Pac-12: Kevin Anderson

Biggest shoes to fill: Stanford

March, 25, 2014
Mar 25
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Starters in, starters out. That's college football. Players' eligibility expires and they leave for the rest of their lives, which might include the NFL or not. And they leave behind shoes of various sizes that need to be filled.

In alphabetical order, we will survey each Pac-12 team’s most notable void. Today we look at Stanford.

Biggest shoes: OLB Trent Murphy

A two-time first-team All-Pac-12 performer, Murphy led the Pac-12 in sacks (15) and tackles for a loss (23.5) in 2013. He also had 62 total tackles, an interception, five QB hurries, seven pass breakups, two forced fumbles and a blocked kick. The Cardinal not only will miss his HUGE production, they will miss his motor and leadership. While you could argue that the Cardinal has more uncertainty at running back, more holes on the offensive line and Shayne Skov leaves a huge void in the middle of the defense, Murphy's shoes still seem the biggest.

Stepping in: Junior Kevin Anderson

Anderson, at 6-foot-4, 244 pounds, is smaller than Murphy, though his motor is every bit Murphy's equal. He was solid as Murphy's backup last year, collecting 26 tackles, with 6.5 coming for a loss, with 1.5 sacks and an interception, and seemed to do his best work late in the season. The general feeling is positive that Anderson can step into Murphy's shoes and, at least, adequately replace his tremendous production. Still, if Anderson doesn't become the A-list pass rusher that Murphy was, the Cardinal might have to tweak some things schematically to figure out new ways to get pressure on opposing QBs. That might include more high-risk blitzing.

Previous big shoes

Offseason spotlight: Stanford

February, 26, 2014
Feb 26
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We're taking a look at a player from each Pac-12 team who could step into the spotlight in 2014.

[+] EnlargeKevin Anderson
Richard Mackson/USA TODAY SportsKevin Anderson returned an interception for a touchdown in the Rose Bowl.
Spotlight: OLB Kevin Anderson, R-Jr., 6-foot-4, 244 pounds

2013 summary: Anderson had 26 tackles, including 6.5 for loss and 1.5 sacks, and one interception.

The skinny: Anderson, a redshirt junior, has big shoes to fill -- those that belonged to 6-foot-6 Trent Murphy, who led the nation with 15 sacks last year. When you toss in other big losses to the Cardinal's defensive front seven -- LB Shayne Skov, DE Ben Gardner, DE Josh Mauro, LB Jarek Lancaster -- it's clear that guys like Anderson are going to have to step up this fall if the defense is not going to take a step back after a dominant two-year run. The good news is Anderson is hardly green. He's been given significant playing time the past two seasons as Murphy's backup. He played an important role last season and was productive when he got on the field. He had 1.5 sacks against Oregon State, earning co-Defensive Player of the Game, and had a 40-yard interception return for a TD in the Rose Bowl against Michigan State. But will he be able to play the position the way Murphy did, effective against the run and pass? Can he consistently bring edge pressure, so the Cardinal aren't forced to take chances with blitzes? It will be worth watching to see what Anderson weighs in August. He probably could add 10-plus pounds to his frame without losing any quickness.

Previous spotlights

Lunch links: Watch out for Mr. Anderson

August, 3, 2012
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Happy Friday.

Arizona State spring wrap

May, 14, 2012
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2011 overall record: 6-7

2011 conference record: 4-5 (T 3rd, South)

Returning starters

Offense: 4; defense: 7; kicker/punter: 2

Top returners

RB Cameron Marshall, OT Evan Finkenberg, WR Jamal Miles, LB Brandon Magee, DT Will Sutton

Key Losses

QB Brock Osweiler, WR Gerell Robinson, WR Aaron Pflugrad, C Garth Gerhart, LB Vontaze Burfict, LB Colin Parker, S Clint Floyd

2011 statistical leaders (*returner)
Rushing: Cameron Marshall* (1,050 yards)
Passing: Brock Osweiler (4,036 yards)
Receiving: Gerell Robinson (1,397 yards)
Tackles: Colin Parker (75)
Sacks: Vontaze Burfict (5)
Interceptions: Clint Floyd (4)

Spring answers

1. He's selling, you buying? New head coach Todd Graham describes himself as an "old school" guy, meaning no swearing, no jewelry, yes sir, no sir ... that kind of stuff. His practices are intense, as is the fast-paced offense he's installing. Players talked about being a little shell-shocked by how he does things and the discipline he demands. But so far, they seem to have taken to it.

2. Oh, line: Once thought to be a concern for the Sun Devils after losing three offensive linemen from last year's squad, Graham has gone out of his way to note how good the unit looks. They are set at left tackle with Evan Finkenberg, a two-year starter, but he's versatile enough to play anywhere on the line. Andrew Sampson has 20 consecutive starts. Jamil Douglas, Kody Koebensky and Brice Schwab should fill out the line.

3. Back attack: The Sun Devils have something special in running back Cameron Marshall, who should flourish with Graham's downhill running offense. Behind him is a deep, talented group, but little is known about the pecking order. Kyle Middlebrooks, James Morrison, Deantre Lewis, Marion Grice and incoming freshman D.J. Foster all figure to play some sort of role. Worth keeping an eye on Marshall's surgically repaired foot as well. He's expected to be 100 percent by fall. While this might be ASU's deepest group, there is still some uncertainty to how it will all look in Week 1.

Fall questions

1. QB question mark: Graham hinted that the coaching staff is closer to a decision on their quarterback than they are probably letting on publicly. Still, the public at large is no closer to knowing whether it will be Mike Bercovici, Michael Eubank or Taylor Kelly running the show. Each has their own unique skill sets, but fans are calling for Eubank, who many have dubbed a Cam Newton replica.

2. Magee back? The return of linebacker Brandon Magee, who was limited in spring as he continues to recover from a torn Achilles that kept him out of 2011, would be a monumentally huge step in the right direction for the Sun Devils. And for Graham. Magee is not only a talented linebacker, he's a locker room guy who commands the respect of his teammates. They'll usually step in line with him. And if he's good to go, it would be a big step for the Sun Devils on and off the field.

3. New offense, new(er) receivers: Jamal Miles returns as the second-leading receiver (60 catches) and is a dynamic player, but there isn't a ton of experience at the position as the Sun Devils said goodbye to five scholarship receivers. Projected starters Rashad Ross and Kevin Ozier combined for just 29 catches between them last season. J.J. Holliday, A.J. Pickens and Kevin Anderson all figure to be in the mix as well. Plus there are more coming with the recruiting class and their impact remains to be seen.

Stanford post-spring notes

April, 18, 2012
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David Shaw has said many times that he was spoiled having Andrew Luck at quarterback. Now that Luck is gone, the Stanford head coach is getting back to his roots as a quarterbacks coach -- a position he held with two NFL teams.

Part of that means scaling back the playbook. With Luck, he could let his offensive imagination run wild. Now with a couple of quarterbacks with a total of zero college starts between them competing for the job, it's more about getting back to basics.

"It's really not frustrating, it's just coming back to reality," Shaw said, followed by a big laugh. "That's where I've been most of my career. That's where [offensive coordinator] Pep Hamilton has been for most of his career.

"I received a nice little shot from Lane Kiffin saying that his quarterback checks plays also -- which is great. That's what most good quarterbacks do. We just had a guy that was on a different level. Now we're just back to what is really the standard for college football. You have to have your quarterback get you out of bad plays and into good plays, which is what we're back to."

Shaw said he won't really know the identity of his offense until he settles the quarterback question -- and also plugs the hole at left tackle vacated by Jonathan Martin.

[+] EnlargeDavid Shaw
Cary Edmondson/US Presswire"You have to have your quarterback get you out of bad plays and into good plays," coach David Shaw said of Stanford post Andrew Luck.
"At some point, we'll settle on a quarterback," Shaw said. "At some point, we'll settle on left tackle. It's hard to completely say who you are and what you're going to do until those places are settled."

In other post-spring news:

  • Shaw said he's pleased with the progress of Kevin Danser and Khalil Wilkes at the right guard position -- though he wasn't ready to name a starter. When tackle Brendon Austin missed time, David Yankey moved from guard to left tackle and Danser and Wilkes played both guard spots.

  • "If nobody on campus takes that left tackle job or if one of the two younger guys [Andrus Peat and Kyle Murphy] isn't ready, we could kick Yankey out there and be solid at both guard spots as we groom those young tackles."

  • Just how deep is Stanford at linebacker? Well, Shaw was running off a list of names; Chase Thomas, James Vaughters, Shayne Skov, A.J. Tarpley, Kevin Anderson, Alex Debniak, Trent Murphy, Joe Hemschoot. Forgetting someone?

  • "What about Jarek Lancaster, coach?"

    "Oh yeah, Jarek is playing great."

    "OK, I didn't hear his name so I wanted to make sure he didn't transfer to Oregon or anything."

    "No no. Please don't wish that upon me."

    The moral of the anecdote is that Stanford is so deep at linebacker that Shaw forgot to mention the guy who led the Cardinal in tackles last season.

  • Shaw also sang the praises of running back Ricky Seale, who had an outstanding spring session.

  • "We just played a spring game without our top three running backs and we found out that our fourth running back is good enough to start at a lot of places," Shaw said.

  • With tight end Coby Fleener headed to the NFL, the Cardinal lose one-third of the Tree Amigos -- the vaunted tight end trio of Fleener, Zach Ertz and Levine Toilolo. Does that mean the Cardinal will move more toward the wide receivers being the primary receiving option?

  • "I personally don't really care about one group getting the ball over another," Shaw said. "I tell these guys all the time that I don't care who actually plays. It's whoever shows they can consistently make plays. We could easily become a three-or-four wide receiver team if that's the best group of guys and the most consistent and making big plays. Or we could be a two-tight-end team. Or a one tight end team. The offense will be whatever the personnel allows us to be."
Those who have been told the truth should not be taken for those who have been scorned.

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.
Arizona State, the preseason favorite in the Pac-12 South Division, suffered a major blow Tuesday when it was announced two returning senior starters -- cornerback Omar Bolden and receiver T.J. Simpson -- had suffered ACL injuries that will sideline them for five to eight months.

Bolden, a unanimous pick for first-team All-Pac-10 in 2010, is a particularly big loss. He opted to return for his senior season instead of entering the NFL draft and was an All-America candidate. The Sun Devils are deeper at receiver than at corner. Further, Bolden, whose career has taken a number of twists and turns, including a season-ending knee injury in 2009, was one of the team's best leaders.

Both will undergo surgery next week.

Deveron Carr, who's sitting out spring after shoulder surgery, and Osahon Irabo will likely be the Sun Devils' starting cornerbacks. Coach Dennis Erickson also said that Alden Darby, presently playing free safety, could switch to corner. Redshirt freshman Devan Spann was Bolden's backup on the spring depth chart.

Redshirt freshman Kevin Anderson was Simpson's backup at the "X" receiver spot.

Arizona Republic columnist Paola Boivin writes that the Sun Devils will need a leader to step up, and she suggests that linebacker Vontaze Burfict is a good candidate.

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