Stanford Football: Devon Carrington

There were 34 Pac-12 players selected during the NFL draft, but there will be more than twice that many rookies in NFL training camps this summer. Shortly after the draft ended, the dominoes started falling and those who went undrafted started signing free-agent contracts.

The following list of undrafted free agent signings, which was compiled from various announcements and media reports, could change in the coming days:

Arizona
Arizona State
California
Note: K Vincenzo D'Amato will reportedly attend Green Bay's rookie minicamp.

Colorado
Oregon
Oregon State
Stanford
Notes: S Devon Carrington (Pittsburgh) and LB Jarek Lancaster (Oakland) will attend rookie minicamps.

UCLA
USC
Utah
Notes: DT LT Tuipulotu will attend Green Bay's rookie minicamp and C Vyncent Jones told the Deseret News he will attend minicamps for Pittsburgh and Kansas City.

Washington
Note: S Sean Parker will reportedly attend Washington Redskins rookie minicamp.

Washington State
Note: K Andrew Furney will attend Seattle Seahawks rookie minicamp.
When the San Francisco 49ers hold their local pro day next Friday, 14 former Stanford football players will be in attendance, according to a source.

From the 2013 Stanford team, the list includes S Devon Carrington, OG Kevin Danser, OT Cameron Fleming, RB Tyler Gaffney, DE Ben Gardner, FB Ryan Hewitt, OLB Trent Murphy, S Ed Reynolds, ILB Shayne Skov, RB Anthony Wilkerson, OL Khalil Wilkes and OG David Yankey.

The entire group was recruited to Stanford when 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh was the head coach. Fleming and Yankey are the only players not to play in a game for Harbaugh -- they both redshirted in 2010, the coach's final season.

Defensive end Josh Mauro is expected to be there late because he will be returning from a trip to New York, where he will meet with the Giants, according to an NFL source. He will not work out with the 49ers, but met and had lunch with Harbaugh at the NFL combine.

Wide receiver Jamal-Rashad Patterson and cornerback Terrence Brown, both of whom did not land on NFL rosters as rookies last season, will also work out. Brown graduated, but left with a year of eligibility remaining and was among the Cincinnati Bengals' first round of cuts during training camp. Patterson was not in a training camp last year.

It is unclear how many will work out. In the past, some of the high-profile draft prospects from Stanford have attended this event in street clothes.

Criteria for the local pro day stipulates the players must have either played at a local college or have a hometown connection to the area. Several players are also expected from San Jose State and California.

Former USC defensive end Morgan Breslin (Walnut Creek Las Lomas), Boise State quarterback Joe Southwick (Danville San Ramon Valley) and San Jose State quarterback David Fales will be among those in attendance, according to sources.

An official list with the complete list of attendees has not been made public. There is usually about 50 players on hand for the event, few of whom have a legitimate chance at being drafted. The event is tailored more for for players looking to earn a camp invitation.

Former Stanford safety Michael Thomas is an example of a player who attended the 49ers local pro day, didn't get drafted, signed as a free agent and then made the team's practice squad. He was eventually added to the Dolphins' 53-man roster after spending nearly two full seasons with the 49ers.

Stanford quarterbacks coach and former player Tavita Pritchard participated at the 49ers' local pro day in 2012. Pritchard, then a defensive assistant at Stanford, had not played football since 2009, but was brought out primarily to throw passes.

Ed Reynolds leaving for NFL

January, 14, 2014
Jan 14
3:15
PM ET
Stanford safety Ed Reynolds will forgo his final year of eligibility and enter the NFL draft, the school announced Tuesday.

A two-year starter for the Cardinal, Reynolds was twice named first-team All-Pac-12 and ranked third on the team with 87 tackles this year.

“After much thought and discussion with my family and mentors, I have decided to enter the NFL sraft,” Reynolds said in a statement. “I would to thank the Stanford football family for putting me in this position and preparing me for the next level. A very special thanks to our coaching staff, support staff and my teammates for making the memories of these past four years last a lifetime."

He's the second Stanford player in two days to declare for the NFL draft, joining guard David Yankey. Right tackle Cam Fleming has yet to announce whether he'll return for his final year on the Farm. The deadline to declare is Wednesday.

Reynolds is among the top free safeties in the country and is ESPN.com's eighth-ranked safety overall. He was a key member of two Pac-12 championship teams and a pair of defenses that both ranked No. 10 in the country in scoring.

Without Reynolds, the Cardinal will have to break in a relatively inexperienced player to play next to strong safety Jordan Richards next year. His immediate backup this season, Devon Carrington, is out of eligibility and Kyle Olugbode and Zach Hoffpauir, the most experienced replacement candidates, have both worked primarily at strong safety.

Despite the loss of Reynolds, Stanford's secondary still figures to be a strength of its team next year with the return of starting corners Alex Carter, Wayne Lyons and Richards. The Cardinal will also need to fill holes at defensive end, two linebacker spots and nickleback due with the losses of Ben Gardner, Trent Murphy, Shayne Skov and Usua Amanam to graduation.

Reynolds replaced current Miami Dolphins safety Michael Thomas in the starting lineup in 2012 and finished the season with six interceptions -- the most by a Stanford player since 1973. His 301 interception yards that year led the nation and fell 1 shy of the FBS single-season record.
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.

Stanford notes: Who replaces Luck?

April, 6, 2012
4/06/12
8:04
AM ET
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.
Stanford's secondary is going to be young next season. Not exactly breaking news, but that's the reality when four seniors, three of them starters, graduate. But the players returning also have some experience and quality playing time, which should help compensate for their youth.

In other words, there no excuses.

"I think [defensive coordinator Derek] Mason might have been a little more tolerant with us last year, a little more patient," said safety Jordan Richards. "Not anymore. We've all been here and have a full season under our belts. This is on us -- and coach Mason is making sure we know that."

[+] EnlargeJordan Richards
Jason O. Watson/US PresswireJordan Richards is one of many young Cardinal defensive backs that will have to replace three senior starters.
The back four -- two cornerbacks and two safeties -- have to be getting tired of hearing how good the front seven is going to be. They are so experienced. This guy is back and that guy is back. It gets old. And if the front seven is considered Stanford's defensive strength, by virtue of elimination, the back four can't be.

That perception is something the group is looking to alter. But first they'll need to settle some competition. Gone are safeties Delano Howell and Michael Thomas. Gone are cornerbacks Johnson Bademosi and Corey Gatewood.

Terrence Brown and Barry Browning are back at cornerback, along with the highly-touted Wayne Lyons who is returning from a foot injury. Usua Amanam should also be in the mix and don't be surprised if Alex Carter makes an immediate impact when he arrives in the summer. Also returning are Richards and Devon Carrington at the safety spot along with Ed Reynolds, who is also returning from injury. Kyle Olugbode has also seen reps this spring.

Richards was one of the true freshman called into action when Howell went down for several games with a hand injury. He started three games for Stanford last year -- the most brutal stretch of the season that included at USC, at Oregon State and home to Oregon. Tough detail.

"It was, at times, a blur," Richards said. "And other times, I felt like I was in control and the game slowed."

The telling part of that quote is the "at times" portion. Richards notched eight tackles in his first start against USC. Then a couple of games later he watched Oregon run all over the Cardinal. Sometimes good, sometimes bad. In his second year, he's striving for more consistency. And having had the chance to learn behind Thomas and Howell, he thinks he's found it.

"I learned how to see the game from those guys," Richards said. "As a freshman, you come in with tunnel vision. You need to learn to see how things move around. Now it's a transition. You've been here for a year, you learn to read formational cues and the game slows down a lot more. You know what the offensive tendencies are. That's the biggest difference. You're not a deer in the headlights anymore. You just go out and play and try not to over think it."

Brown has the most experience at cornerback, followed by Browning who started three games last season. According to Richards, Brown and Reynolds have taken on the leadership roles vacated by the departed seniors.

"As a group, it's been TB and Ed," Richards said. "Those guys have been around. But we all know what's at stake, and we're all trying to be leaders and be on our game as a group because we know that we are going to be young and people are going to try to come after us."

Like in Week 3, when the Cardinal host USC -- a pass happy offense with the Heisman front-runner at quarterback, the top wide receiving duo in the country and possibly the No. 1-ranked team in the nation. So this group is going to have to find a way to come together quickly.

"That's what the spring is all about," Richards said. "We're working hard to be a cohesive group. Coach Mason is pushing us and I think we're going to come together."

Q&A: Stanford's Wayne Lyons

March, 14, 2012
3/14/12
9:00
AM ET
Wayne Lyons, Stanford's highly-touted cornerback, never really got a chance to show what he could do in his true freshman campaign. The week before the season-opener against San Jose State, he broke a bone in his foot, but still played against the Spartans and the following week against Duke before shutting it down for the season.

Now, following surgery that placed a screw in his foot, the cornerback says he is 100 percent (some reports say 75, others 85) and poised to have the big year that eluded him.

How are you feeling?

Wayne Lyons: I'm feeling great. 100 percent. It feels great to get back out there. It was a struggling sitting out the entire season on the sidelines. In high school you play every game and then you make it to the next step in college and you can't play because injuries stop you. It's heartbreaking in a way. But I made it through and I'm happy to be back out there.

How tough was it to watch from the sideline and watch the team have the kind of season it did?

WL: Part of me was upset, but I took everything into consideration and learned everything I could while watching on the sideline. I was looking at every play, every break and closing in on what I can learn to better myself for next year. I just learned as much as I could.

Like what? What did you learn?

WL: How to read the quarterback and the mechanics of a quarterback. How to read different drop steps and different formations and how to pick up different alignments and assignments and position on the field -- having an overall awareness of where to be on the field.

There is so much talk about Stanford's front seven for next season. Is the secondary feeling the pressure to match those guys?

WL: There is pressure, but there's not. It kind of goes both ways. We work together so well and we complement each other. We're going to be an exciting defense next year. Our defensive line is going to attack and pressure, the linebackers are going to make their tackles and the secondary will handle the passing game so we'll all come together and make great plays.

Last year the defense only had seven interceptions, and only three came from cornerbacks. I assume that's a point of emphasis this spring?

WL: Yes. We definitely need to catch more balls. That's something that Coach [Derek] Mason stressed. We need to attack more balls. That's one thing we're working on is catching interceptions and creating turnovers.

Coach [David] Shaw told reporters he expects you to be up for the nation's best cornerback award at some point in your career. No pressure, right?

WL: Ah, man. There's no pressure. It's an honor that he thinks so highly of me, but personally I have to prove myself. It's great he said that about me, but I feel like I have to perform on the field and prove myself to be a great player. I need my film to talk. I need my film to dictate who I am. Words can't tell who a player is. Only film can tell the kind of player I am.

What are some of your personal goals for the next season?

WL: My freshman goal was to be a freshman All-American. That's what I'm striving for again since I'll be a redshirt freshman.

When you look at the defensive back rotation, it's going to be a very young secondary. Is there something to be said for having a young group that is hungry to make plays?

WL: Definitely. Nobody has a name yet. I don't have a name. Jordan [Richards] doesn't have a name. DC [Devon Carrington] doesn't have a name. Terrence Brown -- he started to make a name last year -- but almost everyone who is going to be out there is trying to make a name for themselves and prove who they are and what they can do on the field. There is a lot to prove this year.

Stanford has some holes to fill

February, 9, 2012
2/09/12
9:00
AM ET
It takes a quarterback to know when a quarterback will be missed. So it's no surprise that when looking at the teams with the biggest voids to fill, ESPN's Brock Huard started with schools losing elite quarterbacks. Stanford is among the top five schools that Huard examined as having the biggest offseason holes Insider.

Huard on Stanford:


Stanford might be losing the most prolific quarterback in the program's history in Andrew Luck -- which is saying something, given that John Elway and Jim Plunkett once grazed on The Farm -- but the Cardinal clearly are not losing their ground-and-pound identity. Signing three of the top offensive line prospects in the country will pay dividends in the long term, but filling the enormous shoes of Luck and three other probable first-round picks in this year's draft (OG David DeCastro, OT Jonathan Martin and TE Coby Fleener) will be a mighty task for coach David Shaw.

As a fan, player and now analyst who has been immersed in the Pac-10, now Pac-12, for more than three decades, watching what Jim Harbaugh did to reverse the fortunes of the Stanford program was remarkable. He changed the culture, provided an edge and energy desperately needed on the gridiron, and did so with the help of a once-in-a-generation quarterback who was both brainiac and maniac.

Huard is right on by identifying more than just Luck who is gone. And I'll go a step further and say that losing Delano Howell and Michael Thomas at the safety positions could be just as difficult to overcome. The Cardinal have a lot of good athletes who could step in at the safety spots -- Jordan Richards and Devon Carrington both saw extended action this season. But both are still very raw and lack the experience the outgoing duo possessed.

Having that outstanding front seven should give the secondary a little cover -- at least in the first couple of games -- for the new starters to get acclimated.

I'm also curious -- and sort of excited -- to see who plays the Fleener role in the three-tight-end formations. Zach Ertz and Levine Toilolo both bring different skill sets to the position, but neither has the burst of speed that Fleener brought going over the middle on those deep routes. Following the Notre Dame victory, Shaw said that he and his staff have been searching the country for a tight end who can do what Fleener can do. Not surprising, he said they haven't found anyone. I'm expecting Ertz and Toilolo to have very productive seasons -- particularly since they are the veterans of the receiving corps.

Perhaps with the ongoing development of Ty Montgomery and some of the incoming talent at wide receiver, the Cardinal won't have to rely as much on a tight end for a deep-threat option. But knowing Shaw's penchant for tight ends, you have to figure they'll continue to play a major role in the receiving game.

Stanford mailbag

January, 9, 2012
1/09/12
9:00
AM ET
Happy Monday. Let's take some questions (or respond to declarative statements).

Adam in Dallas, Texas, writes: DAVID SHAW WAS THE WRONG HIRE!

Kevin Gemmell: Whoa there, cowboy. First, ease up on the all caps. Second, I TOTALLY DISAGREE! Shaw was the perfect hire. First, he's a Stanford grad with deep ties to the program through his father and prior coaches. Second, he was the offensive coordinator for all of Andrew Luck's career. Did you really want to bring in a new head coach with potentially a new offensive system for Luck's final year? Third, so far, he appears to be able to recruit extremely well. Just for kicks, let's look at some of the coaches who were on the move last year or interviewed for the job. Chris Petersen was never really interested. Greg Roman or Vic Fangio? Maybe. But would either of them have done a better job this season? I can't see either one of them doing anything much differently. Brady Hoke was a non-name that turned into a big name last year, and as a former San Diego State beat writer, I heard whisperings about his name at Stanford, but know for a fact he wouldn't have taken the job. The point is, you say he's the wrong guy, but who would have been the right guy? This year was all about getting the most out of Luck and getting back to a BCS bowl game. Shaw did that. Five years from now if the Cardinal are coming off back-to-back 2-10 seasons, you can serve me up some crow with Tabasco and I'll dive right in without a bib. But don't throw out an all-caps message after an 11-2 season that also notched Shaw the Pac-12 Coach of the Year without suggesting another name.




Brian in Palo Alto writes: Kevin, what do you see as the biggest off-season needs for the Cardinal?

Kevin Gemmell: I would say that just as important as hammering out the quarterback issue, Stanford needs to really improve on tackling in the secondary. I haven't been shy about touting the futures of Devon Carrington and Jordan Richards. But they are really going to have to step it up next season because there is no Delano Howell coming back from injury and no Michael Thomas to rally the troops and hold the secondary together. Wayne Lyons should be back from injury, which will help soften the blow of losing Johnson Bademosi and Corey Gatewood. With Chase Thomas announcing over the weekend that he's coming back, the front seven should be outstanding again. But behind the front seven, the Cardinal are going to need to do a better job putting hats on receivers.




Taylor in Portland, Ore. writes: What can we expect out of Barry Sanders in his first year?

Kevin Gemmell: First off, wait until it's official. From what I understand, he has to clear admissions first and then officially go through the signing day pomp and circumstance. Once that happens, I wouldn't expect a 1,500-yard season just yet. Stepfan Taylor will continue to be the primary back, though I wouldn't be shocked to see Sanders get a decent amount of carries. Taylor, Tyler Gaffney, Anthony Wilkerson and Jeremy Stewart all saw playing time as true freshmen. He has a lot to learn about this system -- specifically reading gaps and pass protection, something that is going to be paramount next season with a new starting quarterback and new left tackle. If he shows in practice he can handle it, we should see him get some carries next season.

Cardinal finally starting to heal

December, 27, 2011
12/27/11
8:00
AM ET
A healthy Stanford is a happy Stanford. And for the first time since about the midway point of the regular season, the Cardinal are as close to 100 percent as they are going to be.

When Stanford takes on Oklahoma State in the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl on Jan. 2, several key players will be moving quicker than they were in the final few games of the regular season. Understanding just how beat up his team was heading into the postseason, head coach David Shaw said repairs on both sides of the ball were a top priority.

[+] EnlargeZach Ertz
Steve Conner/Icon SMIStanford tight end Zach Ertz is expected to be near full strength for the Fiesta Bowl.
"We've got to get healthy," Shaw said after the Notre Dame victory in the regular season finale. "We played with our three tight ends and two of them were probably 80 percent. Our backs have been beaten up and bruised all year. We have to get them fresh."

Injuries, no doubt, took their toll on the Cardinal this year. It all started in the third game of the season when middle linebacker Shayne Skov -- arguably one of the top run stoppers in the country -- went down against Arizona and was lost for the year with a knee injury. Suddenly one of the best run defenses in the country looked a little thin. A.J. Tarpley and Jarek Lancaster filled in admirably -- better, in fact, than most expected -- but neither is at the level yet of Skov.

Still, they have endured, ranking fifth nationally in rush defense, allowing just 90.3 yards per game.

Like all teams, the Cardinal fell prey to the typical bumps and bruises. But a critical bump occurred against USC, when tight end Zach Ertz suffered a knee injury on the opening kickoff and would go on to miss the next three games.

Why is Ertz so significant? About one-third of Stanford's offensive playbook involves three-tight-end formations. With Ertz, Coby Fleener and Levine Toilolo on the field at the same time, the Cardinal offense was able to exploit numerous mismatches. Ryan Hewitt split time between fullback and tight end during that stretch. But even then, quarterback Andrew Luck would lose Hewitt out of the backfield, one of his most reliable and productive receivers coming out from behind the line of scrimmage.

Ertz returned for the season finale against Notre Dame. Nowhere near 100 percent, he caught one ball for no yards. But the fact that he was even on the field was a morale boost for his teammates. He's expected to be near full-strength -- if not at 100 percent -- for the Fiesta Bowl.

"It's exciting to have the tight ends back together and ready to go," said Fleener, who was recently named to the AP All-America third-team offense. "I think it's just exciting to know that we have a lot of guys back at full strength and hopefully we can be as good as we were before a lot of the injuries. It can only make us better as a team."

Obviously, Skov won't be back. Neither will wide receiver Chris Owusu, who has suffered at least three concussions in the past 14 months -- the scariest (as if they aren't all scary) coming against Oregon State when he was taken off the field in an ambulance.

There was some hope for Owusu's return because he's a senior and one of the emotional leaders of the offense, but head coach David Shaw told reporters last week "it's not going to happen."

"He's just been one of those guys," Shaw said following a practice last week. "And he's gotten beaten up and knocked out, and he comes back. He's been beaten up and knocked out, and he comes back. And the players recognize that as the guy that they look to for courage."

In Owusu's absence, true freshman Ty Montgomery has been filling in, giving Cardinal fans a glimpse of the future. In the final three games, Montgomery caught 10 balls (on 16 targets) for 130 yards and a touchdown in the finale against Notre Dame.

Still, they have endured, ranking 11th nationally in total offense while averaging almost 481 yards per game.

Offensive linemen Cameron Fleming and Jonathan Martin also had lingering lower leg injuries that forced Fleming to miss time. Both are expected to be back at or near full strength.

Offensive lineman David DeCastro offered a more glass-half-empty view of the Cardinal injury situation.

"We're never going to be injury-free," he said, "that's just part of college football."

On the opposite side of the ball -- aside from Skov -- one of the biggest temporary losses was safety Delano Howell. While he convalesced his injured hand for three games -- only to re-injure it in the first half against Oregon -- Michael Thomas stepped in and split time between free and strong safety.

Youngsters Devon Carrington and Jordan Richards got lots of playing experience that will aid the Cardinal in years to come, but Stanford is clearly a better defense when Howell is on the field. He too is expected to be at full strength.

And yet throughout the injury-plagued season, the players have never used injuries as an excuse.

"I think what it comes down to is no matter who is available, the coaches did an awesome job putting us in the best positions to succeed," Fleener said. "Whether it was Zach or Hewitt in there, ultimately our identity is running the football and being a physical team regardless of who is on the field. That shouldn't change with the personnel."

Stanford mailbag

December, 16, 2011
12/16/11
4:30
PM ET
Eric in Oakland writes: Kevin, I'm not thrilled with Tiger Woods as an honorary captain. Too much bad karma. Thoughts?

Kevin Gemmell: Eric, as a husband and father, I certainly don't endorse the guy's extra-curricular activities. At the same time, he's the biggest sports name of this generation. Only those in the inner-circle will be there when he addresses the team. But don't you think he has something to offer when it comes to making good decisions in life and overcoming adversity? About challenging yourself to be a better person? Since the scandal broke, he's stayed out of the headlines for the wrong reasons and has appeared to be contrite. Now your bad karma concerns could stem from the 2009 Big Game. But Stanford is a much different team and Woods is a much different person. For some of these guys, hearing Woods speak directly to them will be a once in a lifetime experience. And I'm sure coach David Shaw wouldn't have handpicked him if he didn't think he could provide some life lessons/inspiration, which seems to be a common theme among Shaw's honorary captains.


Ashwin in Fremont, Calif., writes: Kevin, how do you anticipate recruiting having to change with the addition of the new Arizona and Washington State (and potentially, ASU) offenses. Stanford's current athletes seemed a bit too slow to handle the Oregon attack, and that was only one game a year. Thanks for the great work!

Kevin Gemmell: Great question, Ashwin. A lot of coaches say they don't worry about what the other guy does -- they just focus on themselves. With Shaw & Co., I really believe that they trust in their scheme, so they are going to recruit to their philosophy and not be too reactionary. Speed is always something you are looking for -- regardless of what you or anyone else runs, so I wouldn't think that suddenly Stanford believes it needs to recruit speed. They've been looking for it for years -- as has everyone else. Unlike the rest of the conference, Stanford is a true national recruiter, so while they have stricter standards, they can open up the recruiting pool to parts of the country other schools don't bother touching. Stockpiling a few extra cornerbacks couldn't hurt, though.


Sam in Los Angeles and Kevin in Rancho Palos Verdes, Calif., essentially had the same question: Who is going to be the next breakout player (ie. Ben Gardner) for Stanford next year?

Kevin Gemmell: Offensively, I'd like to see what running back Ricky Seale could do with a few more carries. He's nowhere near the size of Jeremy Stewart, but it will be interesting to see if Stanford keeps a four-back rotation. I might be a little biased, since I watched Seale carve up defenses in high school, but I know he's extremely explosive and has tremendous vision. If you're looking for a dark horse who could spell Stepfan Taylor and work into the rotation with Tyler Gaffney and Anthony Wilkerson, Seale could be one to keep an eye on. Defensively, I'm expecting big things from Devon Carrington next season. He got his reps and took his lumps this year -- but he also showed some outstanding athleticism and very good instincts. If/when it all clicks, he'll be on par with the best safeties in the conference.

Regular-season report card: Secondary

December, 9, 2011
12/09/11
4:00
PM ET
The regular season is over, which means grades are due. Here's part nine of the ongoing regular-season report card for Stanford.

SECONDARY

Grade: C+

Summary: This was the toughest of all the grades to assign – and therefore deserves the most analysis and scrutiny.

On the surface, when you look at just receiving yards against, the Cardinal secondary was not very good. In passing defense, the Cardinal ranked 78th nationally, allowing 241 yards per game in the air. If that’s your only criteria for grading, then a "D" is justified.

Maybe you look at the interception total – just six. Only 10 teams out of 120 had fewer interceptions than the Cardinal. If that’s your main criteria, than a "D-, F" is justified.

But you have to look deeper. I don’t put much stock in the total receiving yards stat. I think it’s one of the most overblown numbers because it doesn’t take into account the flow of the game – or the fact that most teams were playing catch-up against Stanford and were more likely to throw the ball.

So let’s really break it down. Teams passed for an average of 48.8 yards in the first quarter, 83 yards in the second quarter, 41.9 in the third and 63.3 in the fourth. Most teams fell behind early in the first quarter, so they went airborne in the second quarter. They tried to re-establish the running game in the third, then went back to the air in the fourth – so it stands to reason that the Cardinal gave up the bulk of the yards in the air in the second and fourth quarters.

Stanford faced six of the top 20 statistical wide receivers in the country this season: Robert Woods (USC), Michael Floyd (Notre Dame), Keenan Allen (Cal), Marquess Wilson (Washington State), Juron Criner (Arizona) and Noel Grigsby (San Jose State). Five of those six performed below their season average against Stanford. Only Floyd matched (but did not exceed) his season average. Wilson and Grigsby were kept out of the end zone and Woods, Floyd, Allen and Criner were held to one touchdown each.

The Cardinal did not allow an individual 100-yard receiving game this year, and they had one of the best third-down conversion defenses in the country – traditionally a passing down.

Of the 15 passing touchdowns they yielded (that’s top 30 nationally, by the way), only eight went to wide receivers. The remaining seven went to tight ends (5) and running backs (2) which can fall on either the safeties or the linebackers.

A good friend and colleague suggested looking at the total quarterback numbers as a way to gauge the secondary: 249-of-409 (60 percent completion percentage), 2893 yards, 15 touchdowns, six interceptions. If your quarterback put up those numbers, you’d consider that sub-par production.

That’s a lot of information to digest. So what do we make of all of this?

Essentially, they bent, but didn’t break. The tackling in the secondary was suspect all year – and it got worse when safety Delano Howell missed some time with a hand injury. It was clear Stanford was a better secondary when he’s healthy.

Safety Michael Thomas was the glue that held the secondary together. He accounted for half of the team’s interceptions and provided stability and leadership.

Johnson Bademosi is a very good athlete and the best tackler of the cornerbacks. He also led the team with seven pass breakups. But he was flagged quite a bit for pass interference. Corey Gatewood and Terrence Brown rounded out the rotation at cornerback by the end of the season. Gatewood, who moved over from wide receiver, added some much needed depth and athleticism.

In summation, the secondary didn’t win any beauty contests or show much flash or panache. But, for the most part, the defensive backs made the plays when it counted most – in the red zone, on third down and against the toughest wide receivers in the country. They get knocked for the missed tackles and lack of turnovers. But when you really break down their performance, it’s better than most people probably give them credit for.

Backups: Devon Carrington and Jordan Richards both have very bright futures at the safety position. But it was clear they were a downgrade from Howell. That’s not a knock on them, but rather a compliment to how good Howell is. The playing experience they had (Richards appeared in all 12, Carrington in 11) will pay off immensely when they move into more prominent roles next season. The return of Wayne Lyons from a foot injury will also help with depth next season.

Prediction: Stanford vs. Cal

November, 17, 2011
11/17/11
6:00
AM ET
Predicting the Big Game, yikes. Looking at the historical wackiness this game has provided through the years, it's pretty clear this contest hasn't always gone as scripted. And what to make of Cal? Pretty inconsistent. They've looked really good at times and really sloppy others. So it's hard to make predictions when you don't know which team is going to show up. But I have a feeling I know which Stanford team shows up. And that's why the Cardinal will get back on track this week.

Prediction: Stanford 35, Cal 17

Overall: 9-1

Why they'll win: The pressure is off -- at least the national pressure. Cal-Stanford might be massive news in the Bay Area, but east of Las Vegas, this game doesn't have the same hype that last week's Stanford-Oregon game did. The Cardinal will get back to basics -- power running, pro-style passing trees and effective use of the play-action. When the Cardinal do what they do best, there are few teams in the country that can stop them. With some lofty goals that still can be accomplished, the Cardinal aren't going to let this one slip away. Plus Andrew Luck has only dropped consecutive games once in his career and that was two seasons ago when he was a first-year starter. Can't see him dropping his final Big Game -- at home, no less -- on Saturday.

In the spotlight: Stanford safety Delano Howell is expected to return. He missed three games leading up to Oregon, and then missed the final two and a half quarters after re-injuring his hand after forcing a fumble. He's the best tackler in the secondary -- maybe the on the whole team -- and his presence will be needed with the talented Cal receiving duo of Keenan Allen and Marvin Jones running routes. Howell is a difference-maker.

Out on a limb: One of the pups will step up -- be it Ty Montgomery, Devon Carrington, A.J. Tarpley or Jordan Richards. One of the younger players will do something that is a game-changer. Could be an interception in the secondary or a drive-killing sack by Tarpley. Montgomery might have a touchdown catch of 50-plus yards. One of Stanford's young guns will impact the outcome of this game. As always, that's just me going out on a limb...

Stanford mailbag (1-of-2)

October, 28, 2011
10/28/11
3:00
PM ET
Wow, you were bringing it this week. Lot's thought-provoking mailbag questions. I couldn't get to them all (and decorum dictates I avoid the one's rife with four-letter words), and because there were so many, I broke them up into Mailbag One and Mailbag Two. Here's the first half. Second half is about an hour away. Even if I don't post your question, I try to reply to every question so please leave a working email address and I'll get back to you (Emily in Eugene, I tried). Enjoy, and thanks for the great questions this week.

-KG

Sean in Eugene, Ore., writes: Is Stanford over-hyped? I'm an Oregon student, but I honestly think that Stanford is over-hyped. Sure, there's the 15 game winning streak and the 10 straight wins by 25 or more. But, who exactly has Stanford beat this season? San Jose State, Duke, Arizona, UCLA, Colorado, & Washington State are all awful. Sure, 65 points on a supposed No. 25 team is impressive, but if you look closer Washington has beat no one either, having played two good teams this year and getting beat down by both. Granted, Stanford is very good. But, they are over-hyped. Until they win a Pac-12 championship, they don't deserve this hype. Stanford may be in for a surprise when Oregon and all of their team speed come into Palo Alto.

Kevin Gemmell: I'm sorry Sean, I didn't realize Oregon played in the AFC North. Stanford's schedule doesn't include an FCS team, like that brutally tough home game the Ducks had to endure against Missouri State (1-7 after last week's big win over Western Illinois). Oregon has the same amount of wins against a ranked opponent that Stanford does, and that's one -- supposed or not. You're right though, Oregon has crazy speed. Stanford has crazy mismatches with the tight ends. Neither team is going to surprise the other one. The only thing that would be a surprise is a one-sided score. Is Stanford over-hyped? No, because they are only one spot ahead of Oregon in the BCS standings, a one-loss team with a comparable schedule. If you're going to make the case Stanford is over-hyped, you have to make the case that Oregon is over-hyped as well. And I don't think either of them are.


Edwin in Myrtle Beach, S.C., writes: Stanford could remain undefeated all year long and still would not get my vote for a National Championship spot. Their conference is weak and putting up some serious yards against Washington means nothing even if Washington was ranked. Overrated teams are abound in the BCS poll. A one-loss Alabama or LSU should still get to play in the championship. LSU and Alabama play themselves in the regular season and the BCS would probably not want to see the same game again although they would deserve it.

Kevin Gemmell: I'm sure David Shaw is glad you don't have a vote, Edwin. Looks to me like you've already got your mind made up and me punishing my keyboard with a lengthy response probably won't change your opinion. I'll just say I hope the two teams that deserve it make the national championship game. But thanks for swinging by. Always nice to see SEC folks weighing in on the Stanford blog.


K.R. in Portola Valley, Calif., writes: Stanford is being made to apologize for its soft schedule while it seems to me the SEC is getting a free pass on this score. While LSU and Alabama may be strong, overall the SEC is not as strong as it usually is. In particular, Alabama's schedule is as weak, I would argue, as Stanford's. Kent State? North Texas? Yet no one brings that up. Are they afraid of another outburst from Nick Saban? Were the computers born in Tuscaloosa?

Kevin Gemmell: Ah, Tuscaloosa, the Silicon Valley of the South. I wouldn't go so far as to say their schedule is on par with Stanford's. They have still beaten three ranked teams, including a No. 12 Florida team on the road. You can argue that the rest of the SEC isn't as strong -- just as you can argue the rest of the Pac-12 isn't as strong. At this point, all Stanford can do is keep winning their games and keep themselves in the conversation. We saw two teams fall last week. Let's see how this plays out over the next few weeks.


Holda in Oakland, Ore., writes: You wrote that Devon Carrington needs to tackle better. What specifically can he do during practice this week to make sure that happens?

Kevin Gemmell: It's pure technique. Rather than flying full speed and dropping the shoulder, as Carrington is prone to do, it's about breaking down wrapping up. He described it as bringing your feet with you to tackle. Which means instead of launching and leaving your feet, bring them along for the ride as you wrap up. Carrington is a bright player with an oustanding future. I'm expecting big things from him the rest of the season and in the next couple of years.
This is not how Jarek Lancaster wanted to get more playing time. Or A.J. Tarpley, or Devon Carrington or Jordan Richards. But hey, that's football. Next man up.

These four pups in particular have had to grow up on the job sooner than they, or the coaching staff, probably wanted or expected.

So be it.

[+] EnlargeDavid Shaw
Cary Edmondson/US PresswireStanford coach David Shaw says he has trust in his young defense.
With a season-ending injury to linebacker Shayne Skov, Lancaster and Tarpley went from being backups and regular special teams contributors to spotlight players on one of the best run defenses in the country. With safety Delano Howell expected to miss his second straight game with a hand injury, Carrington and Richards are center stage once again.

"We've all been preparing for this opportunity," Carrington said. "It's unfortunate that it has come the way it has, but we're ready to step in and take the coaching. Guys like Shayne and Delano are in our ears and telling us to play better. It was a little overwhelming at first, but we're all trying to get better and make the most of the opportunity."

Before the season even started, head coach David Shaw was touting the depth his team had. Now we're seeing firsthand exactly what he was talking about.

Richards, for example, had eight tackles all season heading into last week's game against Washington. He had nine stops against the Huskies. Lancaster is now tied for the team lead in tackles with 33 and Tarpley isn't too far behind with 24.

To say the Cardinal haven't missed a beat would be misleading. They have. And it makes you wonder on some of Chris Polk's big runs last week for Washington whether Skov would have made the play at the line of scrimmage, or Howell would have made the stop at the second level.

But it's not worth asking those questions. All they are focused on is getting better and moving forward.

"I don't think I played very well in the first half last week," said Richards, a true freshman. "I had some missed alignments and some missed tackles and I was playing too fast. But things slowed down in the second half and I got back to playing within the system and just playing football."

And that's why veterans are veterans and rookies are rookies. It all comes down to game experience.

"As many times as you can practice something and for as many times as the coaches will say it's going to be faster, you can't get that full effect until you get in there," Tarpley said. "Mentally, I think I was ready, but with the speed and physicality, there is nothing that can simulate a game. But I would say over the course of the season I've gotten better."

Given the circumstances that thrust those four into the game, Shaw said he's been relatively pleased with the results.

"The big thing is we trust them," Shaw said. "We let them know that we trust them. And we tell them just to do their jobs. They don't have to make every play. But they have to make the plays that they are supposed to make, and those guys have been doing a good job of that."

As with any young player, there are going to be mistakes. Carrington saw time in seven games last season, but it was very limited. He's one of the brightest up-and-coming safeties in the conference, but he still has some bad habits he's trying to shake -- like going for the big hit rather than wrapping up.

"It's something I have to work on," Carrington said. "You can't miss tackles or have tackling issues. That's the No. 1 thing of the job. I've been working hard and spending extra time on it. I'll have it cleaned up. I know it's something I need to correct to help this team out."

The veteran leadership has also been critical for helping the younger players learn on the fly.

"If you are in practice and you mess it up, they will make sure you get it right the next play," Lancaster said. "They don't let anything slide. We lean on those guys a ton. We put a lot of responsibility on their shoulders and as a younger guy you want to show that you belong and take some of that pressure off of them so they can trust you. That's where we are at right now with everyone trusting each other."

SPONSORED HEADLINES

PAC-12 SCOREBOARD

Thursday, 8/28
Friday, 8/29
Saturday, 8/30