1. QB Josh Nunes (6-4, 225, Sr.): Is there any player with bigger shoes to fill than Nunes? All he needs to do is replace Andrew Luck, the nation's best quarterback and the top pick in 2012 NFL Draft.
Before taking the field against San Jose State, Nunes had recorded exactly one completion (on two attempts) for seven yards. Following up those career stats was the performance in the Spring Game, which was a stark departure from the efficiency displayed by Luck on a weekly basis. In that game Nunes completed just 38 percent of his passes for 167 yards. Fast forward to week one and the reviews aren't much better.
Nunes did complete 16-of-26 passes for 125 yards and a touchdown, but had two critical passes batted down at the line of scrimmage. Additionally he had trouble looking down field with the Cardinal's longest pass play going for just 14 yards while converting just two of 13 attempts on third down.
Should Nunes fail to keep his job, Stanford may give sophomore Brett Nottingham a look.
2011 v. Duke: DNP
2. RB Stepfan Taylor (5-11, 215, Sr.): With such a change in consistency under center, the Cardinal can take solace in the fact that the program returns one of the top running backs in the Pac 12. A preseason candidate for the Doak Walker Award, Stepfan Taylor enters 2012 ranking fourth on the school's all-time career list with 2,770 yards and needs 1,263 more to tie Darrin Nelson for first place.
A season ago he was a second team all-Pac 12 selection after averaging 5.5 yards per cary, and totaling 1,330 yards and 10 scores. He began 2012 in a big way against San Jose State, settling down his team with a rock solid stat line of 26 carries for 116 yards and a touchdown. He also factored into the short passing game with two catches for three yards.
2011 v. Duke: 14 carries for 75 yards; 1 catch for eight yards.
3. Ty Montgomery (6-2, 212, So.): may be the Cardinal's top receiver in 2012, after seeing action in all 13 games as a true freshman. He earned a starting gig in the final four contests of the year and provided Luck a big target down field. On the year Montgomery caught 24 passes for 350 yards (14.6) and two touchdowns. He also averaged 25.2 yards (680 total) in his 27 kickoff returns.
The talented sophomore did start the season strong last week with five catches for 49 yards, but could have had huge numbers had he not dropped a sure-touchdown late.
2011 v Duke: 1 catch for eight yards.
4. TE Levine Toilolo (6-8, 265, Sr.): During the adjustment from Luck to Nunes, the Cardinal seem to favor the short passing game. That could mean a huge role for a big tight end like Toilolo who coughed 25 passes for 343 yards and six scores a season ago. He's also one of the best blocking tight ends in the Pac 12. He finished his junior season as an honorable mention Pac-12 selection.
Toilolo was named to the Mackey Award list in the preseason, but managed just one catch for 13 yards against San Jose State. Still, when Stanford gets into the red-zone there's little doubt which receiving target gets priority.
2011 v. Duke: No stats.
5. K Jordan Williamson (5-11, 170, Jr.): earned second team all-Pac 12 honors a season ago by converting 13 of his 19 field goal attempts with a long of 45 yards. Williamson has been nearly automatic inside 40 yards during his career, connecting on 11 of 13 attempts in 2012. However, he made just 2-of-6 attempts from beyond 40 a season ago.
Williamson had no such issues in the opener, connecting from 46 yards and 20 yards against SJSU.
2011 v. Duke: connected on his only attempt from 40 yards.