Aug. 6, 2007
Jim Harbaugh, who guided the University of San Diego to back-to-back NCAA Division I-AA Mid-Major national championships, was hired on December 19, 2006 to take over the reigns of the Stanford Football program. For the 43-year old former NFL veteran, AFC Offensive Player of the Year and Big Ten MVP, it is a challenge he and his staff eagerly anticipate.
Harbaugh takes over a team that returns 53 letterwinners, including 17 starters, from a 2006 club that finished 1-11. Stanford has seven starters back on offense, eight on defense and both kickers.
"Winning starts with attitude," said Harbaugh. "Each season is new, especially this one, and it is our job as coaches to create a culture of working hard as a team and learning to trust each other.
"We will be a team that plays all-out, all the time," continued Harbaugh. "We will out hustle our opponents and play with great technique and continuous effort."
On offense, the Cardinal returns experienced players throughout the lineup, including a fifth-year senior at quarterback, its top three rushers, four offensive linemen with starting experience and an experienced receiving corps Harbaugh says could be among the best in the Pac-10.
"One of the strengths of our offense will be the skill players, and that starts with our receivers," he said. "We have some experienced receivers who have already proven to be quality Pac-10 players. I like our strength at the running back spot and our fifth-year quarterback."
"We'll have a West Coast philosophy on offense," he said. "We will be balanced running and throwing the ball."
Defensively, Stanford must replace three talented players off last year's team, but eight returning starters is a good place for the Cardinal to begin.
"We'll be an attack 4-3 defense," Harbaugh said. "I think our run-stopping ability will be much improved and our strength up the middle will be solid. I also like the depth and quality we have in the secondary. We will be a defense that flies around and hits people."
On special teams, Harbaugh was impressed with what he saw during his first spring practice season. "We will create the identity of our team through our special teams," he said.
"We will also be diverse enough on offense, defense and special teams to handle the talents of any motivated player who wants to play football at Stanford. I've never been a big fan of `this guy doesn't fit the system' - unless it has to do with toughness or character," said Harbaugh.
Following is a position-by-position breakdown of the 2007 Cardinal:
After four years of Trent Edwards, who departed the Cardinal program with his name firmly in the Stanford record book, Stanford will turn to a new starting quarterback in 2007. Only this quarterback is not entirely new to the starting position. T.C. Ostrander, now in his fifth season at Stanford, has started seven games and played in 22 over the past three seasons as Edwards' backup. He started the final five games of the 2006 season and finished the year completing 72-of-158 passes for 918 yards and three touchdowns. Throughout his career, Ostrander has thrown for 2361 yards and eight touchdowns and has shown the ability to become an outstanding full-time quarterback. He has seen action against the best teams in college football, including USC, Notre Dame, California, Oregon and UCLA, among others, and he enters the 2007 season as an experienced Pac-10 veteran. Behind Ostrander is sophomore Tavita Pritchard and redshirt freshmen Alex Loukas and Nicolas Ruhl. Pritchard, who redshirted his freshman season, saw limited action a year ago while Loukas and Ruhl have not yet played. Pritchard was the team's No. 3 quarterback in 2006. He played a reserve role in five games and threw just one pass. Loukas came to Stanford from Deerfield High School in Illinois in 2006 as one of the top prep quarterbacks in the country and will challenge Pritchard for the backup role in 2007. Ruhl is a walk-on from Lincoln High School in Stockton, California.
Stanford returns its entire backfield and all of its key players from 2006, but improvement in the running game is a must if the Cardinal is to increase its offensive production. The running back tandem of Anthony Kimble and Toby Gerhart is back in 2007 as is starting fullback Emeka Nnoli. Kimble, now a junior, started 11 of 12 games a year ago and led the team in rushing with 470 yards and two touchdowns. He also had a team-leading 114 carries, 4.1 yards per carry average and a career-best 58-yard run. Kimble has rushed for 714 yards and four touchdowns the past two seasons while catching 33 passes out of the backfield for another 301 yards and two TDs. Gerhart, meanwhile, came on as a true freshman last year to become one of the team's top offensive weapons. He played in all 12 games and wound up as the team's second-leading rusher with 375 yards. In his first two collegiate games, Gerhart was impressive in a 16-carry, 55-yard effort at Oregon and a 13-carry, 82-yard game the next week versus San Jose State. Gerhart is a two-sport athlete who also plays outfield for Stanford's baseball team. Jason Evans is a fifth-year senior who played a reserve role last year at running back and was the team's top kick return specialist (16-349-21.8). He had 72 carries during the 2005 season and has shown the ability to be an effective back. Two other candidates looking to earn playing time in 2007 are sophomore Xxavier Carter, who has not played the past two years, and redshirt freshman Tyrone McGraw from San Francisco. Nnoli returns as Stanford's starting fullback after a 2006 season that saw him in the starting lineup the last 10 games after Nick Frank suffered a career-ending injury. Sophomore Josh Catron, a converted linebacker, was a backup a year ago who will compete for increased playing time this season and redshirt freshman Sam Weinberger has been converted to fullback after working out as a linebacker a year ago.
"With Evan Moore, Mark Bradford and Richard Sherman, I think we have the potential to be the best receiving corps in the Pac-10," said Harbaugh.
Indeed the first-year head coach received a pleasant surprise when both Moore and Bradford decided to return to Stanford for the 2007 season. Both suffered injuries in 2006 and both had options to end their Cardinal careers. But, the return of Moore and Bradford, together with Sherman and the rest of the receiving corps, gives the Cardinal a very talented and deep group. Bradford has caught 118 passes for 1789 yards and 11 touchdowns in his Stanford career, and his season-ending injury in the first series of the second game last year was a significant loss for the Cardinal offense. Bradford caught nine passes in the season opener and was primed for an outstanding 2006 campaign before the injury. Likewise, Moore has suffered from injuries throughout his Stanford career. When healthy, however, he has proven to be a difficult matchup for defenses with his 6-7 frame. In 26 games, Moore has caught 64 passes for 1074 yards, 11 TDs and a 16.8 average. His best year was 2004 when he caught 39 passes for 616 yards and six touchdowns. Then there's Sherman, the second-year sophomore who led the team in receptions last year as a true freshman with 34 catches for 581 yards (17.1 ypc) and three touchdowns. In his last four games, Sherman aver-aged 101.5 receiving yards per game and 20.3 yards per catch as he made a statement as one of the top young receivers in the Pac-10. All to-taled, Stanford returns 162 of its 167 receptions from a year ago. Kelton Lynn, who started five games, caught 19 passes for 254 yards and two touchdowns while true freshman Austin Yancy, who may be moved to defense in 2007, hauled in 16 receptions. Three talented redshirt freshman who did not play in 2006 but look to battle for playing time in 2007 are Stephen Carr, Mark Mueller and Marcus Rance. Senior Mi-chael Miller and junior Nate Wilcox-Fogel help to give the Cardinal a very talented and deep receiving corps.
The Cardinal should be solid at the tight end position as 2006 starter Jim Dray returns along with two-year letterwinner Austin Gunder, junior Patrick Bowe and converted fullback Ben Ladner. One name missing from this list is sophomore Erik Lorig, who was switched to defensive end during the spring. Dray started 11 of 12 games last season and finished the year with 19 catches for 178 yards and one touchdown and has given notice that he has the potential to become an outstanding Pac-10 tight end. Gunder has been a solid contributor in a reserve role while Bowe possesses the ability to compete for his first collegiate playing time in 2007.
Stanford returns five members off its offensive line who have had significant starting experience, including four who were in the starting lineup at times during the 2006 campaign. The two most experienced linemen on the team are juniors Alex Fletcher and Allen Smith. Fletcher has started 20 games the past two seasons, 12 at guard and eight at center, while Smith has been in the starting lineup for the Cardinal the past 20 games. Smith heads a list of five tackles who will compete for playing time. Sophomore Chris Marinelli started five games a year ago and showed great potential while junior Ben Muth has been a valuable backup the past two years. Redshirt freshmen Joe Dembesky and John Kyed came to Stanford a year ago with impressive credentials and both will be given an opportunity to play a prominent role in 2007. Junior Bobby Dockter will also be in the mix at the tackle positions. At the guard positions, along with Fletcher, seniors Mikal Brewer and Preston Clover, both three-year letterwinners, will battle for playing time along with converted defensive lineman Gustav Rydstedt and redshirt freshman Andrew Phillips. Brewer has started six games in his career, including three a year ago. At center, Tim Mattran was granted a sixth year of eligibility by the NCAA after suffering through an injury-plagued 2006 campaign. Mattran, the team's starting center in 2005, was slated to be the starter a year ago, but was unable to play due to injury. His return is a big boost to the Cardinal offensive line. Competing with Mattran at center will be redshirt freshman Bert McBride.
Stanford will change to an "attack" 4-3 defense in 2007, utilizing two ends, a tackle and a nose tackle, although players are interchangeable at several positions. At the end positions, junior Pannel Egboh and sophomore Erik Lorig will man one spot while the other spot will be handled by three-year letterwinners Udeme Udofia and Emmanuel Awofadeju. Egboh started all 12 games a year ago and led the team with 5.5 tackles for loss while leading all linemen with 45 total tackles. His continued improvement will play a pivotal factor for the Cardinal in 2007. Lorig came to Stanford as one of the nation's top recruits and has played tight end the past two years, but his athletic ability will be tested on defense this season. Udofia started nine games a year ago at outside linebacker and has started 20 the last two years. Awofadeju has been a reserve player the past three seasons and a member of special teams. At nose tackle, the Cardinal threesome looks to be returning starter Ekom Udofia, senior Chris Horn and sophomore Matt Kopa. Udofia was the team's starter in all 12 games last season at nose tackle and was second among linemen with 43 total tackles. Horn had 27 tackles and four tackles-for-loss last season while Kopa played in all 12 games in a reserve role. Their combined game experience a year ago should pay dividends in 2007. At the tackle spot, Levirt Griffin, Derek Hall and possibly James McGillicuddy will do battle. Griffin played in all 12 games as a true freshman a year ago and gave notice that he has the skills to be a solid player for Stanford in 2007. Hall redshirted his true freshman season in 2006 and should be ready to contribute in 2007. McGillicuddy has not yet played for the Cardinal after two years on The Farm. He redshirted in 2005 and suffered though an injury-plagued 2006 season.
While the Cardinal must replace All-Pac-10 linebacker Michael Okwo, the cupboard is certainly not bare at the three linebacker positions as several returning players received significant playing time in 2006. Among the most experienced of the group is sophomore Clinton Snyder, who started 11 of 12 games a year ago at outside linebacker, junior Pat Maynor, a starter in nine games, and sophomore Will Powers, who started four contests. Snyder finished the 2006 campaign third on the team and 11th in the Pac-10 with 83 stops. Redshirt freshman Nick Macaluso had a solid spring and could be ready to play a significant role in 2007 as a backup to Snyder at one OLB spot. Senior Peter Griffin and sophomore Fred Campbell will compete for the other starting OLB spot. Griffin is a former walk-on who just keeps improving and has put himself in position to become a full-time starter while Campbell played in nine games a year ago and showed tremendous promise. Senior Landon Johnson will also be used in a reserve role at outside linebacker. The middle linebacker spot will be a battle between Maynor, the most experienced in the group, and talented sophomores Tom McAndrew, a converted defensive lineman, Powers, who moved over from OLB, and Brian Bulcke. Maynor had 44 tackles, including three for loss, in 10 games a year ago when he started six games in the middle and three on the outside. McAndrew played in all 12 games a year ago as a defensive end and had 14 total stops in 2006 while showing signs that he has the ability to be a significant contributor to the Cardinal defense for the next three seasons. Powers played in 11 games, starting four, and accounted for 17 tackles last season. Bulcke started one game as a true freshman last year before injuries slowed him throughout the remainder of the season. In his one start, however, he accounted for 14 tackles in a game versus Navy.
Stanford has three experienced cornerbacks returning in 2007 but must fill a big void at both safety positions. In Brandon Harrison, Trevor Hooper and David Lofton, the Cardinal must replace the three players who took most of the snaps at both safety positions in 2006. At cor-nerback, however, three veteran Pac-10 players return in junior Wopamo Osaisai and seniors Tim Sims and Nick Sanchez. Osaisai burst onto the scene at mid-season last year and earned a reputation as a playmaker with athletic ability and great speed. He started six of Stanford's final seven games, tallied 52 tackles and a team-high six pass breakups, and showed his speed with a 72-yard interception return for a touchdown, the fourth longest in Stanford football history. Osaisai also emerged as the Pac-10's top special teams performer as he was named a First Team All-Pac-10 specialist in 2006. Sanchez has started 16 games and played in 32 in his Stanford career and his 100 total tackles is tops among active players. Sims moved into the starting lineup for the first time last year, starting seven games, and led all Stanford cornerbacks with 54 tackles. Redshirt freshman Tyler Porras, a converted safety, sophomores Chris Hobbs, Kris Evans and C.J. Easter will also compete for playing time at cornerback. At the safety positions, there is youth and inexperience. Sophomore Bo McNally played in all 12 games last year, starting one, and is the only returner on the 2007 squad with significant game experience at safety. McNally will play strong safety along with junior Thaddeus Chase and sophomore Blaise Johnson
At free safety, junior Carlos McFall saw limited action last year in a backup role but emerges in 2007 with the most experience at that posi-tion. Austin Yancy, who started six games at wide receiver last year as a true freshman, was converted to free safety during the spring and showed tremendous potential and ability to compete for the starting role in 2007. Redshirt freshman Jerome Jackson will be used in a reserve role at free safety this season.
Stanford returns all four of its specialists from last year in P Jay Ottovegio, PK Aaron Zagory, LS Brent Newhouse, and kickoff specialist and backup PK Derek Belch. Ottovegio begins his fourth season as Stanford's punter. He has a career average of 40.6 and by the time the 2007 season concludes, Ottovegio could become Stanford's all-time leader in punting yardage and punts. Zagory hit 8-of-13 field goals last season in his first year as the starter while Belch missed his only attempt but was effective on kickoffs. Newhouse begins his fourth season as Stanford's long snapper.