Pac-12: Kevin Danser

Yankey's departure not a surprise

January, 13, 2014
Jan 13
3:45
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Stanford left guard David Yankey's decision to forgo his final year of eligibility and enter the NFL draft ranks right up there with the least surprising declarations of the offseason.

Yankey could have easily justified a jump to the NFL after last season, when he was a consensus All-American and named the Pac-12's most outstanding offensive lineman. Instead, he returned for what most assumed would be one final season on the Farm.

[+] EnlargeDavid Yankey
AP Photo/Ben LiebenbergAfter a 2013 season in which he was named a consensus All-American and the Pac-12's most outstanding offensive lineman, David Yankey is headed for the NFL.
It's a decision the Stanford coaching staff saw coming years in advance. If not for an injury in 2010 -- when he became the first Stanford offensive lineman in 10 years to play as a true freshman -- he'd already be out of eligibility, and it became clear early on in 2011 to offensive line coach Mike Bloomgren that Yankey was destined for the NFL.

There were times that season when Bloomgren, now the offensive coordinator, had trouble finding Yankey on film. It wasn't a bad thing, either. It was because Yankey, in his first year as a starter, played so similarly to junior right guard David DeCastro that it was easy to confuse the two. That's high praise considering DeCastro was a finalist for the Outland Trophy that season and the first offensive guard taken in the 2012 NFL draft (No. 24 overall to Pittsburgh).

How the Cardinal moves on without Yankey appears to be fairly clear cut.

Rising junior Joshua Garnett, who started in place of Yankey at left guard against Washington State and saw regular playing time this season in Stanford's formations that utilized extra linemen, should have an easy transition into the starting lineup. Whether that's at Yankey's left guard spot or at right guard, where Stanford loses Kevin Danser to graduation, remains to be seen.

Johnny Caspers was listed as Danser's primary backup this season and will likely enter spring practice as the favorite to replace him.

The Cardinal will also have to find a new starter at center with Khalil Wilkes out of eligibility and potentially at right tackle as Cam Fleming has yet to announce publicly whether he'll return for his final season of eligibility or enter the NFL draft. The deadline to declare is Wednesday.

Kyle Murphy would likely have the edge over Brendon Austin at right tackle if Fleming leaves, and the center competition will start with Graham Shuler and Kevin Reihner.

Left tackle Andrus Peat, a second-team All-Pac-12 selection this season, is the only starter guaranteed to return from an offensive line that ranked seventh nationally in fewest tackles for loss allowed per game (4.14).

Pac-12 names all-conference team

December, 2, 2013
12/02/13
3:50
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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



When No. 4 Stanford heads to USC this week, it will do so with the opportunity to make history.

In the 88-game series dating back to 1922, the Cardinal have never won five straight against the Trojans. A win Saturday at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum would change that.

For the current roster, that stat might be hard to comprehend. No current Stanford player has ever been a part of a loss to the Trojans.

[+] EnlargeZach Ertz
AP Photo/Marcio Jose SanchezStanford has won four in a row and five out of six against USC, a historic run of success against the Trojans.
"They kind of had the upper hand previously, but then the last few years we've managed to pull out some pretty close wins," Stanford defensive end Henry Anderson said. "I think this is a big game for them because they've turned things around (this season) and are trying to turn things around and get the USC moniker back to the old days."

Yes, times have changed.

USC's last win came sandwiched between Stanford's 24-23 upset as a 41-point underdog in 2007 and the "What's Your Deal?" win in 2009.

None of those games carried the importance of Saturday's, which essentially serves as a Rose Bowl quarterfinal game. With just two conference games left -- including one against hopeless California -- a win against the Trojans would all but assure Stanford a spot in the Pac-12 Championship Game. A win there and the Cardinal would book back-to-back trips to Pasadena for the first time since 1970-71.

A few weeks ago, it would have been reasonable to write this off as a sure Stanford win, but USC has righted a seemingly sinking ship under the direction of interim coach Ed Orgeron. The Trojans (7-3 overall, 4-2 Pac-12) have won three straight and four of five since Lane Kiffin's dismissal following a 62-41 loss to Arizona State on Sept. 28.

"I was kind of shocked that they aren't ranked in the Top 25," Stanford coach David Shaw said. "I don't know that anyone has played as well as they have in the last month of the season."

Shaw hasn't seen USC make major schematic changes under Orgeron, just "some subtle changes defensively. Some subtle changes offensively."

Even without the stakes, USC would get special attention from Stanford.

"It's something we've always circled in the past as saying this is the game that we want to show America who the team we are, show the Pac-12 who the team we are," guard Kevin Danser said. "SC has always been one of the top-tier teams, not only in California and the Pac-12, but in the nation."

Q&A: Stanford's Kevin Danser

September, 6, 2013
9/06/13
4:30
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Stanford kicks off its season tomorrow night against San Jose State, and offensive lineman Kevin Danser couldn’t be more ready to start his fifth year. Danser, a 6-6, 295-pound guard who prepped at nearby Bellarmine, took some time to chat with the Pac-12 blog about the regional rivalry with the Spartans, the expectations for the Cardinal in 2013 and what the perfect offensive lineman would look like if he got to play Dr. Frankenstein.

The San Jose State game obviously isn’t as big of a rivalry as Cal, but being from the Bay Area, do you get the sense that a rivalry exists?

Kevin Danser: Of course. The San Jose State coach (Ron Caragher) is actually a former Bellarmine Bell, so we have that connection. There are a lot of local guys on the team. It’s huge bragging rights as well. You want to beat every team in the Bay Area and this is a great game to kick it off. My brother played for San Jose State so there are also some in-house bragging rights.

Last year, there was so much talk about who is going to replace Andrew Luck, seemingly lost in that shuffle was the fact that you had to replace David DeCastro. Not easy. Did you feel that pressure and what was it like being the guy that had to follow David?

KD: Obviously he was probably the best offensive lineman to ever come through this program. I never felt too much pressure. I came in and did my job. Listened to the coaches, they know what’s best. I just came in everyday and put my blue collar shirt on, put my tunnel worker’s hat on and came to work. I never really felt the pressure.

The line is obviously highly regarded -- some say it might be the best in the country. What are the goals you guys have set for yourselves on the line?

KD: Our goal is to be the best offensive line in the country. We want zero sacks. We want at least four yards per every carry. And convert every situation, every third down. We have high expectations for the line. We like to say we’re the forefront of the offense. It starts up front with us. We start it all off.

2011 was a fairly hyped year. A lot of that had to do with Luck coming back. This year you guys have a lot of expectations as well. How similar or different does this year feel going into the season versus 2011?

KD: I like to say every year is a little different. Obviously that year we had a ton of talent with Andrew, David, Moose (Jonathan Martin), great receivers, great running backs like S.T. (Stepfan Taylor). This year also comes with expectations. Through our training camp, we’ve talked about that and we feel OK about the expectations.

You’re going into your fifth year so you've really seen the evolution of this program. What’s it been like to be a part of that and how have you seen the program change in the last half decade?

KD: It’s been unbelievable watching it change. The thing that sets us apart is competition. Every day you are out there competing. Whether it’s competing for your job against Josh Garnett or competing against a defense that is one of the best in the country. No job, no spot is guaranteed. And that’s what’s really helped this program grow.

You’re majoring in biomechanical engineering. If you were biomechanically engineering the perfect offensive lineman, would he look like David Yankey?

KD: I don’t want to throw Yank under the bus, but if I were biomechanically engineering the perfect offensive lineman he’d look like David DeCastro. That guy was a true specimen. He truly was a student of the game as well. The way he studied it and the way he approached it was unbelievable. In all aspects, he was one of the best linemen I’ve ever seen. But Yankey is up there. I don’t want to sell him short. He’s very good as well. He’s not a guy to sleep on.

You were mentioned for the center job and then David Shaw said you were too good at guard and Khalil Wilkes ends up winning it. What does he bring that Chase (Beeler) and Sam (Schwartzstein) had. What’s the common thread between Stanford centers?

KD: The biggest thing is the experience he brings to the table. He played in 14 games last year. He knows the offense really well. He’s a natural fit. Everyone feels good having him in there. We felt like Khalil brings to the party what we’re looking for and he is of the mold of Chase Beeler or Sam Schwartzstein. We feel good about the way he communicates with us.

Finish this sentence for me. In 2013, Stanford football will be ….?

KD: In 2013, Stanford football will have an epic year.

Stanford Cardinal spring wrap

May, 8, 2013
5/08/13
8:30
AM ET
STANFORD CARDINAL

2012 record: 12-2
2012 conference record: 8-1
Returning starters Offense: 7; defense: 8; kicker

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

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

2012 statistical leaders (*returners)

Rushing: Stepfan Taylor (1,530 yards)
Passing: Josh Nunes (1,643 yards); Kevin Hogan* (1,096 yards)
Receiving: Zach Ertz (898 yards)
Tackles: Shayne Skov* (80)
Sacks: Trent Murphy* (10)
Interceptions: Ed Reynolds (6)

Spring answers

1. Better to receive: Stanford's passing offense has been notoriously tight end focused the past few years, but that was more pronounced last season. Expect that to change in the fall, and not just because of questions at the position. The Cardinal has improved depth and athleticism at receiver, starting with Ty Montgomery and Devon Cajuste. Heck, you might even see some four-wide formations!

2. O-line? Oh, my: To say that Stanford coaches are giddy about their offensive line's potential might undersell it. There are NFL teams that will have less talented combos on their left side than tackle Andrus Peat and All-American guard David Yankey, who are both future first-round NFL draft picks. The right side ain't bad either.

3. No secondary issues: Richard Sherman used to get peeved at the Pac-12 blog in the past for questioning the athleticism of Stanford's secondary, with the Pac-12 blog obviously just trying to help kick-start Sherman's NFL career. This Cardinal secondary, led by All-American Ed Reynolds, is experienced and talented, the best unit during the Cardinal's recent rise in the national pecking order.

Fall questions

1. Who's the center? The one question on the O-line is who will replace Sam Schwartzstein, and spring ended in a three-way tie between Khalil Wilkes, Conor McFadden and Kevin Danser. If Danser, a returning starter at guard, prevails, that will mean coaches believe touted, 317-pound sophomore Josh Garnett is ready to take over at right guard.

2. Step back at tight end? Davis Dudchock and Luke Kaumatule have a chance to give the Cardinal a better-than-average combo at tight end, but it remains to be seen if they can become weapons in the passing game. Kaumatule, a 6-foot-7, 260-pound sophomore, has star potential but his hands have been inconsistent.

3. Ready for pressure, schedule? This team looks like a national title contender. It will be ranked in the preseason top-five and there will be plenty of hype. But Stanford has gown accustomed to high expectations and high rankings. The real issue is the schedule from Oct. 19 until Nov. 30. No team in the country faces a tougher road to a potential title game.
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.
LOS ANGELES -- Before a Stanford offensive lineman ever sees the field, he must first negotiate “The Room.” And The Room can be tougher than any drill, any conditioning program or even any defensive end or linebacker he will face. Because it’s in the The Room where line coach Mike Bloomgren not-so-silently passes judgment on who does or doesn’t have the chops.

And it’s not just Bloomgren. It’s the veterans, too -- Sam Schwartzstein, David Yankey, Kevin Danser – who will self-police and critique those who desire more playing time.

“Everything those guys get in that room is earned,” said Stanford head coach David Shaw. “And it’s a tough room. You walk in that room, you better have thick skin. Cause it’s not just Mike that’s going to get on you. Sammy’s gonna get on you. David Yankey’s gonna get on you. If you can handle that room and come out and perform, you deserve to play.”

[+] EnlargeDavid Yankey
AP Photo/Rob HoltDavid Yankey and Stanford's offensive line have kept grinding down foes despite constant turnover.
For as much credit as Stanford gets for overcoming the losses of Toby Gerhart, Jim Harbaugh and Andrew Luck over the past few seasons, forgotten is that the offensive line has had to re-invent itself several times over with multiple standouts leaving for the NFL. The philosophy remains the same. But the personalities of each line have changed throughout the years.

“It starts in recruiting,” said Bloomgren, who began his career as a graduate assistant at Alabama and cut his teeth for four seasons as an offensive assistant with the New York Jets. “We were fortunate to plug in the three new guys last year and have them grow (Schwartzstein, Yankey and Cameron Fleming). Then you lose David DeCastro and Jonathan Martin a year early and it’s like, wow, now we have to do it again. David Yankey comes around and wins the Morris Trophy (given to the Pac-12's top lineman) and is a consensus All-American. It’s a compliment to those guys and how they work and striving to get better. They call themselves the Tunnel Worker’s Union. Those guys buy into that stuff.”

Along with assistant Ron Crook -- who manages the tight ends and offensive tackles -- Bloomgren also coordinates Stanford’s rushing attack, which has produced a three-time 1,000-yard rusher in Stepfan Taylor. And like any good running back, Taylor knows where his bread is buttered. He’s rushed for 1,000 yards behind three very different offensive line units.

“They are a lot more goofy than last year,” Taylor said. “They are great guys. I wouldn’t want to be behind any other line. They are physical, tough, smart and athletic. That’s the thing. They are really big athletic guys running around. It all starts with them and to win games, they have to do their job. And we are winning games so they are obviously doing their job.”

Stanford’s downhill, power-running approach is appealing to prospective offensive lineman. And the fact that they have offensive packages that involve as many as eight offensive linemen at a time is also attractive.

“For us, we’ve played one true freshman on the offensive line, up until this year, during the last five years,” Shaw said. “This year we’ve played three. And those guys have earned that. Andrus Peat, Kyle Murphy, Josh Garnett. Those guys have earned that. And those guys have taken some beatings in that room. Some verbal assaults, if you will.

“… There are a lot of places that play five starters and the rest of the guys watch. They’ve had success and that’s great. But we’re going to play eight -- at least eight -- just in the Rose Bowl. And we’ve been that way all year. If we can play nine, we’ll play nine. A young guy comes in and knows he’s going to have a chance to play. That he won’t sit on the bench for three years. If he does it right. If he can survive in our room, he’ll get a chance to play.”

Danser -- who became a full-time starter this year after seeing lots of time the last couple of years as a reserve -- has seen some great offensive linemen come and go. And he’s witnessed each season how the line has rediscovered a new identity and how each group takes on a life of its own.

“It really comes down to the work we do in the winter, spring and summer,” Danser said. “It really forms this unit. It takes leaders like Sam and leaders in the past like Chase Beeler, James McGillicuddy, David DeCastro, Jonathan Martin, Andrew Phillips. It’s that leadership that makes this a great unit.”

And the trio of freshmen who have made their debuts this year know they are getting their trial by fire on the field -- and in The Room.

“The coaches and the older guys won’t let anything slide,” Garnett said. “They always find something. Yankey tells me you have to find something. You never do it right. Always be nit-picky and find something you did wrong. That’s what we’re all about -- getting to that next level, never being content. You are always looking for the perfect block.”

Pac-12 2012 awards announced

November, 26, 2012
11/26/12
5:50
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The Pac-12 conference has announced its 2012 individual honors and all-conference first and second teams as voted on by the coaches.

Offensive Player of the Year: Marqise Lee, WR, USC.
Pat Tillman Defensive Player of the Year: Will Sutton, DE, Arizona State.
Freshman Offensive Player of the Year: Marcus Mariota, QB, Oregon.
Freshman Defensive Player of the Year: Leonard Williams, DE, USC.
Coach of the Year: David Shaw, Stanford.

FIRST-TEAM OFFENSE

QB Marcus Mariota, Fr., Oregon
RB Kenjon Barner, Sr., Oregon
RB Ka’Deem Carey, So., Arizona
WR Marqise Lee, So., USC
WR Markus Wheaton, Sr., Oregon State
TE Zach Ertz, Sr., Stanford
OL Hroniss Grasu, So., Oregon
OL Khaled Holmes, Sr., USC
OL Brian Schwenke, Sr., California
OL Xavier Su’a-Filo, So., UCLA
OL David Yankey, Jr., Stanford

SECOND-TEAM OFFENSE

QB Matt Scott, Sr., Arizona
RB Johnathan Franklin, Sr., UCLA
RB Stepfan Taylor, Sr., Stanford
WR Austin Hill, So., Arizona
WR Robert Woods, Jr., USC
TE Austin Seferian-Jenkins, So., Washington
OL Jeff Baca, Sr., UCLA
OL David Bakhtiari, Jr., Colorado
OL Sam Brenner, Sr., Utah
OL Kevin Danser, Sr., Stanford
OL Sam Schwartzstein, Sr., Stanford

FIRST-TEAM DEFENSE

DL Scott Crichton, So., Oregon State
DL Dion Jordan, Sr., Oregon
DL Star Lotulelei, Sr., Utah (2)
DL Will Sutton, Jr., Arizona State
LB Anthony Barr, Jr., UCLA
LB Trent Murphy, Sr., Stanford
LB Chase Thomas, Sr., Stanford (2)
DB Ifo Ekpre-Olomu, So., Oregon
DB Jordan Poyer, Sr., Oregon State
DB Ed Reynolds, Jr., Stanford
DB Desmond Trufant, Sr., Washington

SECOND-TEAM DEFENSE

DL Henry Anderson, Jr., Stanford
DL Morgan Breslin, Jr., USC
DL Ben Gardner, Sr., Stanford
DL Datone Jones, Sr., UCLA
LB Kiko Alonso, Sr., Oregon
LB Michael Clay, Sr., Oregon
LB Brandon Magee, Sr., Arizona State
DB Deone Bucannon, Jr., Washington State
DB Alden Darby, Jr., Arizona State
DB T.J. McDonald, Sr., USC
DB Nickell Robey, Jr., USC

FIRST-TEAM SPECIALISTS

PK Vince D'Amato, Jr., California
P Jeff Locke, Sr., UCLA
RS Reggie Dunn, Sr., Utah
ST Jordan Jenkins, Sr., Oregon State

SECOND-TEAM SPECIALISTS

PK Andrew Furney, Jr., Washington State
P Josh Hubner, Sr., Arizona State
RS Marqise Lee, So., USC
ST David Allen, Sr., UCLA

ALL-PAC-12 HONORABLE MENTION
NOTES
  • By School: OREGON and STANFORD placed the most players on the first team with five selections each, followed by OREGON STATE with four.
  • By Class: Of the 26 first-team selections, 14 are seniors, five are juniors, six are sophomores and one freshman.
  • Unanimous: Only one player was named on the first-team ballot of all 12 head coaches--WR Marqise Lee of USC.
  • Two-time selections: Two players are repeat first-team selections from last year--DT Star Lotulelei of Utah, LB Chase Thomas of Stanford.
  • All-Academic: Two players were named to the first team on both the All-Pac-12 Team and the Pac-12 All-Academic Football Team--P Jeff Locke of UCLA, OL Khaled Holmes, USC. In addition, OL Kevin Danser of Stanford, DL Ben Gardner of Stanford and Michael Clay of Oregon were named second-team All-Academic and second-team All-Pac-12.
Tags:

Datone Jones, USC Trojans, Washington State Cougars, Oregon State Beavers, Washington Huskies, UCLA Bruins, Alex Debniak, Johnathan Franklin, Jeff Locke, Arizona State Sun Devils, Joseph Fauria, Matt Barkley, California Bears, Kenjon Barner, Usua Amanam, Markus Wheaton, Keelan Johnson, Stanford Cardinal, Jordan Poyer, Damien Thigpen, Will Sutton, Stepfan Taylor, Colorado Buffaloes, Wes Horton, Dion Jordan, Matt Scott, Arizona Wildcats, Brandon Magee, Oregon Ducks, Xavier Su\'a-Filo, Travis Long, Justin Glenn, Desmond Trufant, Vince D'Amato, Daniel Simmons, Chase Thomas, Deveron Carr, Shayne Skov, Evan Finkenberg, Isaac Remington, Dan Buckner, Sean Parker, Cassius Marsh, Robert Woods, Xavier Grimble, George Uko, Nickell Robey, Hayes Pullard, Keenan Allen, Taylor Kelly, Chris McCain, Hroniss Grasu, Eric Kendricks, Xavier Cooper, T.J. McDonald, Jake Fischer, Anthony Barr, Taylor Hart, Kiko Alonso, Osahon Irabor, Brian Schwenke, Steve Williams, Terrance Mitchell, Drew Schaefer, Michael Clay, Ryan Hewitt, Jordan Jenkins, Levine Toilolo, Chris Coyle, DeAnthony Thomas, Andrew Abbott, Kyle Quinn, Brett Hundley, Jake Fisher, Terrence Stephens, Terrence Brown, Austin Seferian-Jenkins, Kasen Williams, Jordan Richards, Shaq Evans, Deone Bucannon, Tony Burnett, David Shaw, Bishop Sankey, Danny Shelton, Marqise Lee, Kevin Danser, Rashad Ross, Sam Schwartzstein, David Yankey, Drew Terrell, John White IV, Dion Bailey, Austin Hill, Star Lotulelei, Brian Blechen, Jake Murphy, Alex Carter, Alden Darby, Joe Kruger, Reggie Dunn, Trevor Romaine, Colt Lyerla, Isaac Seumalo, Tevita Stevens, Andrew Furney, Andre Heidari, Sean Sellwood, Josh Hubner, Kyle Negrete, Henry Anderson, Scott Crichton, Rashaad Reynolds, Ka'Deem Carey, Shaq Thompson, D.J. Foster, Brendan Bigelow, Ben Gardner, Trevor Reilly, Darragh O'Neill, Andrew Hudson, Ty Montgomery, Cameron Fleming, Trent Murphy, Sam Brenner, Kevin Hogan, David Bakhtiari, Marcus Mariota, Yuri Wright, Kenneth Crawley, Leonard Williams, Grant Enger, Brandin Cooks, Jared Tevis, Travis Feeney, Avery Sebastian, John Martinez, Ed Reynolds, Daniel Munyer, Elliott Bosch, Morgan Breslin, Darryl Monroe, Marion Grice, Carl Bradford, Nate Fakahafua, Silas Redd, Jeremiah Poutasi, Jake Brendel, Christian Powell, Ifo Ekpre-Olomu, Brett Bartolone, Teondray Caldwell, Andrew Seumalo, Daniel Zychlinski, David Allen, Jaxon Hood, Alex Lewis, Marques Moseley, Will Perciak, Wade Keliikippi, Cyrus Coen

Pac-12 All-Academic team

November, 20, 2012
11/20/12
6:30
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The Pac-12 conference has announced its 2012 All-Academic team. To be eligible, the player must have a minimum 3.0 overall grade-point average and be either a starter or significant contributor.

FIRST TEAM OFFENSE

QB Connor Wood, Colorado, So., 3.55, Finance
RB Jared Baker, Arizona, RS, Fr., 3.56, Undeclared
RB Patrick Skov, Stanford, So., 3.41, Undeclared
WR Andrei Lintz, Washington State, RS Sr., 3.72, Sport Management
WR Luke Matthews, Utah (2), Sr., 3.69, Mass Communication
TE Koa Ka'ai, Oregon, RS Fr., 3.94, History
OL Chris Adcock, California, So., 3.57, Business Administration
OL Jake Brendel, UCLA, RS Fr., 3.60, Math/Applied Science
OL Khaled Holmes, USC , Sr., 3.31, Communication
OL Tevita Stevens, Utah (2) , Sr., 3.54, Spanish
OL Matt Summers-Gavin, California, Sr., 3.27, Political Science

FIRST TEAM DEFENSE

DL Henry Anderson, Stanford, Jr., 3.43, Political Science
DL Nate Bonsu, Colorado, Jr., 3.42, International Affairs
DL Will Pericak, Colorado (2), RS Sr., 3.45, Accounting
DL Danny Shelton, Washington, So., 3.47, Anthropology
LB Dave Fagergren, Utah, Sr., 3.51, Business
LB Jake Fischer, Arizona (2) , Jr., 3.32, Marketing
LB Brandon Johnson, Arizona State, RS Jr., 3.44, Sociology
DB Brian Blechen, Utah, Jr., 3.18, Sociology
DB Jordan Richards, Stanford, So., 3.34, Undeclared
DB Eric Rowe, Utah, So., 3.54, Undeclared
DB Jared Tevis, Arizona, So., 3.25, Finance
PK John Bonano, Arizona (3), Sr., 3.93,Physiology
P Jeff Locke, UCLA (3), RS Sr., 3.70, Economics
ST Justin Gorman, Colorado RS So., 3.61, Finance
(2) Two-time first-team All-Academic selection; (3) Three-time first-team All-Academic selection

SECOND TEAM OFFENSE

QB Matt Barkley, USC, Sr., 3.21, Communication
RB Kenny Bassett, Oregon, So., 3.31, Business Administration
RB Steven Manfro, UCLA, RS Fr., 3.20, Undeclared
WR Dustin Ebner, Colorado, RS Sr., 3.47, Integrative Physiology
WR Nelson Spruce, Colorado , RS Fr., 3.73, Business
TE Michael Cooper, Arizona, So., 3.92, Pre-Business
OL Trace Biskin, Arizona, Sr., 3.29, Political Science
OL Zach Brevick, Washington State, RS Jr., 3.23, Entrepreneurship
OL Brad Cotner, Colorado, RS Fr., 3.34, Arts and Sciences
OL Kevin Danser, Stanford, Sr., 3.13, Biomechanical Engineering
OL Stephane Nembot, Colorado , RS Fr., 3.20, International Affairs

SECOND TEAM DEFENSE

DL Nate Fakahafua, Utah, So., 3.19, Undeclared
DL Ben Gardner, Stanford, Sr., 3.01, Science, Technology and Society
DL Taylor Hart, Oregon, Jr., 3.17, Sociology
DL Andrew Seumalo, Oregon State, Sr., 3.17, Finance
LB Michael Clay, Oregon, Sr., 3.10, Family and Human Services
LB V.J. Fehoko, Utah, So., 3.31, Economics
LB Travis Long, Washington State, Sr., 3.02, Management and Operations
DB Isaac Archuleta, Colorado, RS Fr., 3.09, Business
DB Tyré Ellison, California, Sr., 3.01, Social Welfare
DB Ronnie Harris, Stanford, So., 3.13, Undeclared
DB Charles Henderson, Utah, RS Fr., 3.47, Undeclared
PK William Oliver, Colorado , So., 3.66, Management
P Sean Sellwood, Utah, Sr., 3.70, Exercise and Sport Science
ST Richard Yates, Colorado, RS Fr., 3.60, Mechanical Engineering

For the list of all players who were named honorable mention, you can see the complete release from the Pac-12 conference here.

Cardinal ride Taylor to victory

September, 16, 2012
9/16/12
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PALO ALTO, Calif. – Stanford’s Kevin Danser was living an offensive lineman’s dream Saturday night.

“You finish your block and you’re on the ground, and then you look up and your running back is still going,” said Stanford’s guard. “Man, that’s a great feeling. How about that guy? Man, not a lot of people can do what 33 can do.”

That guy -- 33 -- is Stanford running back Stepfan Taylor, who was the offensive catalyst in Stanford’s ugly-but-effective 21-14 victory over No. 2 USC in front of a sold-out (50,360) Stanford Stadium. Classes don’t start until next week, but that didn’t stop the students in attendance from rushing the field and celebrating Stanford’s fourth consecutive win over the Trojans.

It’s the second time in the past five meetings that Stanford has beaten USC when the Trojans were ranked second nationally. They did it in Los Angeles in 2007 on a last-minute touchdown pass by Tavita Pritchard, winning 24-23 when Stanford was a 41-point underdog.

Saturday night, the Trojans (2-1) weren’t as heavily favored, but they were still considered a grade above No. 21 Stanford (3-0). Taylor saw to disprove that. He chipped, chipped and then broke through. Then he chipped and chipped again. And then he broke through again. And when he was done chipping, he had broken USC’s defense.

“That guy is a rock,” said Stanford fullback Ryan Hewitt. “I get to see his yards after contact because he usually blows right by me. And it’s impressive.”

Taylor looked like the best player on the field Saturday night -- not exactly a passing statement when he was sharing the field with USC quarterback Matt Barkley and A-list wide receivers Marqise Lee and Robert Woods. Taylor rushed for 153 yards on 27 carries (5.9 average) and a touchdown to go with five catches for 60 yards and a score.

“We were going to keep giving him the ball,” said Stanford head coach David Shaw. “He never gets tired. He drags people, he breaks tackles. By one out-of-town paper I was called 'the king of hyperbole' [when talking about Taylor] but that is why I love talking about him. We typically like to rest him, but when we need him, I told him two years ago, we are going to put a saddle on him and ride him.”

[+] EnlargeStepfan Taylor, George Uko
AP Photo/Marcio Jose SanchezStepfan Taylor scoots away from USC's George Uko for the first of his two touchdowns.
And Stanford needed him Saturday. With a new quarterback still learning his way around the offense and a rebuilt offensive line, the Cardinal looked stilted at times on offense. Then again, so did Barkley, the Heisman frontrunner who probably lost a few voters with his 20-of-41 performance and two interceptions. But more damning to his campaign were the zero touchdowns -- almost unheard of with playmakers like Lee and Woods at his disposal. The Cardinal kept Barkley under constant pressure and sacked him four times.

“They played better football than us,” said an extremely despondent Barkley. “We were prepared. They played better.”

Taylor certainly had his share of highlights. His 59-yard touchdown run that knotted the score at 7-7 in the first quarter was pretty. So was his 23-yard screen pass that went for a touchdown, tying the score at 14-14 in the third quarter. But he saved some of his best running for the end of the game -- and he didn’t even get in the end zone. His 2- and 3-yard runs were turning into 7- and 8-yard runs by the second half. The final 8 minutes, 40 seconds was exactly the kind of football Shaw wants his team to play. The Cardinal started at their own 19 and pounded; Taylor for 1, Taylor for 7, Taylor for 2, Taylor for 8, etc., etc., etc. At the end of the scoreless drive, the Cardinal had run 10 plays and eaten 5 minutes, 56 seconds of clock.

The Trojans took over with 2 minutes, 44 seconds left at their own 11, trailing 21-14. But penalties and a pair of Stanford sacks ended the drive, and the game. The Cardinal threw all kinds of blitzes and pressure at Barkley all night -- and without starting center Khaled Holmes, the Trojans were unable to adjust.

“If you sit back there, the quarterback is too good,” Shaw said. “Regardless of what happened tonight, that is the best quarterback in the country. If you give him too much time, he will kill you. You have to get after him. Those receivers are really good. We had to mix it up. Some plays we came after him and some plays we sat back. Our secondary made all the tackles.”

For Josh Nunes, tasked with replacing Andrew Luck as Stanford’s quarterback, having a back like Taylor has made life a lot easier. He was 15-of-32 for 215 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions.

“He’s a quarterback’s best friend,” Nunes said. “This game was a testament to our style of football, the guys up front, and certainly Stepfan Taylor."

Stanford post-spring notes

April, 18, 2012
4/18/12
12:00
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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."

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.
So the Stanford Cardinal have to replace a quarterback who is going to be the No. 1 overall pick in the NFL draft. It happens. Almost every year, in fact. Since 2000, nine teams have been where the Cardinal are now, having to replace a quarterback taken No. 1 overall. During that same span, 32 teams have had to replace quarterbacks taken in the first round. While Andrew Luck might be considered in rare company, the Cardinal certainly aren't.

However, replacing two offensive linemen taken in the first round -- that's rare. And difficult. Since 1967, only 11 schools have had two offensive linemen drafted in the first round. Rarer still is that only four have had to replace both a guard and a tackle -- the last coming in 2001 when Michigan's Steve Hutchinson and Jeff Backus were drafted back-to-back at Nos. 17 and 18, respectively.



That's the challenge facing the Stanford Cardinal, who kicked off spring ball this week without left tackle Jonathan Martin and right guard David DeCastro. Both were in Indianapolis last week for the NFL combine and both are expected to be first-round draft picks. And Stanford's future success hinges as greatly on replacing Martin and DeCastro as it does replacing Luck.

"The competition is going to be high," said Kevin Danser, one of several in line competing for DeCastro's old guard spot. "I don't think anyone is penciled in to be a leader or a favorite. There are a lot of guys that want that spot. And you're filling in for someone great. It's not like a David DeCastro comes around every year. It's going to be tough, but we're all looking forward to competing."

Stanford returns three starters from last year's group: right tackle Cameron Fleming, left guard David Yankey and center Sam Schwartzstein. All three were first-year starters last year and performed very well alongside Martin and DeCastro. And that's the reason head coach David Shaw isn't looking to move any of them from their current spots.

"I think Cameron Fleming and David Yankey have shown some special things where they are," Shaw said. "I learned in Baltimore [as a Ravens assistant] that taking a guy and moving him from where he's comfortable, you're taking one problem and making it two problems. We'll keep Sammy in the middle. We feel really good about those three guys and we'll have a lot of competition between those spots."

Cole Underwood and Brendon Austin appear to be emerging as the top two candidates for left tackle, Shaw said.

"Brendon Austin has had an outstanding winter," Shaw said. "He's up to 300 pounds, moving great. Cole Underwood really started to get a feel and help us at the end of games. Cole is going to be in competition potentially at both of those positions. He's shown potential to kick at tackle and pull as a guard."

[+] EnlargeKevin Danser
Kyle Terada/US PresswireRising senior Kevin Danser will be among those gunning for David DeCastro's old job at right guard.
Underwood, who appeared in three games last season, said he's a better player for having backed up Martin and Fleming last season.

"Moose [Martin] is a do-things-right-all-the-time kind of guy," Underwood said. "He's an extremely hard worker and that's what separated him from tackles all over the country. That's why he's about to be a first-round pick. Be obsessed with the game. Be a workaholic. Technique is key, no matter what size you are or how much you lift. If you don't have technique, it won't help on the field. He was a big technician and he was always striving for perfect technique every rep."

The X-factor is Stanford's heralded offensive-line recruiting class. Shaw upped the ante when he brought in several of the nation's top offensive linemen in one class. It sounded an alarm to the players on the roster that the level of competition had increased significantly.

"You welcome that -- you always want that competition no matter who they bring in," Danser said. "Whether it's the best of the best like this class or anybody else. Whoever they bring in, it comes down to competition. You want a spot? You have to fight for it."

While true freshman traditionally don't contribute immediately on the offensive line, Shaw said not to be surprised if several of them are in the mix right away.

"Yes, absolutely," Shaw said. "I would say possible bordering on probable. As you know, we play more lineman than anybody possibly in the history of football. We're going to play seven or eight linemen in every single game. If those young guys show the ability to help us out, we're going to put them on the field. If they show enough ability to split time or start, we're going to do it. I have no qualms about that. The best guys play. If a guy becomes a starter -- we still have two or three positions open. We really consider about eight guys starters on our offensive line."

That bodes well for players like Danser, Underwood, Austin, Kevin Reihner, Khalil Wilkes and anybody else hoping to block for whoever becomes the next Stanford quarterback. The Cardinal had a lot of success last season with their jumbo package of seven or eight offensive linemen and two or three tight ends. And don't think the players don't appreciate a system that puts the spotlight on the big boys.

"It's extremely effective," Underwood said. "First, it's tough for other teams. I'm sure they turn on film and say, 'This is a monster we've never seen.' And it's good for recruiting. Young guys are looking and saying, 'Hey, they love linemen at Stanford and they show us love.' That's all we all really want, is to be loved a little bit."

The Ertz impact: 5 things to watch

November, 1, 2011
11/01/11
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What does the loss of tight end Zach Ertz mean for Stanford over the next two weeks? Here's five things to keep an eye on as the Cardinal move forward without one-third of the "Tree Amigos."
  1. Don't expect the offense to be as shell-shocked as it was against USC in the opening half. Realize that losing 25-30 percent of your playbook 10 seconds before your offense takes the field is a very difficult adjustment to swallow. All things considered, it was pretty impressive the way they pulled it all together under strenuous conditions.
  2. Assuming Ertz is out for the Oregon game, Stanford will have two weeks and one game to prepare. We've seen all season long Stanford experiment with different schemes and formations -- especially in games that have already been decided by the end of the end of the third quarter. Head coach David Shaw said that about another 25 percent of the offense involves two tight end sets. That leaves Levine Toilolo and Coby Fleener on the field at the same time, and that's still as good a double-threat as you'll find in college football.
  3. Look for Ryan Hewitt to get more involved in the passing game. The tight-end-turned-fullback has already been outstanding coming out of the backfield. But I wouldn't be surprised to see more of him lining up in the slot with Geoff Meinken lining up at fullback. Luck has targeted Hewitt 21 times and Hewitt has 19 catches (90.5 completion percentage) for 171 yards and four touchdowns. He's averaging 7 yards after the catch per reception and of his 171 yards, 133 have come after the catch (77.8 percent according to ESPN Stats & Information).
  4. Between Griff Whalen and Ertz, quarterback Andrew Luck had two very reliable options on third down. Who is going to be the second guy to fill that role? Fleener is best used stretching the field. Could be Toilolo over the middle, or Hewitt out of the slot. Ty Montgomery also came on strong last week with five catches for 87 yards. Luck can use all the receiving options he can get and Montgomery is starting to emerge.
  5. The Cardinal have plenty of other formations to work around. Not only are the Cardinal innovative in their three-tight-end sets, they also do plenty of work with their jumbo packages -- adding extra offensive linemen like Kevin Danser and Tyler Mabry to an already stout offensive line. The mid-range passing game might take a temporary hit, but the running game shouldn't.
Stanford has a secret: 2010 wasn't only about Andrew Luck. And, if things go according to plan, 2011 won't be either.

[+] EnlargeAndrew Luck
Kirby Lee/Image of Sport/US PresswireAndrew Luck is just part of the reason Stanford has high expectations this season.
It's not that Stanford doesn't recognize the benefit of having the best quarterback in the nation. It does. But the program's transformation from also-ran to BCS bowl winner was more about attitude than Luck.

That attitude -- play with "character and cruelty" --started up front under former coach Jim Harbaugh, and that attitude will remain in place under new coach David Shaw, at least according to offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton, whom Shaw promoted from receivers coach.

"We are a power running team," Hamilton said. "We are going to get off the bus running power. We're going to establish and control the line of scrimmage. We want to out-physical our opponent."

Of course, when you're beating a defense up at the line of scrimmage, it makes it a lot easier for any quarterback. And when your quarterback likely would have been the top pick in this spring's NFL draft, well, you're in pretty good shape when the goal is to keep a defense guessing and off-balance.

Just consider the numbers from the 40-12 beatdown of Virginia Tech in the Orange Bowl. Sure, Luck got lots of attention for throwing four pretty touchdown passes. But the Cardinal rushed for 247 yards and two scores, and averaged eight yards a carry.

There, however, is work to be done this spring. The Cardinal needs to replace three starters from its 2010 line, including All-American center Chase Beeler. So it's not unreasonable to wonder if the offensive line will continue to be -- to use Hamilton's phrase -- "big, tough guys who enjoy imposing their will on their opponent."

Hamilton thinks so, in large part because of the two coming back: left tackle Jonathan Martin and right guard David DeCastro, who both earned first-team All-Pac-10 honors.

"Their personalities, their physical mentalities will permeate amongst the rest of the offensive line group," he said.

Khalil Wilkes and Sam Schwartzstein are battling to replace Beeler. Kevin Danser has been running with the first unit at left guard, while Tyler Mabry is the right tackle. Cameron Flemming and David Yankey also could play their way into the mix.

Still, the Cardinal might take a step back at the line of scrimmage, at least early in the season. Last year's unit welcomed back four starters, and it was widely hailed in the preseason as perhaps the best unit in the Pac-10 after it had paved the way for Toby Gerhart's runner-up finish in the 2009 Heisman Trophy race. As good as Martin and DeCastro are, and as intriguing as the new talent is, it often takes lines time to mesh.

That's where Luck comes in. As a third-year starter, he should be able to carry the load at times in the passing game. An outstanding athlete, he's fully capable of making plays outside of the pocket or with his feet if protection breaks down. But he's also adapting to change with the departure of his two leading receivers, Doug Baldwin and Ryan Whalen.

"He has some new wide receivers, so he has to work to develop some continuity with those guys," Hamilton said.

With Chris Owusu sitting out, those "new" receivers include Griff Whalen, Jamal-Rashad Patterson and Drew Terrell (each is at least a third-year player).

Hamilton doesn't envision Luck's role changing this year, even with his national celebrity as the leading Heisman Trophy candidate. He certainly doesn't want Luck to feel like he needs to transform into an alpha dog in the locker room. That would mean Luck isn't being himself.

"His personality is something that teammates gravitate towards. They all want to reach his level of success. He has field credibility in our locker room," Hamilton said. "He says the right thing at the right times. I don't see that changing."

The offense will try to retain the identity from the "Harbaugh Transformation," but there will be some tweaks to schemes, without question. Said Hamilton, "It's premature to say we've established our offensive identity."

As for life post-Harbaugh, Hamilton said he doesn't expect things to be any less emotional or edgy in the locker room. Sure, Shaw is smoother and less eccentric than Harbaugh. But that doesn't mean he lacks intensity.

"Coach Shaw brings a lot of emotion as well," said Hamilton, who also coached with Shaw when both were with the Baltimore Ravens. "When he's in front of the cameras, he gives a perception that he's laid back. But he's a fiery guy. He's as competitive as any other coach in college football, or in the NFL for that matter."

And if he is successful in 2011, it won't all be about Luck.

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