Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Bilo's 2017 College Football Previews: Stanford Cardinal

Stanford Cardinal
I expected the Cardinal to slip more than they did a year ago, and even though it was a down year by normal standards, Stanford still managed to win 10 games after beating North Carolina in the Sun Bowl. That was a heck of a run despite not really having their chosen starting QB most of the season, and for the fact that their star RB was banged up a good chunk of it as well. David Shaw may very well be the best coach in this conference, and he proved it once again in 2016. Can he repeat that measure in 2017, even though he may not have as much offensive talent as North contenders Washington and Washington State?
What To Be Excited About: Offense
Keller Chryst is apparently healthy this season, and if he can hold it together, he may be the best passer st Stanford since Andrew Luck left. Chryst was never himself last season, and Ryan Burns took the reins and ran with it. All you need to know, however, is that Chryst had a 5:1 TD to INT ratio last season when he was able to go. That tells you something. KJ Costello took a ton of snaps this spring, as Chryst was not healthy enough to go after being injured and knocked out of the bowl game.
There is no doubting the talent that was Christian McCaffrey, but one silver lining of him leaving the team before the bowl game was that Bryce Love got to show us what he could do, and as it turns out, he is not half bad. He finished last season with 783 yards rushing, and averaged 7.05 yards per carry. With a full season to be the main back, he could be a massive breakout star.
The Cardinal will get their two top receivers back from last season in Trenton Irwin and JJ Arcega-Whiteside. They combined for 61 receptions last season in a bad QB year for the Cardinal. With both back in the fold, it could help stabilize the QB situation. Dalton Schultz caught 22 passes at TE last season, and also returns.
Stanford always has great lines under Shaw, and this season should be no different, as four starters return. LT AT Hall, LG Nate Herbig, C Jesse Burkett, and RT David Bright all return, and junior Nick Wilson will get the projected start at RG.
What To Be Concerned About: Offense
Even though I have listed Chryst as a reason to be excited, he still has to prove himself capable of being reliable and healthy this season. If he cannot do so, Costello will have a ton of pressure applied to him, and he is an unknown quantity at this point. Depth is not evident beyond that for the Cardinal.
Another area of lacking depth will be at both RB and WR, where the Cardinal do not have anyone who has shown flashes as, or has shown a capacity to make big plays and be the guy coming off the bench to provide relief. If injuries mount up, Stanford could be in trouble.
The Cardinal also will lose Conrad Ukropina at PK after he hit 22/27 FG attempts last season. Sophomore Jet Toner is projected to win the job in his place.
What To Be Excited About: Defense
One area where this football team never lets you down is on defense, and even with the loss of Solomon Thomas, there is still a ton of talent to go around.
Dylan Jackson (DE) and Harrison Phillips (DT) will try their hand at being the leaders on the line now that Thomas has moved on. Phillips is a bit of a beat inside, as he finished with 9.5 TFLs last fall. He finished with 46 tackles overall. Jackson picked up just 14 tackles in a rotational role.
JOey Alfieri is back at OLB, and he could be the new leader of this unit overall. He finished with 51 tackles last season, and added 10.5 TFLs, a total that was good for second on the team behind Thomas. He added five sacks.
Quentin Meeks is back at CB, and Justin Reid returns to the field at FS. They combined for 13 PBUs last season.
Jake Bailey was one of the best Punters in the conference last fall, and averaged 43.52 yards per punt.
What To Be Concerned About: Defense
Depth could be a major factor on the line, and it may be to the negative. With Thomas gone, the biggest play maker on the team is gone. Jackson was simply a rotational player last fall, and Eric Cotton is a new starter after making just four tackles last season.
Even with Alfieri and Bobby Okereke back at LB this season, this still is not one of their more talented LB corps of years past. Sean Barton and Casey Toohill, both juniors, are projected to start, but combined for 37 tackles a year ago, and depth, again, is not great.
Half of the secondary is in rebuild mode, even if a pair of seniors are filling the open spots in CB Alijah Holder and S Denzel Franklin. Holder is solid after wrapping 2016 with six PBUs, and is healthy again after losing time to shoulder surgery. Franklin is a total unknown, however. Once again, depth is a key issue.
2017 Schedule: 8/26 Rice at Sydney, 9/9 at USC, 9/16 at San Diego State, 9/23 UCLA, 9/30 Arizona State, 10/7 at Utah, 10/14 Oregon, 10/26 Oregon State, 11/4 at Washington State, 11/10 Washington, 11/18 California, 11/25 Notre Dame
Final Overview
Stanford over projected themselves last season after losses had everyone pegging them around the eight win mark. I think that eight wins is a fair mark to shoot for once again, but don't be shocked if Shaw finds a way to overcome that number once again. Stanford does not have enough weapons to win the North, however, and may be a year short of really competing for a conference title, and only if they can find a perfect QB, which they really don't have now. Still, this team should once again be a very difficult out.

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