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Saturday, December 10, 2011
Stanford mailbag

By Kevin Gemmell

Grush in San Francisco writes: Stepfan Taylor for Heisman 2012! Hear me out. Stepfan is putting up 5.6 yards per carry this year and is the 27th leading rusher in the country despite taking less than half of Stanford's rushing attempts. He is quietly one of the best running backs out of Stanford and one of three (including Toby Gerhart, Heisman runner up) to rush for 1,000 yards multiple years. With a new quarterback next year and perhaps a smaller committee of backs, Stepfan's production could increase. If Stanford wins at least nine games without Andrew Luck it will be because of the running game. Does Stepfan Taylor have a chance to be Stanford's fourth consecutive Heisman finalist next year?

Kevin Gemmell: I'm not going to say never, but he's going to have to get into the top five before we even start talking about him. When you look at some of the sophomore and junior running backs returning next season -- he's going to need to leapfrog a bunch of them just to get in the conversation as one of the top running backs -- let alone the best player in the country. I like Taylor a lot, but I don't see it happening.


David in Seattle writes: How will Stanford's secondary fare against OSU's air attack?

Kevin Gemmell: That's the million-dollar question, isn't it? If you look at my report card on the secondary from Friday, you'll see a breakdown of how the Cardinal have done against some of the top receivers in the country. And it's been pretty good. With that said, Justin Blackmon is by far the best receiver they have seen this year. I think the move of Corey Gatewood back to defense was a great one. Blackmon is going to get his yards and at least a touchdown -- so, as it always does with this group, it comes down to making tackles and keeping things in front of them. If they can do that, they'll have a shot at limiting his production. A turnover or two couldn't hurt, either.


Cooper in Kentfield, Calif. writes: How has Stanford done in recruiting over the past few seasons? Is there a noticeable trend upward in quality amongst the select few that qualify that point to Stanford being a yearly contender in the Pac-12 North, or have the past few years been an aberration?

Kevin Gemmell: Considering three (maybe four) Stanford players are expected to go in the first round in the NFL draft, I'd say recruiting has been pretty good. The question you should be asking is what kind of recruiters are David Shaw and Co.? Stanford has the No. 19 class in the country according to the current ESPN.com rankings with commits from two ESPNU 150 commits -- Noor Davis and Alex Carter. But as any good coach will tell you, four- and five-star recruits are nice, but it's the three-stars (Cameron Fleming, David Yankey, A.J. Tarpley, -- Ben Gardner was a two-star for heaven's sake) that really make the team go. It looks like a pretty solid class coming in next season. Your question, of course, can't be answered for two or three more years, but it looks like they are on the right track.


Tim in San Jose writes: Hi Kevin. All the Heisman talk has people ripping Luck and not giving him any chance of winning. Many people are saying Matt Barkley should be higher than Luck. What a joke. They don't watch the game. Stanford doesn't even come close to having the WR talent that USC and most every other team has. Also, Stanford is a run-first team, which also makes a big difference. If Luck had the WR's and threw a lot more, he would have 50 TD's. Your thoughts? And do you think he will win the Heisman?

Kevin Gemmell: Ah, the "what if?" question. If Luck threw more, then we probably wouldn't get to see what an amazing playcaller he is. If Luck threw more, he probably wouldn't be able to read defensive formations and be able to check plays as well as he does. It's what he does beyond the stats that make him so impressive. Luck may not win the Heisman tonight (and to answer your question, I don't think he will), but he proved beyond a doubt he is the smartest, most NFL-ready player. As for the comparisons to Barkley, I'm not going to knock Barkley at all in this blog. Even if I wanted to, there isn't much to knock. He's an outstanding player who has all of the tools to be a fantastic quarterback at the next level. But what I believe separates the two -- at least at this point in their careers -- is Luck's mental capacity. It's going to be fun tracking this quarterback draft class and seeing who's still around 10 years from now.