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Monday, September 26, 2011
Bye week grades: the secondary

By Kevin Gemmell

Part eight of the ongoing report card for the Stanford Cardinal during the bye week (and spilling over a little into this week).

THE SECONDARY

Grade: C

Summary: Too many yards, too many missed tackles. A "C" is average. And that's what the secondary has been, average. They haven't done anything completely terrible that would earn them anything lower. But they haven't really done anything great that would earn them anything higher.

They have been an easy target for criticism the first few weeks -- and I've taken my shots at them. Maybe unfairly. No one has found a way to run the ball against the Cardinal so it stands to reason that teams are going to get more yards through the passing game. The missed tackles were a problem against San Jose State and Duke. It improved against Arizona. And despite Nick Foles completing his first 17 passes, there were some dinks and dunks in there that inflated the total.

However, we're yet to see an interception out of this group. That's 111 passing attempts from opposing quarterbacks, who are completing 65.7 percent of those passes by the way, without a single one being picked off. Only six schools have failed to register a pick so far this season, and Stanford is one of them. The Cardinal rank 101st out of 120 FBS schools in pass defense.

But here's where the positives come in. They have only allowed one passing touchdown in three games. And as a team, the Cardinal starters have allowed just one touchdown. The secondary has to get some credit for that. And they have 10 pass breakups, which puts them on pace to pass last year's total of 50 breakups.

They are not wanting for athleticism. Delano Howell and Michael Thomas are both extremely talented athletes and both play their safety positions well. True sophomore Devon Carrington has also started at strong safety and in nickle formations. Shaw was critical of Carrington early, saying he needed to worry less about the big hits and focus more on tackling. With 12 tackles in three games, it seems like he's settled down. Howell is second on the squad with 14 tackles and a pass breakup and Thomas checks in behind him with 13 tackles and a pass breakup.

Cornerbacks Barry Browning and Johnson Bademosi have played OK. Bademosi has been a very effective tackler with 10 solo stops on the year. And I have no problem with his pass interference call on Juron Criner against Arizona. It was a heady play that prevented a touchdown. He got beat, but he kept Criner out of the end zone. But he has been flagged in all three games (once declined) so that is a concern.

I'm yet to see a game where on offense has negative total yards (I'm sure it's happened, I just haven't seen it). They are going to get them somewhere. And because teams haven't been able to do it on the ground, they've done it against the secondary.

But Stanford's back four has been able to buckle down when it matters -- in their own territory and red zone.

Backups: Terrence Brown has appeared in all three games and has four tackles. Usua Amanam has five tackles, all of them solo. Jordan Richards has five tackles and has broken up a pass.

Previous report cards:

Quarterbacks

Defensive line

Offensive line

Linebackers

Running backs/Fullbacks

Tight ends

Wide receivers