Stanford Football: Trent Murphy

The honors keep coming for three former Pac-12 football players now with NFL teams.

Stanford's Trent Murphy, USC's Devon Kennard and Washington State's Deone Bucannon were all named Pac-12 Tom Hansen Conference Medal winners Monday, an honor that takes into account athletic and academic performance and leadership. Each school in the conference honors one male and one female student-athlete.

Murphy, a team captain, graduated with a degree in science, technology and society before being drafted in the second round of the NFL draft by the Washington Redskins. The outside linebacker led the nation with 15 sacks and was a consensus All-American.

Kennard was a second-team All-Academic team selection in the conference as he worked on a master's degree in communication management. He was selected by the New York Giants in the fifth round.

Bucannon was selected by the Arizona Cardinals in the first round after standout career for WSU in which he finished fourth on the school's all-time tackle list and third in interceptions. He majored in criminal justice.

Here is the full list of winners:

Arizona: Lawi Lalang (XC/track and field); Margo Geer (swimming and diving)
Arizona State: Cory Hahn (baseball); Stephanie Preach (volleyball)
California: Brandon Hagy (golf); Alicia Asturias (gymnastics)
Colorado: Andreas Haug (skiing); Shalaya Kipp, (XC and track and field)
Oregon: Robin Cambier (tennis); Laura Roesler (track and field)
Oregon State: Josh Smith (soccer); Jenna Richardson (soccer)
Stanford: Murphy; Chiney Ogwumike (basketball)
UCLA: Joe Sofia (soccer); Anna Senko (swimming and diving)
USC: Kennard; Natalie Hagglund (volleyball)
Utah: Ben Tasevac (tennis); Mary Beth Lofgren (gymnastics)
Washington: Sam Dommer (rowing); Kaitlin Inglesby (softball)
Washington State: Bucannon; Micaela Castain (soccer)

Pac-12's lunch links

May, 23, 2014
May 23
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Happy Friday!
 

Pac-12 draft recap: Day 2

May, 10, 2014
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Here's a look at how the Pac-12 fared on Day 2 of the NFL draft.

Six players were selected in the second round and five in the third, giving the conference two-day total of 14. That trails the SEC (23) and Big Ten (16) but is tied with the ACC.

Round 2

OG Xavier Su’a-Filo, UCLA: Texans, No. 1 (33 overall)
Note: The first pick of the day was also the first offensive guard selected.

TE Austin Seferian-Jenkins, Washington: Buccaneers, No. 6 (38)
Note: John Mackey Award winner will play for former Cal coach Jeff Tedford, Tampa Bay's new offensive coordinator.

WR Marqise Lee, USC: Jaguars, No. 7 (39)
Note: Lee was one of two receivers the Jaguars selected in the second round to pair with the No. 3 overall pick, QB Blake Bortles.

WR Paul Richardson, Colorado: Seahawks, No. 13 (45)
Note: Will give the Super Bowl champions another speedy weapon alongside Percy Harvin.

LB Trent Murphy, Stanford: Redskins, No. 15 (47)
Note: Murphy, the nation's sack leader, will get to remain at outside linebacker in Washington's 3-4 defense.

RB Bishop Sankey, Washington: Titans, No. 22 (54) Tennessee
Note: The first running back selected, Sankey will join former Washington quarterback Jake Locker in Tennessee.

Round 3

C Marcus Martin, USC: No. 6 (70) 49ers
Note: Martin will compete with Daniel Kilgore for the starting job in San Francisco.

DE Scott Crichton, Oregon State: No. 8 (72) Vikings
Note: Hopes to help his parents retire with money from his NFL career.

DT Will Sutton, Arizona State: No. 18 (82) Bears
Note: Two-time Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year was projected by many to go much later.

WR Josh Huff, Oregon: No. 22 (86) Eagles
Note: One of two receivers who will join former Oregon coach Chip Kelly's team in Philly.

TE Richard Rodgers, Cal: No. 34 (98), Pakers
Note: Will catch passes from another Golden Bear, Aaron Rodgers (no relation).
Leading up to a game against Oregon State in Novenber 2012, Stanford coach David Shaw was asked to compare the Beavers’ receiving duo (Markus Wheaton and Brandin Cooks) with the one at USC (Marqise Lee and Robert Woods).

[+] EnlargeMarqise Lee
AP Photo/Chris CarlsonRecord-setting WR Marqise Lee could be off the draft board early in Round 2.
“Well, first of all, I don’t mind going on record as saying that I think Marqise Lee is the best college receiver that I’ve seen since I scouted Randy Moss,” Shaw said.

He's wasn't just throwing that out there either -- Shaw was a quality control coach for the Philadelphia Eagles during Moss’ final season at Marshall. And while the future Hall-of-Famer fell to No. 21 overall in the 1998 draft, his talent was never in question.

When Shaw made the comparison, it sounded about right. At the least, it would have been difficult to argue against. Lee was on his way to what were then Pac-12 records for receptions (118) and receiving yards (1,743). It was Lee, not former No. 1 overall pick Keyshawn Johnson, who was named USC’s first Fred Biletnikoff Award winner.

At the time, there was no question he would be a top-10 pick in the NFL draft. Maybe top 5.

Out of the first round? No chance.

And even as he struggled to meet the bar through nagging injuries, quarterback struggles and coaching turmoil in 2013 -- the Pac-12 blog didn’t name Lee one of the conference’s top-25 players for the 2013 season -- it was hard not to write it off as a season-long aberration. Aberration or not, it’s going to cost him a lot of money.

The first receiver picked in last year’s draft, West Virginia’s Tavon Austin, received $12.8 million in guaranteed money after getting picked at No. 8 overall by St. Louis. The first receiver selected in the second round last year, Tennessee’s Justin Hunter, received $3.8 million guaranteed.

Feeling bad for someone who is about to make a life-changing amount of money to fulfill a childhood dream isn't the correct feeling, but, still, $9 million buys this house and leaves roughly $3.5 million. And that's just the minimum difference in guaranteed money.

Lee’s size came into question through the pre-draft evaluation process -- he measured at 6-foot, 192 pounds the combine -- but that didn’t hurt Austin, who measured 5-foot-8, 174 pounds. Austin ran a superior 40-time (4.34 to 4.52), but it would have been tough for a team to choose him over Lee.

Of course, none of this matters in the grand scheme of things. Lee should be one of the first players drafted in Friday’s second round, which means he’ll likely have the opportunity to contribute immediately. For a player with Lee talent, that should be enough.

Ten Pac-12 players to watch on Day 2 of the NFL draft
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.
Of all the gin joints in all the towns in all the world, she walks into mine.
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.
STANFORD, Calif. -- With linebackers Shayne Skov and Trent Murphy off to the NFL and defensive coordinator Derek Mason and inside linebackers coach David Kotulski off to Vanderbilt, change is inevitable for the Stanford defense.

For some, that's code for "worse."

[+] EnlargeA.J. Tarpley
Tony Medina/Getty ImagesA.J. Tarpley, who was the 2009 Minnesota Gatorade Player of the Year, has been a key cog in the Cardinal's defense for the past three seasons.
Not for fifth-year senior inside linebacker A.J. Tarpley.

"Great players leave. We're not going to lower our goals," he said. "We're not going to say, 'OK, we're not going to be as good as last year.' I want this linebacking corps to be better than last year.

"I do feel that our linebacking corps has gotten better every year since I got here, so why not? Why can't we be be better than we were last year?"

Tarpley wasn't looking for a literal answer, but if he were, the fact that Skov was one of the nation's best inside linebackers and that Murphy led the nation in sacks would be on the list. Those aren't guys who simply get replaced without some level of drop off.

That isn't lost on Tarpley, either. He, perhaps better than anyone, understands just how valuable Skov and Murphy were to the Stanford defense. The part that isn't understood as well beyond the Stanford locker room is how Tarpley's role has been nearly as vital to the Cardinal's success over the past three seasons.

"We see it all the time and we've just marveled at how solid he is, how efficient he is," new defensive coordinator Lance Anderson said. "I think playing next to Skov is a reason he's been a little overshadowed, and then with Trent Murphy and Chase Thomas on the outside the last few years I think it's easy to get overshadowed."

Over the past three seasons, Tarpley is the Cardinal's leading tackler (216). If he replicates his 2013 total (93), he'll finish his career in the top 10 on the school all-time tackles list. Currently, only two other players who began their career in 1990 or later are part of the group: Skov (2009-13) and Chris Draft (1994-97).

Tarpley's near-immediate production came as no surprise to Stanford coach David Shaw, who said the former Minnesota Gatorade Player of the Year made a strong impression during his true freshman season during the team's scrimmages on Fridays.

"He just seemed to make every play," Shaw said. "Tackle after tackle after tackle, and if the ball was thrown anywhere around him he either picked it off or deflected it."

Both Shaw and Anderson credited Tarpley's instincts as a major factor in his success, which, coupled with good quickness, makes up for what wouldn't be described as elite athleticism. Anderson has Tarpley down for 4.75 seconds in his most recent 40-yard-dash.

"There's a lot of people that think I study tremendous amounts of film and know what plays the offense is going to run, but that's not the case," Tarpley said. "I believe I'm a pretty good athlete. I base everything off my quickness and just read plays to make things happen."

And if film study isn't the root of his ability to read defenses, what is? That's simple: video games -- the Madden franchise, in particular.

Tarpley is a firm believer that playing Madden -- a game in which he claims he's unbeatable -- has helped develop his understanding of the way angles, routes and coverages work.

"Looking at the plays in Madden you see passing concepts, you see zone coverages and how those work out ... where this guy is and who he's replacing and how things can occur," he said. "I really do think going through the plays on both offense and defense -- what beats what? -- I think that's helped me as a player. When I'm out there on the field, it's almost a [subconscious] decision in my mind how something should develop."

That understanding has allowed Stanford to regularly use him to cover receivers in single coverage with good results. Tarpley is the program's only player to record an interception in each of the past three seasons.

"He is one of the best coverage linebackers I've been around," Anderson said. "He has such good patience and a good feel for routes and what people are going to try and run. That is one thing that stands out. I don't know if I've been around anyone like him like that."

Tarpley's focus is on finishing his Stanford career strong, but he made it clear the NFL is also in his sights.

"I've always been doubted my whole career. No one's ever said how great I was going to be so I've always had that mentality with a chip on my shoulder," he said. "I'm going to dream about [playing in the NFL] every day until I can earn a spot there."

And if that doesn't work out, there's always the Madden pro leagues to fall back on ... or his Stanford degree.
On Monday, we took a look at how the Pac-12's offensive players stack up as NFL prospects in the eyes of ESPN analysts Mel Kiper Jr. and Todd McShay. Tuesday, it's the defense's turn.

Defensive line

  • DE Scott Crichton, Oregon State: No. 4 (Kiper), No. 5 (McShay)
  • DT Will Sutton, Arizona State: No. 8 (Kiper), No. 10 (McShay)

If you've been following along since the end of the season, Sutton's spot isn't all too surprising. He didn't have a good showing at the combine and has taken heat about his physical condition, dating to before last season. Even with the concerns, it's hard to imagine he won't eventually find his way in the NFL. After all, he's only the second player in conference history to be a two-time Defensive Player of the Year. Washington's Steve Emtman (1990-91) was the other. That's not by accident.

Coincidentally, the SEC's Defensive Player of the Year, Michael Sam, isn't ranked in the top 10 by either. See the list here. Insider

Other Pac-12 defensive linemen who figure to be in the mix in the draft are Cassius Marsh (UCLA), Taylor Hart (Oregon), Deandre Coleman (Cal), George Uko (USC), Tenny Palepoi (Utah), Morgan Breslin (USC), Ben Gardner (Stanford) and Josh Mauro (Stanford).

Linebacker

  • [+] EnlargeAnthony Barr
    Kirby Lee/USA TODAY SportsFormer UCLA linebacker Anthony Barr could be the first Pac-12 player to be drafted this year.
    OLB Anthony Barr, UCLA: No. 2 (both)
  • OLB Trent Murphy, Stanford: No. 6 (Kiper), No. 9 (McShay)
  • ILB Shayne Skov, Stanford: No. 3 (both)
  • ILB Jordan Zumwalt, UCLA: No. 8 (Kiper)

Barr is widely considered the Pac-12's best hope at landing in the first 10 picks, but if McShay was drafting, that wouldn't be the case. On drafting Barr, McShay wrote:
[Barr] of UCLA is a speed-rusher who stalls out when attempting to convert speed to power, and there is too much finesse to his game for me to pay a top-15 price for him. He looks like he's on skates when he attempts to set the edge.

That's not exactly a ringing endorsement for the same player Stanford coach David Shaw compared to Jevon Kearse. Shaw called Barr called the best (defensive) player the conference has had in the "last few years."

Murphy is in a similar boat to Sutton in that his college production isn't necessarily being viewed as a lock to translate to the NFL. He still figures to be a good fit for a 3-4 team and should be expected to contribute right away.

Outside of the four listed, it wasn't a very deep year for linebackers in the conference. Utah's Trevor Reilly, who can play both OLB and DE, Arizona State OLB Carl Bradford and USC's Devon Kennard headline the rest of the NFL hopefuls.

Defensive back

McGill should send a thank you card in Pete Carroll's direction. It's largely because of Seattle's use of big-bodied corners en route to a Super Bowl victory that the league appears to be trending in that direction. At 6-foot-4, McGill's size -- in addition to his solid showing at the combine -- is a rare asset among the group of corners.

Bucannon looks like he'll be the first defensive back off the board, but will he be a first-round pick? That's unlikely, but it would be a surprise if he lasts into the third round.

Another storyline to watch is where the three defensive backs who left early -- safety Ed Reynolds (Stanford), cornerback Terrance Mitchell (Oregon) and cornerback Kameron Jackson (Cal) -- wind up.

See the lists for linebackers and defensive backs here.Insider
You remember the three-headed monster, right? It's about returning production that will scare -- terrify! --opponents. Or not.

On offense, it's elite combinations at quarterback, running back and receiver.

On defense, it's elite combinations of a leading tackler, a leader in sacks and leader in interceptions.

This year, we're breaking things down by division. We've already done offense for the South and North divisions. Wednesday we looked at defenses in the South.

Next up: North Division defensive three-headed monsters.

1. Stanford

LB A.J. Tarpley, DE Henry Anderson, S Jordan Richards

The skinny: The Cardinal lose their top tackler (Shayne Skov) and top sack guy (Trent Murphy). But there are others ready to take control. Tarpley has long been one of the league’s most underappreciated linebackers (93 tackles last season) and Anderson’s return boosts a front seven that should continue to party in the backfield. Richards is solid at one safety spot, though there are some questions about who will play opposite him. The Cardinal still boast the top defense in the league until proven otherwise.

2. Washington

LB Shaq Thompson, DE Hau’oli Kikaha, DB Marcus Peters

The skinny: The Huskies have some losses, like everyone else in the country, but there is plenty of talent coming back for the new coaching staff to work with. That returning production is enough to slot them No. 2. Thompson continues to get better with each season and appears on the verge of a breakout year. Kikaha has not-so-quietly turned into one of the Pac-12’s most feared rushers (13 sacks last season) and Peters is back after making five interceptions last season. They lose some leadership with the departure of Sean Parker and there's some question marks in the secondary. But this should be a salty group in 2014.

3. Oregon

LB Derrick Malone, DE/OLB Tony Washington, CB Ifo Ekpre-Olomu.

The skinny: Despite losing Avery Patterson, Brian Jackson and Terrance Mitchell, the secondary still boasts one of the top defensive backs in the country in Ekpre-Olomu. Mitchell led the team with five picks in 2013, but a lot of teams opted not to test Ekpre-Olomu. Malone is back after making 105 tackles, and Rodney Hardrick should be on his heels as top tackler. The linebackers should be a strength. Washington returns after recording 7.5 sacks to go with 12 tackles for a loss. Now, if they could just get off the dang field on third down ...

4. Oregon State

S Tyrequek Zimmerman, DE Dylan Wynn, CB Steven Nelson

The skinny: Zimmerman brings his 104 tackles back from last season and the return of OLB Michael Doctor, the team’s leading tackler in 2012, should be a nice boost. Replacing the production of Scott Crichton and his 7.5 sacks will be difficult. Linebacker D.J. Alexander and Wynn should see their share of time in the backfield. Nelson, a former junior college transfer, had a spectacular first season with the Beavers with a team-high six interceptions (tied with Rashaad Reynolds) and eight breakups.

5. Washington State

LB Darryl Monroe, DT Xavier Cooper, ?

The skinny: Do-all safety Deone Bucannon is gone after leading the team in tackles (114) and interceptions (6). He was an All-American for a reason. Monroe is an obvious choice for tackles, and Cooper is the obvious choice for sacks. But the secondary is wide open. Mike Leach has essentially said all four spots in the secondary are up for grabs. Clouding the issues is the future of cornerback Daquawn Brown, who has legitimate experience but also some legal hurdles to overcome.

6. California

S Michael Lowe, LB Jalen Jefferson, S Avery Sebastian?

The skinny: We all know about the defensive injury issues the Bears had last season, which is why Lowe returns as the leading tackler and tied for the lead in interceptions with one (the Bears only had five all last season). Jefferson returns with the most sacks, and Kyle Kragen appears to be a good fit for the scheme. (Remember when Kameron Jackson had three in one game!) We’ll see how oft-injured but talented Stefan McClure fares at safety. Getting Sebastian back from injury will help in the secondary. The pass rush should be improved with Brennan Scarlett’s return.

Biggest shoes to fill: Stanford

March, 25, 2014
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Starters in, starters out. That's college football. Players' eligibility expires and they leave for the rest of their lives, which might include the NFL or not. And they leave behind shoes of various sizes that need to be filled.

In alphabetical order, we will survey each Pac-12 team’s most notable void. Today we look at Stanford.

Biggest shoes: OLB Trent Murphy

A two-time first-team All-Pac-12 performer, Murphy led the Pac-12 in sacks (15) and tackles for a loss (23.5) in 2013. He also had 62 total tackles, an interception, five QB hurries, seven pass breakups, two forced fumbles and a blocked kick. The Cardinal not only will miss his HUGE production, they will miss his motor and leadership. While you could argue that the Cardinal has more uncertainty at running back, more holes on the offensive line and Shayne Skov leaves a huge void in the middle of the defense, Murphy's shoes still seem the biggest.

Stepping in: Junior Kevin Anderson

Anderson, at 6-foot-4, 244 pounds, is smaller than Murphy, though his motor is every bit Murphy's equal. He was solid as Murphy's backup last year, collecting 26 tackles, with 6.5 coming for a loss, with 1.5 sacks and an interception, and seemed to do his best work late in the season. The general feeling is positive that Anderson can step into Murphy's shoes and, at least, adequately replace his tremendous production. Still, if Anderson doesn't become the A-list pass rusher that Murphy was, the Cardinal might have to tweak some things schematically to figure out new ways to get pressure on opposing QBs. That might include more high-risk blitzing.

Previous big shoes
It is absolutely necessary, for the peace and safety of mankind, that some of earth's dark, dead corners and unplumbed depths be left alone; lest sleeping abnormalities wake to resurgent life, and blasphemously surviving nightmares squirm and splash out of their black lairs to newer and wider conquests.
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
The countdown of five things we learned from the first half of Stanford spring practice concludes.

No. 1: Reloading.

Stanford loses a lot of talent off last year's Rose Bowl team -- both on the field and the coaching staff -- but halfway through spring practice it appears to be business as usual.

After an open scrimmage dominated by the defense on Saturday, coach David Shaw made an observation: "Apparently we can play defense without Derek Mason, Shayne Skov and Trent Murphy."



At this point, he's right. Or at least appears to be.

There are a number of holes the Cardinal need to fill before the season opener against UC Davis on Aug. 30, but none of them paint the program as one that will assuredly take a step back. For the fifth straight season, the team should be in the running for the conference title.

Skov may be gone, but A.J. Tarpley -- maybe the most underrated player in the conference -- is back for his fourth season as a starter.

Mason is now at Vanderbilt, but new defensive coordinator Lance Anderson was with the program before Mason arrived and, like his predecessor, will keep the framework installed by Vic Fangio.

Murphy is off to the NFL, but James Vaughters and Kevin Anderson have shown they belong.

Four offensive linemen need to be replaced, but the line still figures to be a strength of the team.

After beating Notre Dame to get to 10 wins for the fourth straight season, Shaw said it "puts this program amongst the elite."

Nothing this spring has indicated anything will change.

Countdown

No. 2: Coaching staff settled
No. 3: Crower makes strides; Burns in doghouse
No. 4: No clear leader at running back
No. 5: The offensive line is set

Offseason spotlight: Stanford

February, 26, 2014
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We're taking a look at a player from each Pac-12 team who could step into the spotlight in 2014.

[+] EnlargeKevin Anderson
Richard Mackson/USA TODAY SportsKevin Anderson returned an interception for a touchdown in the Rose Bowl.
Spotlight: OLB Kevin Anderson, R-Jr., 6-foot-4, 244 pounds

2013 summary: Anderson had 26 tackles, including 6.5 for loss and 1.5 sacks, and one interception.

The skinny: Anderson, a redshirt junior, has big shoes to fill -- those that belonged to 6-foot-6 Trent Murphy, who led the nation with 15 sacks last year. When you toss in other big losses to the Cardinal's defensive front seven -- LB Shayne Skov, DE Ben Gardner, DE Josh Mauro, LB Jarek Lancaster -- it's clear that guys like Anderson are going to have to step up this fall if the defense is not going to take a step back after a dominant two-year run. The good news is Anderson is hardly green. He's been given significant playing time the past two seasons as Murphy's backup. He played an important role last season and was productive when he got on the field. He had 1.5 sacks against Oregon State, earning co-Defensive Player of the Game, and had a 40-yard interception return for a TD in the Rose Bowl against Michigan State. But will he be able to play the position the way Murphy did, effective against the run and pass? Can he consistently bring edge pressure, so the Cardinal aren't forced to take chances with blitzes? It will be worth watching to see what Anderson weighs in August. He probably could add 10-plus pounds to his frame without losing any quickness.

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