Stanford Football: Josh Mauro

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.
Following four straight trips to BCS bowls, the outgoing class of Stanford football players has one last chance to make history.

As many as nine players have a decent shot at getting drafted over the next few days, which would shatter the previous record of six -- set in 1972, 1975, 1985 and 2005.

There are 29 former Stanford players who are either currently on NFL rosters or finished the 2013 season on an NFL roster.

Here is a brief look at the nine draft hopefuls, most of whom figured to get drafted on Saturday in Rounds 4-7, and a few others who are continuing to pursue football.

OLB/DE Trent Murphy

McShay 300 ranking Insider : 91
Round projection: 2-4
Comment: The nation’s sacks leader in 2013, Murphy will either play outside linebacker in a 3-4 defense, as he did at Stanford, or defensive end in a 4-3 defense. Murphy said at the 49ers' local pro day that the main difference for him would be that he would remain at 260 pounds in a 3-4, but he would try to add about 15 pounds as a defensive end in a 4-3.

OT Cameron Fleming

McShay 300 ranking: 134
Round projection: 3-5
Comment: McShay’s ranking could come as a surprise to many, as Fleming wasn’t nearly as decorated as David Yankey in college. A three-year starter who still had a season of eligibility remaining, Fleming didn’t allow a sack last season, according to offensive coordinator Mike Bloomgren.

OL David Yankey

McShay 300 ranking: 141
Round projection: 2-5
Comment:
McShay gave Yankey, who some believe is the best offensive guard in the draft, a third-round grade and ranked him No. 3 at his position behind only UCLA’s Xavier Su’a-Filo and Clemson’s Brandon Thomas. He was the eighth unanimous All-American in Stanford history.

RB Tyler Gaffney

McShay 300 ranking: 153
Round projection: 4-7
Comment: The NFL is trending away from drafting running backs early, but an average of 22 of have been drafted over the last three years. Gaffney is McShay’s No. 14 overall back and No. 4 from the Pac-12 behind Bishop Sankey (Washington), De’Anthony Thomas (Oregon) and Ka’Deem Carey (Arizona). He was drafted in the 24th round of the Major League Baseball draft in 2012.

ILB Shayne Skov

McShay 300 ranking: 157
Round projection: 4-7
Comment: Skov has been limited by injuries during the pre-draft process, so he will have to hope his film does enough to offset concerns brought about by his injury history and a growing perception that he lacks NFL-caliber athleticism. McShay ranks Skov as the No. 4 inside linebacker.

FS Ed Reynolds

McShay 300 ranking: 230
Round projection: 4-7
Comment: One of three players to leave a season of eligibility on the table (along with Yankey and Fleming), Reynolds didn't showcase elite athleticism in his pre-draft workouts, but he was very productive in his two seasons as a starter.

DE Josh Mauro

McShay 300 ranking: 239
Round projection: 4-7
Comment: No player at Stanford helped his pro prospectus this past season more than Mauro, who wasn't slated to be a starter when the year began. It would be surprising if he went undrafted.

Ben Gardner

McShay 300 ranking: 257
Round projection: 6-undrafted
Comment: Gardner, a first-team All-Pac-12 selection, missed the final six games of the season and was a combine snub, but he bounced back with an impressive pro day. He took a visit to San Diego. Opinions are Gardner's chances at getting drafted are mixed, but it could be more beneficial for him to last until free agency to maximize his chances at landing on a desirable roster.

FB Ryan Hewitt

McShay 300 ranking: 258
Round projection: 7-undrafted
Comment: Was one of just two fullbacks at the Senior Bowl and could be worth more to a team in the later rounds because of the lack of experienced fullbacks who will be available in free agency, relative to other positions. One Stanford coach said he gives it better than a 50/50 chance that Hewitt will be drafted.

OG Kevin Danser, C/OG Khalil Wilkes, LB Jarek Lancaster and RB Anthony Wilkerson could earn training camp invitations, but they are not considered strong candidates to be drafted.
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.
We continue our look at Stanford's top 5 impactful recruiting classes of the past decade.

[+] EnlargeStanford
Kelley L Cox/USA TODAY SportsShayne Skov (11) was just one of the many impactful players in Stanford's 2009 recruiting class.
No. 2: 2009

Of the 22 commitments the Cardinal received in 2009, 18 carved out significant roles during their college careers. That percentage -- just over 80 percent -- is hard to beat.

Of those 18 players, 15 received some kind of all-Pac-12 recognition, including first-team honors for LB Trent Murphy (twice), TE Zach Ertz, LB Shayne Skov and DE Ben Gardner.

The five seasons that followed their signing is arguably the best five-year stretch in Stanford history: five bowls, four BCS bowls, two conference titles and a 54-13 record.

Two running backs -- Stepfan Taylor (2012) and Tyler Gaffney (2013) -- had seasons that resulted in All-American honors, and Taylor left the school as the all-time leading rusher.

Both Levine Toilolo and Ertz were among the nation's best tight ends before leaving for the NFL after their redshirt junior seasons. Ertz was a finalist for the 2012 John Mackey Award.

Taylor, Ertz and Toilolo were on NFL rosters last season, while DT Terrence Stephens and CB Terrence Brown were in training camps before being released. Five others -- FB Ryan Hewitt, DE Josh Mauro, Skov, Murphy and Gaffney -- have a good chance to be selected in the upcoming NFL draft.

The class also included QB Josh Nunes, who led the Cardinal to a 7-2 start in 2012 -- and received a Pac-12 Offensive Player of the Week honor that season -- before losing his starting job.

Countdown

No. 3: 2007
No. 4: 2010
No. 5: 2006
Headed into his fifth year at Stanford this past season, Josh Mauro's future as a football player was unclear. The defensive end had never been a starter, wasn't slated to become one and largely represented depth on one of the nation's best defenses.

While not exactly the profile of a future NFL player, Mauro still had hope.

[+] EnlargeJosh Mauro
George Frey/Getty ImagesFormer Stanford DE Josh Mauro had a breakout season for the Cardinal in 2013.
"After my redshirt junior year, I heard from different people that I'd have a chance [at the NFL]," he said. "I was told I had the body for the NFL and put some good stuff on film, but just wasn't consistent at times."

While consistency showed up as a potential flaw, it had more to do with opportunity than ability. He was stuck behind Henry Anderson and Ben Gardner -- two players with NFL futures of their own -- and so long as his playing time came intermittently, consistency was a tough fix.

That changed following the third game of the 2013 season, when Anderson went down with a knee injury that cost him the next five games. It was a minor setback for Anderson's career but provided a major opportunity for Mauro.

He took advantage.

"Once he got more playing time, he actually got better playing in games to the point where I told multiple people in the NFL, 'He's going to play and he's going to be on somebody's team,'" Stanford coach David Shaw said. "He's got the ability to do it, he's got the physical nature to do it. Especially for a lot of these 3-4 teams in the NFL, he's a good fit for those guys."

Mauro's impact was noticeable even before Anderson went down, but when he saw regular playing time, those consistency issues went away. Anderson's return against Oregon on Nov. 7 coincided with a season-ending injury to Gardner, which kept Mauro in the starting lineup the rest of the season.

The Texas native finished the year with 51 total tackles, 12.5 tackles for loss and four sacks and was a midseason add to the watch list for the Bednarik Award, given to the best defensive player in college football.

"I would describe Josh as the anchor of our defense. So much of what guys like [linebacker] Trent Murphy and I were able to do was a result of Josh being so disruptive on the line of scrimmage," linebacker Shayne Skov said. "He was able to hold the edge and keep guys off of us so we could run free and make plays. On top of that, he made a ton of impact plays himself, especially in big games."

Mauro's season earned him an NFL combine invite, but he left Indianapolis with mixed feelings about his performance. He was happy with his performances in the vertical jump (32 inches), broad jump (116 inches) and three-cone drill (7.43 seconds) but fell short of his goals in the 40-yard dash (5.21) and bench press (21 reps).

The 40-yard dash time and bench press will be two of his priorities at Stanford's pro day on March 20, but the big change will be his weight. Mauro dropped 10 to 15 pounds from his playing weight and tipped the scales at 271 in Indianapolis, but he plans on adding that weight back with a more regular diet. He said he doesn't think it will affect his explosiveness and will feel more comfortable.

Among the coaches Mauro met with at the combine were Raiders defensive coordinator Jason Tarver, who served as the Cardinal's co-defensive coordinator in 2011, and former Stanford coach Jim Harbaugh of the 49ers.

Stanford needs reinforcements at DE

February, 11, 2014
Feb 11
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The countdown of Stanford's top-5 position groups with room to improve continues.

[+] EnlargeHenry Anderson
Christian Petersen/Getty ImagesHenry Anderson returns to man one defensive end position for Stanford, but the Cardinal have question marks at the position behind him.
One position group will be highlighted each day this week.

No. 4: Defensive line

Must replace: Ben Gardner, Josh Mauro

Returning starters: Henry Anderson, David Parry

Players to watch: Luke Kaumatule, Anthony Hayes, Nate Lohn, Blake Lueders, Aziz Shittu

Outlook: The only vacant starting job on the line is at defensive end where Lohn, Lueders and Kaumatule all figure to be be in the running to replace the combination of Gardner and Mauro opposite Anderson. Lueders (linebacker) and Kaumatule (tight end) both switched positions midseason as the Cardinal tried find some reliable depth. For Lueders, the move was relatively easy because he was already versed in Stanford's defensive terminology, but it was much more difficult for Kaumatule. The Cardinal recruited him to play defensive end, but was moved to tight end out of need. That experiment didn't go as well as the coaching staff had hoped, and once he was brought back to defense it was clear it was a better fit. Lohn was listed as Mauro's primary backup for the Rose Bowl, but appeared in just three games during the season. Shittu remains a bit of a question mark. He arrived at Stanford ranked among the nation's best defensive ends, but he's yet to make an impact in two seasons. Does that change this fall?

The countdown
No. 5: Wide receiver

Gardner eyes Stanford pro day

February, 10, 2014
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Stanford led the Pac-12 with eight invitations to the NFL Scouting Combine, but the omission of defensive end Ben Gardner has raised some eyebrows.

Gardner, who was named first-team All-Pac-12 despite playing in just the first eight games of the season, wouldn't have been able to perform at the event later this month but still expected to be invited. As he continues to rehab from an injury to his left pectoral muscle that ended his season in late October, Gardner thought he would have the opportunity to meet with teams and their medical personnel in Indianapolis.

He said no one from the combine or NFL reached out to him or his agent to see if he would be physically ready to participate.

"Who knows if injury had something to do with it," Gardner said. "It's a little disappointing, but the thing for me is that it's just another hurdle."

As a senior at Homestead High in Mequon, Wisc., Gardner received no FBS scholarship offers until Jack Harbaugh recommended to his son, former Stanford coach Jim Harbaugh, that he change that. The elder Harbaugh lives in Mequon and on his recommendation, the Cardinal took a look and extended Gardner its final scholarship in 2009.

It paid off, as Gardner went on to become a second-team All-Pac-12 selection after the 2011 and 2012 seasons and the Pac-12 Blog named him the conference's No. 25 player overall heading into this past season.

With the combine not in the picture, Gardner said he expects to be ready for Stanford's Pro Day on March 28. He was initially told the injury would keep him out until late April, but thanks to a stringent rehab program at Stanford that timetable has moved up.

He spends his mornings training at California Strength in San Ramon with Stanford teammates Tyler Gaffney, Shayne Skov, Josh Mauro, Ryan Hewitt and USC defensive end Morgan Breslin, who also didn't receive a combine invitation. When he's done there, Gardner drives back to Stanford for more rehab.

"Motivation has never been a problem for me," Gardner said.

Stanford's group of combine invitees includes David Yankey, Cam Fleming, Trent Murphy, Ed Reynolds, Gaffney, Skov, Mauro and Hewitt.

Pac-12 names all-conference team

December, 2, 2013
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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:

Stanford Cardinal, Pac-12, USC Trojans, Oregon Ducks, Jordan Richards, Ty Montgomery, Stanford Cardinal, Trent Murphy, Henry Anderson, Tyler Gaffney, David Yankey, Cameron Fleming, Shayne Skov, Oregon Ducks, Khalil Wilkes, A.J. Tarpley, Ben Gardner, Arizona Wildcats, Joe Hemschoot, UCLA Bruins, Josh Mauro, Kevin Danser, USC Trojans, Colorado Buffaloes, Paul Richardson, Washington Huskies, Washington State Cougars, Damante Horton, Keith Price, Arizona State Sun Devils, California Bears, Oregon State Beavers, Sean Mannion, Marqise Lee, Deone Bucannon, Andrus Peat, Alex Carter, Todd Graham, Ed Reynolds, Brandin Cooks, Bishop Sankey, Ka'Deem Carey, Shaq Evans, Sean Parker, River Cracraft, Austin Seferian-Jenkins, Dion Bailey, Brett Hundley, Marcus Mariota, Taylor Kelly, Xavier Grimble, Chris Young, Will Sutton, Vincenzo D'Amato, Scott Crichton, Taylor Hart, Wade Keliikipi, Eric Kendricks, Andrew Furney, Marion Grice, Anthony Barr, Alden Darby, Carl Bradford, Cassius Marsh, Chris Coyle, Danny Shelton, Elliott Bosch, Evan Finkenberg, George Uko, Grant Enger, Hayes Pullard, Hroniss Grasu, Ifo Ekpre-Olomu, Isaac Seumalo, Jake Brendel, Jared Tevis, Leonard Williams, Rashaad Reynolds, Shaq Thompson, Trevor Reilly, Xavier Su'a-Filo, Jared Goff, Devon Kennard, Kevin Graf, Nelson Agholor, Tenny Palepoi, Byron Marshall, Deandre Coleman, Mike Criste, Tony Washington, Derrick Malone, Keith McGill, Addison Gillam, Andy Phillips, Cody Kessler, Anthony Jefferson, Dres Anderson, Steven Nelson, Bryce Treggs, Bralon Addison, Jaelen Strong, Scooby Wright, Tom Hackett, Connor Hamlett, Travis Coons, Randall Goforth, Fabian Moreau, Jordan Zumwalt, Myles Jack, Ellis McCarthy, Robert Nelson, Marcus Peters, Soma Vainuku, Hau'oli Kikaha, Alex Redmond, Davon Coleman, De'Marieya Nelson, Devin Fuller, Dexter Charles, Eddie Vanderdoes, Erick Dargan, Gannon Conway, J.R. Tavai, Jamil Douglas, Jason Whittingham, Javorius Allen, Jayon Brown, Kris Albarado, Marcus Martin, Marquis Flowers, Micah Hatchie, Mike Adkins, Nate Phillips, Osahan Irabor, Ryan Hoffmeister, Ryan Murphy, Sean Covington, Su'a Cravens, Terron Ward, Tevin Hood, Thomas Duarte, Tyler Johnstone, Vyncent Jones, Will Oliver, Zane Gonzales

Cardinal ball requires white knuckles

November, 6, 2013
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When the Andrew Luck era ended at Stanford, coach David Shaw knew for his team to maintain the high standard of play, it would have to commit to the old evolutionary adage of adapt to survive.

Gone were the 43 points per game the team enjoyed during Luck’s senior year -- Shaw’s first year as head coach. With the graduation of a player like Luck, Stanford’s offensive production was expected to take a step back.

[+] EnlargeDavid Shaw
Ron Chenoy/US PresswireStanford coach David Shaw credits his team's record in close games to the players' resilience.
And it did.

Since the start of the 2012 season, the Cardinal have averaged just 29.6 points per game -- two touchdowns fewer on average per contest than when Luck was running the show. And yet during that stretch, Stanford has still gone 19-3 against opponents that boast a 62.6 winning percentage. That ranks 10th among all FBS teams over the last year and a half.

The Cardinal have adapted and survived behind a brutalizing defense and power-running game. Though they aren’t scoring as many points, they are speeding the game up by slowing it down. And they are winning.

Good enough has been good enough for Stanford.

Since the start of the 2012 season the Cardinal are 10-3 in games decided by one possession (eight points). In those 22 games, their margin of victory is 11.6 points. As Shaw is fond of saying, football isn’t a beauty contest.

“We expect to be in tight games,” Shaw said. “We practice it. We spend a lot of time working on red zone. A lot of time working on overtime, two-minute offense, two-minute defense, the things that happen at the end of the game, so when we get in those times during the game, we just act and react.”

Compare that to No. 3 Oregon, Stanford’s opponent Thursday night in Palo Alto in a game that is sure to have a massive impact on the Pac-12 and BCS pecking order. Over that same stretch, the Ducks have enjoyed a margin of victory of 32.1 points per game. While the Cardinal have been in 13 one-possession games, Oregon has been in one. Just one. For those with a short memory, it was last year’s 17-14 overtime loss to the Cardinal at Autzen.

“All it really means is we’re doing our job and executing,” said Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota. “We don’t look at something like that as a bad thing. You execute and you win a ball game. That’s what the main intent is. In any situation we have confidence the coaches will do an awesome job preparing us and we’ll go out there with confidence and be comfortable in whatever situation.”

This year could present another close situation. Oregon coach Mark Helfrich said he’s expecting another tight, drag’em-out showdown with the veteran Cardinal defense.

“When you look at their defense and their two-deep, 15 or 16 are seniors,” Helfrich said. “And there is so much depth. So much continuity. It feels like we’ve been playing against Trent Murphy and [Shayne] Skov and [A.J.] Tarpley for 20 years. They are obviously very confident in what they do, and I think their offense will grind it out and create some situations. But I know at the end of the game they are going to have confidence. Hopefully so will we.”

Maturity and experience is obviously a big reason for Stanford’s success in close games. Take the last win -- a 20-12 victory over Oregon State in Corvallis. A late fumble could have swung the momentum to OSU’s favor. But the veteran Cardinal defense stiffened and preserved the win.

“They played us well not only physically, but they played a very smart game,” said Oregon State coach Mike Riley. “I think the combination of what they have, which is physical talent and lots of experience, is a positive for them.”

The Cardinal, however, will be without one of their veteran leaders in defensive end Ben Gardner, who is out of the rest of the year with a pectoral injury. The fifth-year senior was a team captain and has been an integral part of Stanford’s defensive success for not only his pass-rushing abilities, but also for his ability to occupy blockers which opens things up for the outside linebackers. However, the Cardinal will get defensive end Henry Anderson back, who has been out since September with a knee injury. Josh Mauro, who has been filling in for Anderson, will replace Gardner.

Despite Gardner’s absence, there isn’t much this Cardinal team hasn’t seen. And it’s that experience they’ll draw from against an Oregon team that averages more than 55 points per game.

“When things don’t go our way during the game, we don’t lament over it,” Shaw said. “I think our maturity helps that. When you don’t play your best football and end up in a tight game, we don’t have a lot of guys spending a lot of time being upset how they didn’t play well in the first or second or third quarter. They know it’s a tight game. They know they have a chance to win it so let’s go out and win it.”

And the Cardinal also know they are going to have to get their offense moving more efficiently than it has in the last three games -- two of which were decided by eight or fewer points. Stanford has averaged slightly more than three touchdowns per game. And a lot of that falls on the shoulders of quarterback Kevin Hogan.

“When Kevin has a not-great game, it’s mechanics, and we’ve got to keep working on that and get him to be consistent and he’s working extremely hard,” Shaw said. “Everybody hates when I say it, but he’s still young. We don’t have a huge sample size of him playing football. He played so well early that everyone is shocked when he doesn’t have a great game. But I think the arrow is still pointing up. He’s got a chance to be a great college quarterback and we hope that surfaces again this week coming up.”
1. Michigan’s feuds with Ohio State and Notre Dame always drew more attention than its games with Michigan State. But that has changed, and not, Wolverines coach Brady Hoke said Wednesday on the ESPNU College Football Podcast, because the Spartans won four in a row from 2008-11. “I think some of the changes with the divisional races puts a little more emphasis on this football game,” Hoke said. “But from a passion standpoint … it’s always been a very physical game. It’s always a game that been played through the whistle. The intensity of the rivalry is there. It’s real.”

2. Florida Atlantic head coach Carl Pelini and defensive coordinator Pete Rekstis resigned, a source told my colleague Brett McMurphy, because they attended a party where people used marijuana. I guess the coaches picked the wrong state in which to attend the party. According to Governing magazine, 21 states and the District of Columbia have legalized some form of marijuana usage. No, Florida is not one of them. But still this story, in 2013, is a stunner. Maybe FAU wanted Pelini (5-15 in two seasons) out?

3. Stanford senior defensive end and team captain Ben Gardner's season-ending pectoral injury means that the Cardinal will have started only two games with their preseason starting defensive line. Senior Henry Anderson hurt his knee in the second game against Army. That the line has remained a strength for the Cardinal is a credit to fifth-year senior Josh Mauro, who pretty much turned Anderson into Wally Pipp. But it’s a shame that the three seniors will have played together so little in their final season.
For Utah coach Kyle Whittingham, Saturday's game against No. 5 Stanford will serve as a barometer of sorts.

He's seen a lot of Stanford film since Utah joined the Pac-12 in 2011, but because the teams didn't play the past two years, he never studied the Cardinal specifically. Anything he saw was a result of watching Stanford's opponents.

[+] EnlargeConnor Halliday
Steven Bisig/USA TODAY SportsHow deep is Stanford's D-line? DE Josh Mauro has three sacks, a pick and four tackles for a loss -- and wasn't even a starter at the beginning of the year.
That doesn't mean the Cardinal didn't leave a lasting impression. It did. And after studying this year's Stanford team, Whittingham came away as impressed as he thought he would.

"They're a heck of team. Very well deserving of their No. 5 rankings, at least in my opinion," Whittingham said. "Coach [David] Shaw haw has done a great job with those guys. It started with Coach [Jim] Harbaugh back when and when the torch was passed, Coach Shaw has maintained or even exceeded that level. Very impressed with what they're doing."

In doing his homework, Whittingham came to the same conclusion as several others in terms of Stanford's strength.

"In my estimation they're the most physical team in the Pac-12," he said. "But to our benefit, I guess you could say somewhat, we're pretty good at the line of scrimmage as well on both sides of the ball so we'll see how we stack up."

Fifth-year senior defensive end Josh Mauro, who wasn't even a starter until Henry Anderson got hurt in the second game of the season against Army, exemplifies just how talented Stanford is up front. Mauro was named to the Chuck Bednarik Award Watch List on Wednesday. He has three sacks, an interception and four tackles for a loss.

Defensive end Ben Gardner (arm) and linebacker Shayne Skov (knee) both have been limited in practice this week, but they are expected to play against the Utes.

Shaw said he doesn't anticipate the altitude affecting his team very much. The Cardinal was seemingly unaffected in a 48-0 at Colorado last year and benefits from a heavy rotation, especially on defense.

"Hydration is huge and the fact this is one of those game, also, where playing a lot of guys helps," Shaw said. "You don't have a lot of guys from 60-plus snaps."

Stanford and Utah have played five times, with the most recent being a 17-10 Utah win in 1996. The Cardinal are 3-2 in the series, but neither team has won at home. Each has won twice on the opposing campus and Stanford won a neutral-site game in 1924 in Berkeley, Calif.

Instant Analysis: Stanford 42, ASU 28

September, 21, 2013
9/21/13
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STANFORD, Calif. -- In the weekend's only matchup of ranked teams, No. 5 Stanford jumped out to a big lead and coasted to a 42-28 win against No. 23 Arizona State. Here's how it went down:

It was over when: Stanford DE Ben Gardner blocked a pooch-punt attempt from ASU QB Taylor Kelly with the Cardinal leading 32-7 late in the third quarter. One play later, RB Tyler Gaffney scored from 16 yards out to give Stanford a 39-7 lead with 37 seconds left in the quarter.

The Sun Devils turned in a valiant comeback attempt, but the deficit was too big to overcome.

Game ball goes to: Stanford DE Josh Mauro. Making his first career start, the fifth-year senior had an interception and 25-yard return and a sack.

Stat of the game: Arizona State players who had punts blocked: Two. In addition to Kelly's blocked pooch, punter Matt Haack had one blocked, too. His, however, was unique in that it wasn't touched by a Stanford player.

Haack punted it into the back of a teammate, then proceeded to kick it out of the back of the end zone for a safety.

What Stanford learned: Keeping the play calling simple was a good plan. The Cardinal was vanilla in wins against San Jose State and Army to begin the year, only to breakout several unseen looks against Arizona State. Stanford moved the ball at will in the first half before sitting on it for most of the second half.

What Arizona State learned: The Sun Devils aren't ready to be considered serious challengers in the Pac-12. They need to find a cure for the "dropsies" and, at least against a team like Stanford, have to find more balance offensively. The loss did nothing to diminish their chances at winning the South, but does show how far they have to go long-term.

Reynolds ejected: Stanford All-American S Ed Reynolds was ejected in the fourth quarter for targeting. He will be forced to sit out the first half of Stanford's game next week against Washington State in Seattle.

What it means: Stanford is every bit the national title contender it was billed as before the year began. The final score isn't a clear indicator of just how dominant the Cardinal was. Stanford led 29-0 at halftime and was in run-out-the-clock mode with reserves rotating in on both sides of the ball for most of the second half.

Pac-12 lunchtime links

September, 19, 2013
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And when they've given you their all some stagger and fall;
After all it's not easy, banging your heart against some mad buggers' wall.

Instant analysis: Stanford 24, Wash. St. 17

October, 27, 2012
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6:49
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PALO ALTO, Calif. -- It counts the same as any other win, but Stanford's 24-17 victory over Washington State on Saturday isn't one the Cardinal will feel all too good about.

Against the Pac-12's No. 11-ranked rush defense, Stanford (6-2, 4-1 Pac-12) managed just 120 yards on the ground -- its third-lowest total of the season -- as running back Stepfan Taylor (20 carries, 56 yards) was rendered largely ineffective.

WSU (2-5, 0-5) outgained Stanford 385-256 and controlled the tempo for most of the game, but a pair of big plays by the Cardinal proved to be the difference. First, a 70-yard touchdown pass from Josh Nunes to Jamal-Rashad Patterson in the second quarter, which came as a result of broken coverage, and then a 25-yard interception for a touchdown from safety Ed Reynolds in the fourth quarter.

The good news for Stanford? Most of the Bay Area -- evident by the sparse crowd at Stanford Stadium -- had their attention on the San Francisco Giants and Game 3 of the World Series.

Here are a few highlights from Stanford's less-than-impressive win:

It was over when: Henry Anderson sacked WSU quarterback Jeff Tuel with the Cougars facing second-and-goal from the 19 with only seconds remaining in the game.

Game ball goes to: Usua Amanam, who had seven tackles, two sacks, two and a half tackles for loss and a pair of pass breakups. He came up with a crucial sack of Tuel as the Cougars faced first-and-goal with under a minute to play.

Stat of the game: Washington State was held to minus-16 yards rushing. The performance by the Stanford defense comes a week after limiting Cal to just three yards on the ground.

Unsung hero: DE Josh Mauro was solid up front for Stanford. He finished with one and a half sacks.

What it means: The Cardinal are officially bowl eligible, but the poor execution by the offense is definite reason for concern. Stanford is nearly assured of another win next week with a trip to Colorado on tap, but with No. 7 Oregon State and No. 2 Oregon after that, improvement will be paramount.
Stanford middle linebacker Jarek Lancaster led the Cardinal in tackles last year and is one of six returning starters to the front seven. Here are his thoughts on the loss of co-defensive coordinator Jason Tarver, Stanford's defense and why he opted to shave his shoulder-length hair.

How different is the defense going to be with just one coordinator running the show?

Jarek Lancaster: It's not going to be that different. Coach [Derek] Mason and Tarver were really good at picking each other's brains. But I think coach Mason still talks a bunch with coach Tarver (now defensive coordinator for the Oakland Raiders) so I think he's going to keep a lot of the stuff from last year. It shouldn't be that different -- or at least drastically different.

With coach Tarver leaving, you lose not only a co-defensive coordinator, but your position coach. How has it been working with a more veteran coach like [David] Kotulski?

[+] EnlargeJarek Lancaster
Jason O. Watson/US PRESSWIRELinebacker Jarek Lancaster thinks Stanford has "one of the greatest front sevens in the nation."
JL: There is definitely more knowledge. He has so much wisdom to impart on us. You could just see from the first day, he was fixing stances and it's nice to be under his wing and learning because he's been in the game for so long.

Let's talk about the inside linebackers. You, A.J. Tarpley, Shayne Skov, James Vaughters. Is there enough defensive reps to go around?

JL: I think so. I think there will be plenty. If you're good enough to play, they are going to find ways to get you on the field. There might not be as many reps as we'd all like, but that doesn't mean we won't get a lot of work each game.

You are in a much different position now than where you were at this time last year when you were a backup. Now you're a proven commodity. Are you feeling the pressure behind you?

JL: We always say iron hardens iron. Spring ball was amazing in terms of competition. We made great gains as inside backers. You could see young guys like James Vaughters and A.J. Tarpley and Joe Hemschoot getting so much better over this four-week period. Anytime you can have that competition and look over your shoulder, it helps you elevate your game.

There is so much talk about how Stanford will drop off with Andrew Luck leaving. Has that permeated to the defense? Do you hear the chatter and do you even care?

JL: Yeah, we hear it. Naturally, you are going to hear the talk and the chatter. But if that means we have to be on the field a little more, that means we'll have better stats. It doesn't affect our play at all.

You guys have so much coming back in the front seven. Many have projected you to be the best front seven in the conference. Do you think you are?

JL: I feel like we have one of the greatest front sevens in the nation. We have two pass rushers that are unbelievable. If you watch film, you see Chase Thomas and Trent Murphy on the quarterback every time. Then you've got the stout Terrence Stephens in the middle that is wrecking shop with Benny Gardner and Josh Mauro. Then you have our inside backers that last year got a ton of experience, which helps us this year. If Shayne had stayed healthy, we wouldn't have that experience. We're ready to go.

In terms of expectations for the defense, is there more pressure on you this year because of all of the changes on offense?

JL: There's a long time to go till the season and we can definitely get better. But if we're going to be a successful team this year, we're going to need to handle the pressure. We expect it. Anytime you come out and you're a successful unit and you have a ton of returning starters, of course there is going to be added pressure. If you've shown you can play at that high level, it's expected that you do it all the time. We're excited for it.

Last question. What's up with Stanford guys dumping the hair? First Ben Gardner goes and dumps the mullet before the Fiesta Bowl and then you shave yours? What's the deal?

JL: I think it was having a new position coach coming in. I wanted a fresh start. It was symbolic. But on the flip side, Benny G is growing the mullet back so it should be pretty sweet come season. [Ryan] Hewitt still has the great, flowing blond locks.

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