Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Stanford Cardinal 2010 Review

Stanford Cardinal
2010 Record: 12-1 (8-1), 2nd Pac-10
2010 Bowl Game: Orange Bowl, Defeated Virginia Tech 40-12

      If it had not been for the dynamics of the Oregon Ducks, and a loss to those Ducks, the Cardinal may very well have been playing for a national title themselves last season, and as it were, the Pac-10 sent two teams to the BCS for just the second time ever. The Cardinal became a machine last season, but paid the ultimate price, when coach Jim Harbaugh left for the NFL. If Harbuagh had to choose a jumping point, this was his moment.
     Andrew Luck was the most desired college QB by NFL scouts last season, and was a sure #1 overall pick if he left. Luck passed for 3332 yards and 32 TDs with only 8 picks on the season, and he completed 70.7% of his passes on the season. He was able to move all over the pocket, make all the great throws, and he was able to move on his feet as well, as he added another 453 yards rushing with 5 more scores. Where Oregon won the conference, Stanford actually had the better QB by a nudge.
     Oregon may have had LaMichael James, but Stanford had Stepfan Taylor, and he was pretty good in his own right replacing the amazing Toby Gerhart. Taylor rushed for 1137 yards last season, and managed to score a whopping 15 times. He averaged 5.1 yards per carry, even though he finished averaging under 20 carries per game. What he turned out to be was a high yield back who the Cardinal never had to overwork. The Cardinal also got some vry nice work out of backup RB Anthony Wilkerson (89-408-3) and Tyler Gafney (60-255-4). All 3 backs return in 2011. If you wanted short yardage scoring, you had that as well in two way player Owen Marecic, who rushed for 5 TDs while also starting at LB.
      The Cardinal had 6 different receivers catch at least 20 passes in 2010. Doug Baldwin was by far the leader as he caught 58 passes for 857 yards and 9 scores. He was followed by Ryan Whalen (41-439-2), TE Coby Fleener (28-434-7), Chris Owusu (25-396-3), Taylor (28-266-1), and TE Konrad Reuland (20-206-1). TE Zach Ertz also added 5 TD receptions on the season. Baldwin, Fleener, and Whalen all moved on after the season, and Owusu missed 5 games last fall.
     Stanford's top 4 tacklers from last fall all return in 2011, giving new coach David Shaw a solid building block. LB Shayne Skov led the team with 83 tackles, while Chase Thomas (69), Michael Thomas (61), and Delano Howell (60) fell in line behind him. Owen Marecic and Richard Sherman busted the 50 tackle mark, but they moved on after last season.
     Chase Thomas and Skov were the principal pressure cookers up front, as Thomas led the team with 11 TFLs, while Skov finished with 10. Senior LB Thomas Keiser just missed double figures with 9.5. Thomas and Skov both led the team while netting 7 sacks each, and the team collected 36 sacks on the season.
     Sherman was the teamleader in passes defended with 9, but the Cardinal got solid play from Howell (5), Marecic (5), and Skov (5) as well when it came to covering the pass The Cardinal still gave up 200.3 yards passing per game, a figure that they would like to see lowered next fall. Howell led the team with 5 picks, and the incredible Marecic picked off a pass for a score.
     Nate Whitaker was very dependable last season at PK, and therefore will be difficult to replace. Whitaker hit on 17 of his 19 FGs, but he did manage to struggle just a bit on PATs, as he missed 5 of his 66 attempts. Dan Zychlinski was solid on punts, as he averaged 41.81 yards per punt on the season. Zychlinski will be back next fall. Owusu is a dependable return man, although he isn't blessed with blazing speed. He averaged over 24 yards per kickoff return. Drew Terrell was a niche guy as a punt return man, and he excelled in that role, having averaged over 12 yards per punt return.
Final Notes
      Nobody should feel badly for the Cardinal because Jim Harbaugh left. David Shaw is more than able as a coach, and Harbaugh set this program up for long term success.  Andrew Luck's return was hardly shocking, and with his presence, Stanford is likely just a win over Oregon away from getting their shot next season. Unfortunately for the new Pac-12, both of their best teams are in the same division, and that may make the new title game a bit anticlimactic. Oregon comes to the farm in 2011, so war has been declared.

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