July 20, 2010
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Near the top of Stanford’s lengthy to-do list for the 2010 season is to quickly establish an identity and leaders on defense.
No where better to start the search than on the defensive line, which will be under the direction of Randy Hart, a 40-year collegiate coaching veteran who enters his first season on the Stanford staff after spending last season at Notre Dame.
“I don’t know if there is better guy out there than Randy Hart in the country,” says head coach Jim Harbaugh. “I really got to know him from his days at Washington but also this past year, watching the Notre Dame team, I really got enamored how good they played fundamentally and their technique.
“When you get a chance to get a Randy Hart on your staff, you look into it.”
Stanford’s defensive line will employ two ends and a nose tackle in its new 3-4 base with key returnees Sione Fua, Matt Masifilo and Brian Bulcke ticketed to hold down starting roles on a unit that has been one of the team’s strong suits over the last three seasons.
“If these guys lead the way and set the tone for the leadership on your ball club, you have a chance,” says Harbaugh.
Fua, a veteran of 37 career games and 18 starts, is slated to start at nose tackle, earned honorable mention All-Pac-10 honors last year as a junior at tackle, where he started the last 11 games of the season following an early-season injury to Masifilo. He finished with 24 tackles, including a season-high five stops against Oklahoma in the Sun Bowl.
“Sione is a guy who brings his lunch pale everyday,” says first-year defensive line coach Randy Hart. “He is a blue-collar guy with good hands, good feet and is a large body mass. He does a great job in getting where he wants to go.
“The nose tackle position is tremendously important in an odd-front team,” says Hart. “They have to handle the offensive center and down block on the guards. Because so many teams are in even fronts covering the guards, there aren’t many players out there coming out of high school who are trained in the position.”
Masifilo and Bulcke will bookend Fua at the end positions after both missed significant time last season with injuries.
Masifilo began last season as the starting tackle on a talented defensive line but was limited to eight games after suffering a knee injury in the second game of the season at Wake Forest. He missed the next five games before returning to action for the Arizona State game and by season’s end, was one of Stanford’s most effective defensive players.
“Matt played a lot of reps last year, but he has to be a leader on this team through his performance,” says Hart.
Bulcke has played in 35 career games, including nine starts over the last three seasons and played in the first four games of last season before a thumb injury sidelined him for the remainder of the campaign. A native of Windsor, Ontario, he was the sixth overall selection by the Edmonton Eskimos in the 2010 CFL Canadian college draft.
Hart likes the veteran make-up of this unit.
“Any team that has a championship year, you’ll find the seniors predominantly have had their best years,” says Hart. “It will be critical for Sione and Brian to have their best years in football this season and we’ll see where the chips fall.”
Two of the three players ticketed for backup duty in this unit are redshirt freshmen, including defensive ends Josh Mauro and Ben Gardner. Only sophomore Terrence Stephens, who is slated to work behind Fua at nose tackle, has game experience, having appeared in six games last season.