Because of injuries, there's a very real chance that two true freshmen will see significant action for Stanford's defense against Oregon.
Cardinal coach David Shaw ruled starting free safety/nickelback Zach Hoffpauir out of Saturday's contest because of an undisclosed injury suffered this past weekend against Oregon State. Senior Kyle Olugbode will assume a bigger role at safety in his stead, while true freshman Terrence Alexander will bear the brunt of nickelback duties against Marcus Mariota's high-powered offense.
Hoffpauir, who's in the midst of his best season, has been an integral part of Stanford's secondary, especially against teams who spread it out offensively. The junior's four pass break-ups rank second on the Cardinal's team, and his 15-tackle performance two weeks ago smothered Washington State in space.
While Hoffpauir's loss is significant, Stanford is still waiting for its most significant injury news. Nose tackle David Parry, who suffered a leg injury during the Cardinal's loss at Arizona State, is still questionable for Oregon. Shaw said that Parry's recovery has not yet reached a satisfactory point for Stanford, and a final decision on his game status should come within the next two days.
Parry, who battled through a lower abdominal injury in 2013, has also been enjoying his best career season while playing at full health. Shaw noted that Parry's ability to attract double teams up front is significant for Stanford's defense to operate at full efficiency against run-strong teams such as Oregon.
"You're not going to find somebody that can physically manhandle people [the way Parry can]," linebacker A.J. Tarpley said. "He wants to play really bad."
If Parry can't play, Stanford will again turn to 255-pound true freshman Harrison Phillips to keep stalwarts Henry Anderson and Blake Lueders fresh up front. The Cardinal already absorbed a big blow when defensive lineman Aziz Shittu went down at practice with a possible season-ending injury.
"Our motto on defense has always been 'next man up is the best man up,'" Tarpley said. "The most important thing is that whoever plays goes 100 percent."