ellis McCarthy, So.; DB Fabian Moreau, So.; OL Alex Redmond, Fr.; DL Eddie Vanderdoes, Fr.; LB Jordan Zumwalt, Sr.

USC: P Kris Albarado, So.; RB Javorius Allen, So.; WR Nelson Agholor, So.; DB Su'a Cravens, Fr.; OL Kevin Graf, Sr.; TE Xavier Grimble, Jr.; QB Cody Kessler, So.; WR Marqise Lee, Jr.; DB Josh Shaw, Jr.; DL J.R. Tavai, Jr.; OL Max Turek, So.; DL George Uko, Jr.

Utah: WR Dres Anderson, Jr.; OL Vyncent Jones, Sr.; DB Keith McGill, Sr.; PK Andy Phillips, Fr.; LB Jason Whittingham, So.

Washington: OL Dexter Charles, So.; PK Travis Coons, Sr.; OL Mike Criste, Jr.; OL Micah Hatchie, Jr.; DB Sean Parker, Sr.; QB Keith Price, Sr.; DL Danny Shelton, Jr.; LB Shaq Thompson, So.

Washington State: OL Elliott Bosch, Sr.; WR River Cracraft, Fr.; PK Andrew Furney, Sr.; DB Damante Horton, Sr.;

Some notes on the teams:

By School: Arizona State and Stanford placed the most players on the first team with six selections each.

By Class: Of the 27 first-team selections, two are graduate students, 11 are seniors, nine are juniors, four are sophomores and one freshman.

Unanimous: Only one player was named on the first-team ballot of all 12 head coaches -- RB Ka'Deem Carey of Arizona.

Two-time Selections: Ten players are repeat first-team selections from last year.

All-Academic: Two first team All-Pac-12 performers also were named to the Pac-12 All Academic second team -- RB Bishop Sankey of Washington and DB Ed Reynolds of Stanford, while Washington defensive lineman Hau'oli Kikaha was named to the All-Pac-12 second team and Pac-12 All-Academic first team. Arizona State QB Taylor Kelly earned second-team honors on both the Pac-12 All-Conference and All-Academic teams.
Tags:

USC Trojans, Stanford Cardinal, Oregon Ducks, Pac-12, USC Trojans, Washington State Cougars, Oregon State Beavers, Jordan Zumwalt, Washington Huskies, UCLA Bruins, Devon Kennard, Arizona State Sun Devils, California Bears, Tyler Gaffney, Stanford Cardinal, Deandre Coleman, Will Sutton, Colorado Buffaloes, Todd Graham, Arizona Wildcats, Oregon Ducks, Xavier Su\'a-Filo, Andy Phillips, Shayne Skov, Keith Price, Evan Finkenberg, Sean Parker, Soma Vainuku, Cassius Marsh, Xavier Grimble, George Uko, Hayes Pullard, Marquis Flowers, Taylor Kelly, Hroniss Grasu, Sean Mannion, Eric Kendricks, Paul Richardson, Anthony Barr, Taylor Hart, Wade Keliikipi, Chris Coyle, Anthony Jefferson, Cody Kessler, Chris Young, Brett Hundley, Vincenzo D'Amato, Kevin Graf, Austin Seferian-Jenkins, Jordan Richards, Shaq Evans, Deone Bucannon, Bishop Sankey, Danny Shelton, Marqise Lee, Khalil Wilkes, Kevin Danser, David Yankey, Davon Coleman, Dion Bailey, Alex Carter, Alden Darby, Terron Ward, Dres Anderson, Randall Goforth, Derrick Malone, Damante Horton, Connor Hamlett, Isaac Seumalo, Andrew Furney, Henry Anderson, Gannon Conway, Scott Crichton, Rashaad Reynolds, Ka'Deem Carey, Andrus Peat, Shaq Thompson, Will Oliver, Ben Gardner, Trevor Reilly, Ty Montgomery, A.J. Tarpley, Cameron Fleming, Trent Murphy, Su'a Cravens, Byron Marshall, Josh Mauro, Nelson Agholor, Ellis McCarthy, Marcus Mariota, Erick Dargan, Joe Hemschoot, Devin Fuller, Leonard Williams, Grant Enger, Jared Goff, Brandin Cooks, Jared Tevis, Marcus Martin, Keith McGill, Marcus Peters, Ed Reynolds, Jamil Douglas, Bryce Treggs, Elliott Bosch, Tony Washington, Marion Grice, Eddie Vanderdoes, Ryan Murphy, J.R. Tavai, Carl Bradford, River Cracraft, Myles Jack, Thomas Duarte, Alex Redmond, Jake Brendel, Dexter Charles, Mike Criste, Tom Hackett, Bralon Addison, Ifo Ekpre-Olomu, Travis Coons, Robert Nelson, Tyler Johnstone, De'Marieya Nelson, Jaelen Strong, Tenny Palepoi, Steven Nelson, Tevin Hood, Micah Hatchie, Vyncent Jones, Jason Whittingham, Addison Gillam, Scooby Wright, Zane Gonzales, Sean Covington, Kris Albarado, Hau'oli Kikaha, Fabian Moreau, Javorius Allen, Jayon Brown, Osahan Irabor, Ryan Hoffmeister, Nate Phillips, Mike Adkins

Cardinal ball requires white knuckles

November, 6, 2013
11/06/13
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When the Andrew Luck era ended at Stanford, coach David Shaw knew for his team to maintain the high standard of play, it would have to commit to the old evolutionary adage of adapt to survive.

Gone were the 43 points per game the team enjoyed during Luck’s senior year -- Shaw’s first year as head coach. With the graduation of a player like Luck, Stanford’s offensive production was expected to take a step back.

[+] EnlargeDavid Shaw
Ron Chenoy/US PresswireStanford coach David Shaw credits his team's record in close games to the players' resilience.
And it did.

Since the start of the 2012 season, the Cardinal have averaged just 29.6 points per game -- two touchdowns fewer on average per contest than when Luck was running the show. And yet during that stretch, Stanford has still gone 19-3 against opponents that boast a 62.6 winning percentage. That ranks 10th among all FBS teams over the last year and a half.

The Cardinal have adapted and survived behind a brutalizing defense and power-running game. Though they aren’t scoring as many points, they are speeding the game up by slowing it down. And they are winning.

Good enough has been good enough for Stanford.

Since the start of the 2012 season the Cardinal are 10-3 in games decided by one possession (eight points). In those 22 games, their margin of victory is 11.6 points. As Shaw is fond of saying, football isn’t a beauty contest.

“We expect to be in tight games,” Shaw said. “We practice it. We spend a lot of time working on red zone. A lot of time working on overtime, two-minute offense, two-minute defense, the things that happen at the end of the game, so when we get in those times during the game, we just act and react.”

Compare that to No. 3 Oregon, Stanford’s opponent Thursday night in Palo Alto in a game that is sure to have a massive impact on the Pac-12 and BCS pecking order. Over that same stretch, the Ducks have enjoyed a margin of victory of 32.1 points per game. While the Cardinal have been in 13 one-possession games, Oregon has been in one. Just one. For those with a short memory, it was last year’s 17-14 overtime loss to the Cardinal at Autzen.

“All it really means is we’re doing our job and executing,” said Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota. “We don’t look at something like that as a bad thing. You execute and you win a ball game. That’s what the main intent is. In any situation we have confidence the coaches will do an awesome job preparing us and we’ll go out there with confidence and be comfortable in whatever situation.”

This year could present another close situation. Oregon coach Mark Helfrich said he’s expecting another tight, drag’em-out showdown with the veteran Cardinal defense.

“When you look at their defense and their two-deep, 15 or 16 are seniors,” Helfrich said. “And there is so much depth. So much continuity. It feels like we’ve been playing against Trent Murphy and [Shayne] Skov and [A.J.] Tarpley for 20 years. They are obviously very confident in what they do, and I think their offense will grind it out and create some situations. But I know at the end of the game they are going to have confidence. Hopefully so will we.”

Maturity and experience is obviously a big reason for Stanford’s success in close games. Take the last win -- a 20-12 victory over Oregon State in Corvallis. A late fumble could have swung the momentum to OSU’s favor. But the veteran Cardinal defense stiffened and preserved the win.

“They played us well not only physically, but they played a very smart game,” said Oregon State coach Mike Riley. “I think the combination of what they have, which is physical talent and lots of experience, is a positive for them.”

The Cardinal, however, will be without one of their veteran leaders in defensive end Ben Gardner, who is out of the rest of the year with a pectoral injury. The fifth-year senior was a team captain and has been an integral part of Stanford’s defensive success for not only his pass-rushing abilities, but also for his ability to occupy blockers which opens things up for the outside linebackers. However, the Cardinal will get defensive end Henry Anderson back, who has been out since September with a knee injury. Josh Mauro, who has been filling in for Anderson, will replace Gardner.

Despite Gardner’s absence, there isn’t much this Cardinal team hasn’t seen. And it’s that experience they’ll draw from against an Oregon team that averages more than 55 points per game.

“When things don’t go our way during the game, we don’t lament over it,” Shaw said. “I think our maturity helps that. When you don’t play your best football and end up in a tight game, we don’t have a lot of guys spending a lot of time being upset how they didn’t play well in the first or second or third quarter. They know it’s a tight game. They know they have a chance to win it so let’s go out and win it.”

And the Cardinal also know they are going to have to get their offense moving more efficiently than it has in the last three games -- two of which were decided by eight or fewer points. Stanford has averaged slightly more than three touchdowns per game. And a lot of that falls on the shoulders of quarterback Kevin Hogan.

“When Kevin has a not-great game, it’s mechanics, and we’ve got to keep working on that and get him to be consistent and he’s working extremely hard,” Shaw said. “Everybody hates when I say it, but he’s still young. We don’t have a huge sample size of him playing football. He played so well early that everyone is shocked when he doesn’t have a great game. But I think the arrow is still pointing up. He’s got a chance to be a great college quarterback and we hope that surfaces again this week coming up.”

Instant Analysis: Stanford 42, ASU 28

September, 21, 2013
9/21/13
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STANFORD, Calif. -- In the weekend's only matchup of ranked teams, No. 5 Stanford jumped out to a big lead and coasted to a 42-28 win against No. 23 Arizona State. Here's how it went down:

It was over when: Stanford DE Ben Gardner blocked a pooch-punt attempt from ASU QB Taylor Kelly with the Cardinal leading 32-7 late in the third quarter. One play later, RB Tyler Gaffney scored from 16 yards out to give Stanford a 39-7 lead with 37 seconds left in the quarter.

The Sun Devils turned in a valiant comeback attempt, but the deficit was too big to overcome.

Game ball goes to: Stanford DE Josh Mauro. Making his first career start, the fifth-year senior had an interception and 25-yard return and a sack.

Stat of the game: Arizona State players who had punts blocked: Two. In addition to Kelly's blocked pooch, punter Matt Haack had one blocked, too. His, however, was unique in that it wasn't touched by a Stanford player.

Haack punted it into the back of a teammate, then proceeded to kick it out of the back of the end zone for a safety.

What Stanford learned: Keeping the play calling simple was a good plan. The Cardinal was vanilla in wins against San Jose State and Army to begin the year, only to breakout several unseen looks against Arizona State. Stanford moved the ball at will in the first half before sitting on it for most of the second half.

What Arizona State learned: The Sun Devils aren't ready to be considered serious challengers in the Pac-12. They need to find a cure for the "dropsies" and, at least against a team like Stanford, have to find more balance offensively. The loss did nothing to diminish their chances at winning the South, but does show how far they have to go long-term.

Reynolds ejected: Stanford All-American S Ed Reynolds was ejected in the fourth quarter for targeting. He will be forced to sit out the first half of Stanford's game next week against Washington State in Seattle.

What it means: Stanford is every bit the national title contender it was billed as before the year began. The final score isn't a clear indicator of just how dominant the Cardinal was. Stanford led 29-0 at halftime and was in run-out-the-clock mode with reserves rotating in on both sides of the ball for most of the second half.

Pac-12 lunchtime links

September, 19, 2013
9/19/13
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And when they've given you their all some stagger and fall;
After all it's not easy, banging your heart against some mad buggers' wall.

Pac-12: Who will transform tomorrow?

November, 16, 2012
11/16/12
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Stanford owns the nation's top-rated rushing defense. Oregon has the league's best rushing attack. The Ducks are the only team in FBS football that averages at least six yards per carry, so the pressure is on Stanford's front seven to slow down the Ducks.

The question Ted and I have been asked is why aren't any Stanford players in consideration for individual awards? The answer is simple -- the strength of the Cardinal defense is the sum of its parts. No one guy stands out, but all are exceptional and each of them play off of each other. Ben Gardner, Terrence Stephens, Josh Mauro, Trent Murphy, Chase Thomas, A.J. Tarpley, Shayne Skov, et al. have to be at their best against the Ducks.

This is truly a matchup of strength versus strength. Per ESPN Stats & Information, Stanford holds its opponents to no gain or negative yards 38 percent of the time. Running backs against Stanford are gaining less than a yard before contact. Oregon, however, averages almost four yards before its backs are even hit and they gain positive yards 80 percent of the time.

And what happens early in the game could be telling. Stanford has only allowed 13 points in the first quarter all season. The Ducks are outscoring opponents by 154 points in the first quarter.

Much of quarterback Marcus Mariota's success has come off of play action. Following a fake or misdirection, he has 13 touchdowns to just one interception and he's completing 63.3 percent of his throws. Without play-action, he's completing just 50 percent of his throws. So while stopping the run is priority No. 1 for Stanford, discipline in the secondary will also be key.

While we usually reserve this space on Friday mornings for individual players who could be difference-makers, that's not how Stanford's defense operates. So to stop the team everyone expects to playing for the national championship, it's going to take a complete effort.

Instant analysis: Stanford 24, Wash. St. 17

October, 27, 2012
10/27/12
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PALO ALTO, Calif. -- It counts the same as any other win, but Stanford's 24-17 victory over Washington State on Saturday isn't one the Cardinal will feel all too good about.

Against the Pac-12's No. 11-ranked rush defense, Stanford (6-2, 4-1 Pac-12) managed just 120 yards on the ground -- its third-lowest total of the season -- as running back Stepfan Taylor (20 carries, 56 yards) was rendered largely ineffective.

WSU (2-5, 0-5) outgained Stanford 385-256 and controlled the tempo for most of the game, but a pair of big plays by the Cardinal proved to be the difference. First, a 70-yard touchdown pass from Josh Nunes to Jamal-Rashad Patterson in the second quarter, which came as a result of broken coverage, and then a 25-yard interception for a touchdown from safety Ed Reynolds in the fourth quarter.

The good news for Stanford? Most of the Bay Area -- evident by the sparse crowd at Stanford Stadium -- had their attention on the San Francisco Giants and Game 3 of the World Series.

Here are a few highlights from Stanford's less-than-impressive win:

It was over when: Henry Anderson sacked WSU quarterback Jeff Tuel with the Cougars facing second-and-goal from the 19 with only seconds remaining in the game.

Game ball goes to: Usua Amanam, who had seven tackles, two sacks, two and a half tackles for loss and a pair of pass breakups. He came up with a crucial sack of Tuel as the Cougars faced first-and-goal with under a minute to play.

Stat of the game: Washington State was held to minus-16 yards rushing. The performance by the Stanford defense comes a week after limiting Cal to just three yards on the ground.

Unsung hero: DE Josh Mauro was solid up front for Stanford. He finished with one and a half sacks.

What it means: The Cardinal are officially bowl eligible, but the poor execution by the offense is definite reason for concern. Stanford is nearly assured of another win next week with a trip to Colorado on tap, but with No. 7 Oregon State and No. 2 Oregon after that, improvement will be paramount.
Stanford middle linebacker Jarek Lancaster led the Cardinal in tackles last year and is one of six returning starters to the front seven. Here are his thoughts on the loss of co-defensive coordinator Jason Tarver, Stanford's defense and why he opted to shave his shoulder-length hair.

How different is the defense going to be with just one coordinator running the show?

Jarek Lancaster: It's not going to be that different. Coach [Derek] Mason and Tarver were really good at picking each other's brains. But I think coach Mason still talks a bunch with coach Tarver (now defensive coordinator for the Oakland Raiders) so I think he's going to keep a lot of the stuff from last year. It shouldn't be that different -- or at least drastically different.

With coach Tarver leaving, you lose not only a co-defensive coordinator, but your position coach. How has it been working with a more veteran coach like [David] Kotulski?

[+] EnlargeJarek Lancaster
Jason O. Watson/US PRESSWIRELinebacker Jarek Lancaster thinks Stanford has "one of the greatest front sevens in the nation."
JL: There is definitely more knowledge. He has so much wisdom to impart on us. You could just see from the first day, he was fixing stances and it's nice to be under his wing and learning because he's been in the game for so long.

Let's talk about the inside linebackers. You, A.J. Tarpley, Shayne Skov, James Vaughters. Is there enough defensive reps to go around?

JL: I think so. I think there will be plenty. If you're good enough to play, they are going to find ways to get you on the field. There might not be as many reps as we'd all like, but that doesn't mean we won't get a lot of work each game.

You are in a much different position now than where you were at this time last year when you were a backup. Now you're a proven commodity. Are you feeling the pressure behind you?

JL: We always say iron hardens iron. Spring ball was amazing in terms of competition. We made great gains as inside backers. You could see young guys like James Vaughters and A.J. Tarpley and Joe Hemschoot getting so much better over this four-week period. Anytime you can have that competition and look over your shoulder, it helps you elevate your game.

There is so much talk about how Stanford will drop off with Andrew Luck leaving. Has that permeated to the defense? Do you hear the chatter and do you even care?

JL: Yeah, we hear it. Naturally, you are going to hear the talk and the chatter. But if that means we have to be on the field a little more, that means we'll have better stats. It doesn't affect our play at all.

You guys have so much coming back in the front seven. Many have projected you to be the best front seven in the conference. Do you think you are?

JL: I feel like we have one of the greatest front sevens in the nation. We have two pass rushers that are unbelievable. If you watch film, you see Chase Thomas and Trent Murphy on the quarterback every time. Then you've got the stout Terrence Stephens in the middle that is wrecking shop with Benny Gardner and Josh Mauro. Then you have our inside backers that last year got a ton of experience, which helps us this year. If Shayne had stayed healthy, we wouldn't have that experience. We're ready to go.

In terms of expectations for the defense, is there more pressure on you this year because of all of the changes on offense?

JL: There's a long time to go till the season and we can definitely get better. But if we're going to be a successful team this year, we're going to need to handle the pressure. We expect it. Anytime you come out and you're a successful unit and you have a ton of returning starters, of course there is going to be added pressure. If you've shown you can play at that high level, it's expected that you do it all the time. We're excited for it.

Last question. What's up with Stanford guys dumping the hair? First Ben Gardner goes and dumps the mullet before the Fiesta Bowl and then you shave yours? What's the deal?

JL: I think it was having a new position coach coming in. I wanted a fresh start. It was symbolic. But on the flip side, Benny G is growing the mullet back so it should be pretty sweet come season. [Ryan] Hewitt still has the great, flowing blond locks.

Stanford notes: Who replaces Luck?

April, 6, 2012
4/06/12
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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.
Josh Nunes is going to remember the bonding experience with his Stanford teammates -- building two playhouses for Habitat for Humanity and getting off campus to do something good for the community. He's going to remember linebackers Jarek Lancaster and Trent Murphy showing off their art skills while painting Dora the Explorer on the playhouse. He'll remember defensive end Josh Mauro (6-6, 269) and fullback Geoff Meinken (6-4, 255) hamming it up while sticking their heads out of the child-sized windows.

But what was burned into Nunes' memory was the face of the little girl when she saw her new playhouse. It was a look he could only describe as "that glow."

[+] EnlargeJosh Nunes
David Elkinson/Stanfordphoto.com Josh Nunes does many volunteer projects a year and has always been involved with community service.
"I don't know how old she was, but she was about two-feet tall," Nunes said. "Being able to do something like that with your teammates is great. But to see her go in that house -- it was just incredible. She was loving every second of it."

One of the playhouses was earmarked for the Blue Star Moms -- a Bay Area organization of mothers with sons and daughters serving in the military. That's the house that went to the little girl.

"Her smile was priceless," said safety Jordan Richards. "I think we all left there feeling pretty good."

About 20 Stanford football players participated in the project last month. The following week, Nunes and Richards were back at it, volunteering with half a dozen teammates to go the Stanford Ronald McDonald House, where they played with kids who are shuttled back-and-forth between Stanford Hospital. A few days later they were off reading to elementary school kids.

It's not like Nunes, Richards -- or any of the other Stanford players for that matter -- have a ton of free time. They have full course loads and football. Both are locked in position battles. Why sacrifice what little downtime they have?

"You make the time," Richards said. "We're always working and grinding so it's nice to just get out there and do something for someone else. Especially in college, as you start to become more self-centered as you're on your own. It's good to widen that scope."

None of this mandatory. Stanford has a program called Cardinal for the Community, which puts athletes interested in helping into roles where they can. Head coach David Shaw lets players know what events are out there and it's not uncommon for some to be turned away because so many volunteer.

"We look for different opportunities -- in particular anything to do with kids -- we try to participate in those," Shaw said. "Read Across America, different children's hospitals etc. I never make it mandatory, but I remind these guys what kind of an impact they have just by showing up and showing that they care. They can inspire people. And it's important for our guys to see how they are perceived by young people and know that they can impact people's lives."

Nunes, who's locked in a quarterback competition to replace Andrew Luck, was no stranger to community service projects growing up. He was actively involved in church projects and considers himself the strongest builder on the team, citing his family mantra "Do it yourself."

"The Ronald McDonald House was great because it was all about the kids," Nunes said. "I was the crafts leader for the day and we made little leprechaun faces. We made cookies and then played in the backyard with the kids doing sports stuff.

"Yes, we're here to graduate and play great football. But that doesn't mean we can't impact lives during our time here. We should make the most of that opportunity."

Naturally, during the season the players are limited in their extra-curricular activities. But when they do get some free time, many of them are looking for ways to help others.

"We talk all the time about the recruiting process and how we're looking for great football players that are great students that are great human beings," Shaw said. "We've got guys who will take a little bit of time because they know how important it is to look at something outside of themselves. We talk about making a positive impact. If we can do that everywhere, in the classroom, on the field and on and off campus, it can have a huge impact for them and the people who look up to them."


STANFORD, Calif. -- On the volume meter, Stanford head coach David Shaw usually speaks at a three. On Tuesday, he spoke at an 11 (cue the “This is Spinal Tap” reference).

Shaw called for the national spotlight -- on his team, on his quarterback and on the entire Bowl Championship Series -- and, for better or worse, he got it.

The question, however, is whether a 28-14 win over Notre Dame on Saturday night at Stanford Stadium was enough to change anyone’s mind -- either the BCS pollsters or the Heisman voters.

“I wasn’t trying to change minds,” Shaw said. “I wasn’t bashing the BCS. I wasn’t bashing any other teams. Just the explanations that I kept getting didn’t make sense to me and I’m a common-sense person and I just don’t understand the whys of where we were.”

Andrew Luck
Kyle Terada/US Presswire"I've seen a lot of the other guys and there are a lot of really, really good football players," Stanford coach David Shaw said of quarterback Andrew Luck. "There's nobody like this guy."
As for the Heisman -- as expected -- Andrew Luck said he doesn’t care. You’d sooner get Condoleezza Rice to spill state secrets than to get Luck to talk about Heisman aspirations.

“I don’t worry about what kind of impression I make on anybody,” Luck said.

That’s when tight end Coby Fleener interjected.

“Andrew Luck has my vote,” Fleener said, raising his hand.

“Mine too,” said safety Michael Thomas, raising his hand. “I think he’s the best player in college football.”

“Me too,” said linebacker Chase Thomas, raising his hand.

Luck laughed off the moment, even though it encompassed everything that matters to the quarterback: the respect of his coaches and teammates.

“I don’t have a vote,” Shaw said. “We’ll see what happens. I just know that he’s one of a kind. He’s one of a kind. It’s apples and oranges in my opinion between him and everybody else and I’ve seen a lot of the other guys and there are a lot of really, really good football players. There’s nobody like this guy.”

Luck threw four touchdowns against the Irish -- three in the first half to help the Cardinal build a 21-0 lead at the break -- before closing out with a 55-yard touchdown to Fleener. The tight end finished with four catches for 97 yards and two touchdowns.

All three of Luck’s touchdowns came against Notre Dame blitzes* and both of Fleener’s scores came off of play-action. Against the blitz, Luck was 7-of-8 with three touchdowns, no interceptions and an average of 15.4 yards per completion. He finished the game 20-of-30 for 233 yards and an interception.

“I think, one loss, that’s great,” Luck said. “We’ve done a lot of good things. Someone just mentioned that we’ve been on a 23-2 run. I think that’s very impressive. We put ourselves in position to be in a good bowl game and that’s something we wanted to do.”

Which bowl game remains to be seen. The Cardinal (11-1) needed this win to stay in the conversation for a BCS at-large bid. Stanford could climb into the top 4, assuring it a BCS berth.

“All we can do is play our butts off and prepare and let the voters or whoever else makes the stuff up choose,” Fleener said. “All I know is you gotta win. That’s all I understand. They want to see 12-0 and win out and that’s how you go to the national championship. Other than that, I don’t know how everyone else falls in the pecking order.”

Speaking of pecking -- the defense spent most of the game pecking away at Notre Dame’s quarterbacks. Chase Thomas led a relentless pass rush that sacked Notre Dame’s quarterbacks five times. Thomas accounted for two while forcing a fumble and Ben Gardner, Josh Mauro and A.J. Tarpley all added one. In all, the Cardinal had eight tackles for a loss, holding Notre Dame to 57 yards on the ground. Michael Thomas and Corey Gatewood also logged interceptions.

“We went out and tried to play our game,” Tarpley said. “Maybe [the voters] liked it. Maybe they didn’t. You never really know what to think the way those things are. We played a good game. We could have played better. But we got the win. That’s all that’s important.”

Stepfan Taylor turned in his steady-as-always performance, rushing for 118 yards on 20 carries as the Cardinal accumulated 429 yards of offense.

Notre Dame mounted a minor second-half comeback -- cutting the score to 21-7 after getting a 6-yard touchdown strike from Andrew Hendrix to Michael Floyd. Notre Dame’s big-game receiver had eight catches for 92 yards and the score.

Luck’s first touchdown came on a 3-yard jump ball to 6-foot-8 tight end Levine Toilolo. The second was a 28-yarder to Fleener -- who pulled his defender into the end zone with him, and Ty Montgomery added an 11-yard touchdown reception with 10 seconds left in the first half.

Shaw’s comments last week caused a national stir. The timing certainly seemed calculated. Whether his players’ actions backed up the coach’s words will linger until the BCS bowl games are announced.

“I’m behind coach Shaw 100 percent,” offensive guard David DeCastro said. “He knows what he’s doing. That’s for sure. We don’t care what anyone else thinks. We got the win. That’s all we care about.”

But was the win enough for the team and/or Luck? To be continued ...

*Courtesy of ESPN Stats & Information.

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