April 3, 2006
A year ago at this time, head coach Walt Harris and his staff introduced a new program, a new system and a new modus operandi for the Stanford football team. Picked to finish near the bottom of the Pac-10 standings a year ago, the resurgent Cardinal battled to a fourth place conference finish and earned recognition as a team and program on the rise.
And now, in 2006, the Cardinal has its eye on continuing to bring Stanford back into the post-season bowl picture.
"I'm looking forward to this season because our system and our program is now set and the players have a better idea of what to expect," said Harris, who guided the Cardinal to a 5-6 record in his first season on The Farm. "We have a lot of experienced players back on offense and I expect us to be more effective and efficient in moving the ball downfield."
Stanford returns 16 starters and 46 letter-winners from last year's team, including 10 starters on offense. The only offensive starter not returning is receiver Gerren Crochet, and his spot in the lineup will be taken by senior Evan Moore, who suffered a season-ending injury in the first game of last season.
Quarterback Trent Edwards, last year's Team MVP, will be back for his fifth-season at Stanford. The Los Gatos native is eighth in the Cardinal record book in passing yards and total offense and has started 24 games for Stanford the past three years. "He has a lot of areas to improve, but he has the ability be a dominant player," says Harris.
Stanford also returns all but one of its running backs from a year ago, including senior Jason Evans and junior Anthony Kimble at running back and senior Nick Frank at fullback. Heading into the 2005 season, only Evans had played in the backfield for Stanford while Kimble and Frank were being converted from other positions.
"We are way ahead of where we were last year at this time with the running backs," said Harris. "We now have experienced players who are familiar with our system, which should make us more productive as a group."
"Bradford and Moore are two of the most respected receivers in the Pac-10," said Harris. "But, as always, the offense will depend on the play of our offensive line."
Defensively, Stanford must replace five starters who played a lot of minutes for the Cardinal the past four years. Stanford will look towards a group of young players to fill the gaps in 2006 as they get their first opportunity to play.
The returning starters and veterans expected to lead the Cardinal defense are lineman Gustav Rydstedt and Pannel Egboh, linebackers Michael Okwo, Mike Silva and Udeme Udofia, cornerback Nick Sanchez and safeties Trevor Hooper and Brandon Harrison.
In the kicking game, the Cardinal must replace four-year starter Michael Sgroi at place-kicker. The two candidates are senior Derek Belch and junior Aaron Zagory, neither of whom has kicked in the Pac-10 Conference. Senior Jay Ottovegio is back to man the punting duties.
"I'm excited to see our improvement from year one to year two," says Harris. "We have some talented and experienced players on our team, but we will need our young players to step up and become quality Pac-10 football players this season."
During his three seasons on The Farm, Trent Edwards (6-4, 220, Los Gatos, CA) has started 24 games and shown signs that he has the ability to become one of the best in the Pac-10. Now in his fifth season at Stanford, Edwards is the unquestioned leader of the Cardinal offense and the man who will be asked to lead Stanford's attack in 2006. Edwards has already cemented his name in the Cardinal record book among the great quarterbacks in Stanford history, but he would like nothing better than to lead his team to a bowl game in 2006. Edwards has completed 393-of-709 (.554) for 4,402 yards and 28 touchdowns the past three years. He is eighth all-time at Stanford in career passing yards, career total offense, attempts and completions and ninth in the record book in touchdown passes. "Trent has the ability to be a dominant player," says Cardinal head coach Walt Harris. Behind Edwards is senior T.C. Ostrander (6-3, 215, Atherton, CA), a two-year letter-winner who has proven to be a very capable Pac-10 quarterback the past two seasons. Ostrander has played in 12 games the past two years, starting two, and has thrown for 1,443 yards and five touchdowns while completing 95-of-193. Last year, he was 15-of-23 for 152 yards in the Big Game vs. Cal and 11-of-15 for 197 yards and one TD in an impressive outing vs. Notre Dame. His presence helps give the Cardinal two outstanding quarterbacks who are both capable of leading the Cardinal attack. Junior Garrett Moore (6-2, 205, Scottsdale, AZ) and sophomore Tavita Pritchard (6-4, 180, Tacoma, WA) are talented young players who will compete for playing time in 2006.
"We are way ahead of where we were last year at this time," says Harris. "We've got experienced players and coaches in our system, which should make us more effective." Stanford returns all but one of its main ball carriers from a year ago and will look to its running back duo of Anthony Kimble and Jason Evans to lead the rushing attack this season. Kimble (6-1, 195, Baton Rouge, LA) started the first six games in 2005 before giving way to senior J.R. Lemon over the final five, but it was Evans (6-1, 190, Acworth, GA) who wound up leading the team in rushing with 248 yards, although Kimble finished right behind with 244 yards. Kimble had 66 carries and scored two touchdowns while Evans had 72 carries and one TD. Both Kimble and Evans were impressive at times during the 2005 season. Kimble began the year with 59 yards rushing and a TD in the season opener at Navy and had 18 carries for 77 yards in Stanford's win at Washington State. Evans' top games included a 10-carry, 63-yard effort vs. Navy and a 62-yard game at Oregon. Kimble, who has three years of eligibility remaining and Evans, still with two years left, should form Stanford's one-two punch from the running back position. Junior Ray Jones (6-0, 210, Columbus, OH) and second-year player Xxavier Carter (6-1, 195, Dallas, TX) will also be in the hunt for playing time. At fullback, senior Nick Frank (6-2, 260, New Orleans, LA) was converted from defensive line a year ago and wound up starting all 11 games for the Cardinal last season. He finished with 134 yards and three touchdowns on 42 carries and continued to show improvement throughout the season. He could play a more prominent role in Stanford's offense in 2006. Senior Emeka Nnoli (6-1, 235, Sacramento, CA) earned his first varsity letter last season, sophomore Ben Ladner (6-3, 265, Kansas City, MO), a converted defensive lineman, and sophomore Josh Catron (6-1, 215, Torrence, CA), a converted linebacker, will backup Frank at the fullback position.
There is reason for optimism and cause for concern at the Cardinal wide receiver corps. Stanford does return senior Mark Bradford, who has 108 career receptions for 1,678 yards and 10 touchdowns, and senior Evan Moore, back from a season-ending hip injury a year ago, but overall depth and experience remains a concern. "In Bradford and Moore, we have two of the most respected receivers in the Pac-10," says Harris. "Our depth is thin, however, and we'll need to have some of our younger and more inexperienced players get themselves ready to play, and contribute, this season." In addition to Bradford and Moore, the only other receiver on the team with significant game experience is senior Marcus McCutcheon, who caught three passes last year. The other five receivers on the team are all walk-ons with little or no game experience. But in Bradford (6-2, 200, Los Angeles, CA) and Moore (6-7, 235, Brea, CA), Stanford begins with two outstanding receivers who are both capable of putting together All-Pac-10 seasons. Bradford led the team in receiving last year with 37 catches for 609 yards and six touchdowns and his career numbers could place him among the school's all-time top-10 receivers by the time his Stanford career concludes. Moore, of course, suffered a season-ending injury in the first game of the year last year, and his return to the Cardinal lineup in 2006 gives Stanford a tremendous threat at receiver. Moore caught 47 balls for 766 yards and seven touchdowns in 2003 and 2004 and his loss last year had a major impact on the Cardinal offense. McCutcheon (6-0, 200, Huntington Beach, CA) was used in a relief role last year, but he enters the '06 campaign as one of the team's most experienced receivers. The other receivers on the roster include sophomore Charlie Hazlehurst (6-2, 200, Hillsborough, CA), junior Kelton Lynn (6-2, 190, Boulder, CO), senior Michael Miller (6-1, 195, San Clemente, CA) and junior Nate Wilcox-Fogel (6-1, 185, Los Altos, CA) and Stanford will look for someone from this group to step up and provide valuable backup play at the receiver positions.
The Cardinal has a solid group of tight ends that includes both experience and youth. Fifth-year senior Matt Traverso (6-4, 250, Sacramento, CA) returns as the starter and most experience tight end on the roster. Traverso caught 19 passes last year for 223 yards and a touchdown while starting 10 games. Seniors Patrick Danahy (6-4, 240, Sarasota, FL) and Michael Horgan (6-6, 250, Pasadena, CA) both played significant roles a year ago and will be in the hunt to see increased playing time in 2006. Junior Patrick Bowe (6-6, 235, Deephaven, MN) and sophomores Erik Lorig (6-4, 250, Rolling Hills, CA) and Jim Dray (6-5, 230, Paramus, NJ) are talented young players who help form one of the most competitive positions on the team.
Of the 14 offensive linemen on the Cardinal's roster, seven have seen significant playing time as a starter, giving Stanford an experienced group who will compete for starting assignments in 2006. Oddly enough, the player with the least amount of staring experience is the only one who has assured himself a place in the starting lineup. The other four spots will be a battle between some very talented players who have enjoyed success as a starter. Fifth-year senior center Tim Mattran (6-5, 295, Chanhassen, MN), who moved into the starting lineup a year ago, begins the year as the Cardinal's starter in the middle of its offensive line. A former walk-on, Mattran became the starting center in game three last year and proved himself to be a valuable member of Stanford's offensive line. At the guard positions, sophomore Alex Fletcher (6-4, 295, Old Brookville, NY) and senior Josiah Vinson (6-4, 315, Irving, TX) held down the starting spots in 2005, but they will have to earn their starting berths once again in '06. Vinson has started 23 games in his career, including 20 the past two seasons while Fletcher started all 11 games a year ago, eight at right guard and three at center. Fifth-year senior Ismail Simpson (6-4, 305, Lawton, OK) started four games at guard a year ago and has started 26 games in his career and he will play a major role on the Cardinal's offensive line in 2006. At the tackle positions, junior Allen Smith (6-4, 300, Tempe, AZ) moved into the starting lineup at left tackle in game four and remained there the rest of the season as he continued to impress. At right tackle, fifth-year seniors Jon Cochran (6-6, 310, West Des Moines, IA) and Jeff Edwards (6-6, 290, Atlanta, GA) have each had time in the starting lineup for the past three years. Edwards, who started seven games a year ago, has started 26 games in his career while Cochran, who also started seven games in 2005, has started 20 in his career. In addition, senior David Long (6-9, 310, Madison, WI) will play a reserve role at right tackle and junior Ben Muth (6-6, 285, Phoenix, AZ) and sophomore Chris Marinelli (6-7, 305, Braintree, MA) will compete for increased playing time at left tackle. Others who will battle for playing time include senior Preston Clover (6-4, 290, Lake Forest, CA) at center, and senior Mikal Brewer (6-3, 295, Peoria, AZ) and junior Bobby Dockter (6-5, 295, Edmunds, WA) at left guard.
The Cardinal lost four-year letter-winners Babatunde Oshinowo and Julian Jenkins and finding their replacements will be a key for the Cardinal defense in 2006. New (and returning) defensive coordinator A.J. Christoff will have the Cardinal with three and four down lineman depending on the situation. In a three down lineman formation, Stanford will pull from a group of players that include both experience and youth. "We lost some good football players off last year's team," says Harris. "And we will need our younger players to step in and play at a high level this season." Returning starter Gustav Rydstedt (6-3, 290, Stockholm, Sweden) is "one of the toughest guys on the team" says Harris, and he will be counted on to hold down a spot in the middle of the Cardinal's defensive line. Competing with Rydstedt at one tackle spot are senior Michael Macellari (6-6, 290, Granger, IL), junior Alfred Johnson (6-4, 250, Washington, D.C.) and sophomore Matt Kopa (6-6, 270, Elk Grove, CA). Junior Pannel Egboh (6-6, 260, Mesquite, TX) played well last year and had just moved into the starting lineup at defensive tackle before an injury forced him to miss the final seven games of the year. He is expected to compete for a starting spot in 2006. Battling Egboh for one starting spot will be senior Chris Horn (6-5, 270, Dayton, WY), who started two games last year, and sophomore Tom McAndrew (6-5, 240, Glen Ellyn, IL). At the nose tackle position, there is a wide-open battle between senior David Jackson (6-5, 270, Dunwoody, GA), who received some game experience last year, and sophomores Ekom Udofia (6-2, 335, Scottsdale, AZ) and James McGillicuddy (6-4, 285, Worcester, MA), who both redshirted last season. When Stanford moves to a fourth down lineman, senior Udeme Udofia (6-4, 240, Scottsdale, AZ), who started all 11 games a year ago, sophomore Will Powers (6-4, 230, Foster City, CA) and junior Brandon Willetts (6-4, 230, Surrey, British Columbia) will man the "sam" position. In a three down lineman formation, they will be lined up as an outside linebacker.
Seniors Michael Okwo (6-0, 220, Redondo Beach, CA) and Mike Silva (6-2, 225, San Diego, CA), both three-year letter-winners, are the leaders of Stanford's linebacker corps. Okwo began the 2005 season starting at one inside linebacker position, but an injury forced him to miss several games during the year. He was one of the team's top defensive players before his injury and 2006 could be the year he makes his mark on the national scene. Silva started eight games and was fourth on the team in tackles a year ago as he became one of the integral parts of the Cardinal defense in 2005. In Stanford's 3-4 defense, both Silva and Okwo will play inside with Silva moving outside when the Cardinal is in a 4-3 alignment. Behind Okwo is senior Peter Griffin (6-0, 215, Memphis, TN), a converted strong safety, and sophomore Fred Campbell (6-1, 220, New Rochelle, NY), who redshirted last season. Backing up Silva will be senior Landon Johnson (6-1, 230, Arlington, TX) and junior Pat Maynor (6-2, 210, Jupiter, FL). The outside linebacker position will be very competitive among three players with little game experience. Senior Emmanuel Awofadeju (6-4, 240, Roswell, GA), junior Austin Gunder (6-4, 240, Red Lion, PA), a converted tight end, and sophomore Clinton Snyder (6-4, 215, San Diego, CA), who redshirted last season, will be battle for the starting spot.
Stanford returns three of its four starters in the secondary, but must develop depth at all four positions to become more productive. Seniors Brandon Harrison (6-2, 210, Baton Rouge, LA) and Trevor Hooper (6-1, 205, Mountain View, CA), last year's starters at strong and free safety, respectively, are back along with corner Nick Sanchez (6-0, 185, Belle Glade, FL) to form the nucleus of the Cardinal secondary. Harrison will be in the starting lineup for the third straight season. He was third on the team in tackles last season with 67. Hooper started six games a year ago and has started 17 games in his career at both free and strong safety. Behind Harrison is sophomore Bo McNally (6-0, 205, Salt Lake City, UT), who redshirted last season. Fifth-year senior David Lofton (6-4, 220, Plano, TX) will compete with Hooper for the starting spot at free safety and junior Aaron Smith (6-0, 180, San Diego, CA) will play a backup role. Stanford will look towards its group of young players to play alongside Sanchez at cornerback. Junior Carlos McFall (5-11, 200, San Antonio, TX) and sophomores Blaise Johnson (5-11, 180, Tempe, AZ) and C.J. Easter (6-0, 175, Foster City, CA) will compete with Sanchez at one cornerback spot while the other position will be a battle between senior Tim Sims (5-11, 190, Belle Glade, FL), sophomores Kris Evans (6-0, 175, Monroe, MI) and Chris Hobbs (5-9, 175, Marietta, GA) and junior Thaddeus Chase (6-0, 175, El Paso, TX). Sims and McFall earned letters a year ago as reserves while the four sophomores all redshirted a year ago.
The Cardinal must replace Michael Sgroi at place-kicker, but two-year starter Jay Ottovegio (6-0, 195, Coral Gables, FL) is back as the team's punter. Sgroi, who finished his career No. 4 at Stanford in field goals and No. 5 in scoring, was the team's top place-kicker the past four years. His successor will be one of two players who have not played on the collegiate level. Senior Derek Belch (5-11, 195, San Diego, CA) is in his fourth season on The Farm while junior Aaron Zagory (6-0, 165, Yellow Springs, OH) is in his third year at Stanford. Their continued improvement will play a key role for the Cardinal in 2006. Ottovegio has averaged 41.3 and 40.6 yards per punt in each of his first two years. He should be one of the top punters in the Pac-10 this season.