2017 Stanford Cardinal Position Group Preview
Greetings, friends. How have you been? Missing football terribly, you say? Yeah. Me too. Well, blissfully, our long national nightmare is almost over. We are already in the last month of 2017 without football, and the season will commence before the very next month on the calendar has ended.
So let’s take a look at Stanford’s 2017 position groups, shall we? Stanford loses not one, but two of the very best players in its storied history to the NFL in Solomon Thomas (#3 overall draft pick, to San Francisco) and Christian McCaffrey (#8 overall draft pick, to Carolina). That hurts. That would hurt any program. The key question is whether the 2017 Cardinal will be more like the Tee Martin-led Tennessee Volunteers after Peyton Manning exhausted his eligibility, or like Auburn after Cam Newton took his talents and Heisman to Carolina after his national championship season. Let’s break down the Cardinal’s 2017 depth chart.
Stanford returns Keller Chryst, assuming his ruptured ACL has properly mended in time for the beginning of fall camp. Head Coach David Shaw was optimistic in the spring that this would be the case. We will know soon enough. Check out my take on Stanford’s deep-yet-uncertain QB situation with friend-of-LWOS Mark Rogers:
Stanford looks to be just fine, thankyouverymuch at the running back position. Quicker than a lightning bug Bryce Love will be the feature back this fall. Love brings world class speed to the position, even if he lacks the wiggle that McCaffery had (like every other running back in the universe). Cameron Scarlett returns to handle short-yardage duties. Fullback Daniel Marx returns following his injury-shortened season in 2016.
The hallmark of the Harbaugh-Shaw era of unprecedented success on The Farm has been its Tunnel Workers Union. The unit struggled early in the season, but jelled at mid-year after freshman Nate Herbig emerged at left guard. Pro tip: do not be surprised to see redshirt freshman Devery Henderson break out in a similar way in 2017. The resurgence also coincided with the softening of the Cardinal’s brutal 2016 schedule, but there’s little question that the offense looked significantly more like the unit to which the Stanford faithful had become accustomed.
Stanford lost speedy wideouts Michael Rector and Francis Owusu to graduation. The Card returns steady possession receiver Trenton Irwin and 2016 breakout performer JJ Arcega-Whiteside. Additionally, Dalton Schultz will be one of the conference’s very best at tight-end, and has capable backups behind him.
2017 Stanford Cardinal Position Group Preview
The DLine will be Stanford’s thinnest position group, as it was in 2016. The loss of Solly Thomas hurts this group more than McCaffery’s departure will hurt the running back group. Still, Stanford returns last year’s sack leader, Harrison Phillips, whose work on the inside freed Thomas up to wreak so much havoc on the outside a season ago. Dylan Jackson and Eric Cotton must play well on the outside for the Cardinal defense to be strong again this season.
The Cardinal return a wealth of depth and experience at the defense’s second level. Joey Alfieri and Peter Kalambayi are potential all-conference performers at outside linebacker. Expect Bobby Okereke and Kevin Palma to ably hold down the two starting inside positions. This group boasts able, experienced backups as well. As has often been the case, Stanford’s linebacker group will be one of the key strengths of the 2017 team.
Quentin Meeks leads one of the elite defensive backfields in the Pac-12, if not the nation. Defensive Coordinator Lance Anderson and Defensive Backs’ Coach Duane Akina are hoping that opposing teams will underestimate this group. I recommend that these men not be taken lightly. Alijah Holder will benefit from a reluctance to test Meeks. Additionally, Justin Reed and Brandon Simmons will lay the leather in the center of the field. All four starters have talented, experienced backups, so look out Pac-12 QBs.
An overlooked transition must take place at placekicker. Stanford must replace the most accurate kicker in its history in Conrad Ukropina. National all-name team candidate Jet Toner was impressive in the spring game, and looks to handle the placekicking duties. Jake Bailey returns to handle kickoffs and punts after a very strong freshman year. Look for Jay Tyler to assume McCaffrey’s punt return duties. Bryce Love is listed as the primary kickoff return man.
There you have it, #NerdNation. I’ll be back soon with a game-by-game projection for Stanford’s 2017 season. #SpoilerAlert: this year’s Cardinal will be better than many expect. Please spend as much time as you can outside over the next 50 days or so, prior to the start of the season.