Continuity, Confidence and Competition Buzz Words Among This Group
Chase Thomas finished as the team's second leading tackler last year as a sophomore.
July 21, 2011
This is the third installment of a 10-part series that will breakdown Stanford by position as the Cardinal prepare for the start of training camp on Monday, August 8. In this segment, we take a look at the Cardinal's group of outside linebackers, headed up by junior Chase Thomas, who earned honorable mention all-conference honors a year ago after finishing with 70 tackles.
STANFORD, Calif. --If you are looking for three words to associate with Stanford's defense for the 2011 season you might want to start with the three C's: competition, confidence and continuity.
After switching to a 3-4 base defense last season, Stanford finished the campaign ranked 10th nationally in scoring defense (17.4) and 21st in total defense, allowing just 322.8 yards a game to its opponents.
The Cardinal also posted three shutouts along the way and allowed just 56 points and seven touchdowns over its last six games, two of which came in the fourth quarter against Cal after Stanford had built a 45-0 lead.
Two of Stanford's four leading returning tacklers came from the linebacker position. Junior outside linebacker Chase Thomas flourished in the team's new 3-4 alignment last season, finishing second on the team in tackles with 70, including a team-high 11.5 for loss. His 7.5 sacks tied for the team lead along with Shayne Skov.
Thomas' combination of speed and quickness along with natural pass rushing ability make him one of the conference's top talents at his position.
"Chase is maturing as a football player," said outside linebackers coach Lance Anderson. "He is smart, understands the game and has a great football I.Q. he has worked hard in the weight room to become a stronger, more explosive player. He has some great natural pass rushing abilities and a combination of a lot of skills we look for at the outside linebacker position.
"Thomas was a physical player who did a lot of good things for us last year but we have some good kids who were behind him that are ready to step up," said Anderson.
"We had some great competition in the spring between Trent Murphy, Alex Debniak and Blake Lueders. All three players have difference strengths and bring something different to the position."
Murphy seemed to be on the fast track last season, but was lost for the season after sustaining an injury in the second game of the season at UCLA. Debniak's combination of speed, quickness and strength will earn him plenty of playing time, while Lueders saw action in 10 games last year as a freshman.
Anderson thinks familiarity with the 3-4 base defense will be a key heading into training camp.
"Being in the same defense for the second year in a row will help us play faster and make more plays. We are much more confident in what we are doing.
"We made a lot of strides defensively last year and by the end of the season, we were playing at a pretty high level," he said. "As a coaching staff, we've continued to preach to our guys that we need to continue to build on what we did last year and keep pushing to get better. I think we will. These guys have bought into the system."