Stanford wasn't expected to challenge for the PAC-10
title in Walt Harris' second season, but the Cardinal certainly should be
competing better than they are in 2006. The team has suffered a number of
critical injuries that have stymied the offense, but injuries can't explain the
loss to San Jose State in the second game of the season. The Cardinal followed
that loss up by getting pounded by Navy (37-9) in the unveiling of newly
renovated Stanford Stadium. Two more losses to Washington State and UCLA bring
the Cardinal to Notre Dame Stadium with a 0-5 record and searching for answers
on both sides of the ball.
Walt Harris has the equipment on offense to produce a lot of yardage, but for some reason the offense just hasn't put anything together. Losing several players for due to injury has contributed to their struggles, but this unit should be able to put up more than 19 total points in their last three games against Navy, Washington State and UCLA.
Harris will attempt to establish the running game, but he
loves to put the ball in the air. The running game has really struggled, which really hampers what Harris likes to do, which is use play-action to
keep the defense off balance. The Cardinal offense runs multiple formations,
and spreads the ball around. If Harris finds a mismatch that he likes, he
will wear it out. This isn't a team that is going to convert many third-and-long situations so it is vital that they get positive yardage on first and
Anticipated Depth Chart. Returning starter = +.
Trent Edwards (6-foot-4, 220) has good pocket presence and he does a good reading defenses. He's has an above average arm so he can make all the throws.
He's not a running quarterback, but he has good mobility and he can pick up
yardage if he decides to run. Harris even looked like he has used a couple
design runs for Edwards. In two games against Notre Dame he is 29-for-58 for 417 yards and two touchdowns.
He struggled in last year's game and eventually left early in the third quarter
with an injury.
Anthony Kimble is the starter, but he suffered a concussion against Washington State. He didn't play against UCLA, but he could be back for ND. He's the guy with some wiggle. He doesn't have great speed, but he does have a nice burst - elusive and can make tacklers miss. He has struggled in pass protection. With the trouble the offensive line has had protecting the quarterback, the Cardinal can't afford the backs to miss their blocks. He has 11 catches for 95 yards.
Toby Gerhart is a bullish type runner that has been very effective when he has been given the ball. He doesn't have much speed, and he isn't going to make defenders miss, but he will drag tacklers and punish smaller players. He has eight catches for 64 yards, so he can catch the ball. He has the size to be a very good blocker, but due to his youth, he'll make a mistake from time to time.
Jason Evans has a lot of potential, but he hasn't
developed into the player he was expected to be. He probably has the best speed
of the three, but he won't break many long runs. He lead the Cardinal in rushing
in 2005 with 248 yards on 72 carries.
Stanford starting fullback Nick Frank was diagnosed with a narrowing of a vertebra in his spine so he had to retire from football. This was a big blow to the Cardinal because Frank was incredibly versatile.
Emeka Nnoli is a nice player, but he's probably a bit undersized for a fullback. He's almost in the Raeshon Powers-Neal mold. He's a good athlete. He can carry the ball and he can catch it coming out of the backfield.
Josh Catron is in his first season at fullback after playing linebacker as a freshman. I doubt Notre Dame will see him. If Stanford has to find another body for fullback, they'll likely bring in one of the tight ends.
Losing Mark Bradford is a huge blow and he's a guy that has simply kills Notre Dame. In three games against the Irish, Bradford had 13 receptions for 262 yards and two touchdowns. Bradford is the guy Stanford will miss the most. He's the player that stretches the defense.
Marcus McCutcheon and Evan Moore have been injured as well, which has completely hamstrung Edwards the past three games. It is possible that either player could find their was back for Notre Dame. Neither receiver is in Bradford league, but they both have the ability to make plays. If the can't suit up Saturday, Stanford is really going to struggle stretching the field against the Irish.
Richard Sherman and Austin Austin Yancy are the freshmen that have been asked to step up and make plays. Both appeaar to have good athletic ability, but their youth has shown at timies. So despite some glimpses of productivity, Walt Harris has relied more on the steadiness of the walk-ons, Kelton Lynn and Michael Miller.
David Marrero, a former Notre Dame commitment that ultimately selected Stanford
is no longer with the team after three unproductive seasons.
Notre Dame will likely see two tight end sets from Stanford and they have some depth and talent at this position. Senior Matt Traverso is a very productive player, but he has has been injured all season and has only seen limited action.
Jim Dray is a player Irish fans should remember. Notre Dame recruited him when he was coming out of Bergen Catholic high school in New Jersey. Dray has started the last four games for the Cardinal. He is a very good athlete that has the ability to get down field. He is a tough match-up for linebackers. The downside is that he is young and he doesn't have the size to be a strong blocker.
Patrick Danahy has been up and down the Stanford depth chart, and I'm a bit surprised that he has been used more often this season. He's a solid all-around tight end.
Erik Lorig is another player that Notre Dame recruited out of
high school. After a lengthy recruitment Lorig finally settled in Palo Alto. He
certainly isn't the receiving threat of the other tight ends, but he is a very
good blocker. Expect to see him in the game in short yardage situations. It also
generally indicates that Stanford is going to run the ball.
Notre Dame fans have learned that an experienced offensive line
doesn't necessarily mean you get a productive offensive line. But despite Notre
Dame's offensive struggles, they pale in comparison to Stanford's 12.6 points
per game, 87.2 yards rushing per game, 2.6 yards rushing per carry, and 20 sacks
The Irish offense will see the 3-4 defense when they line up on Saturday. The Cardinal defensive coordinator, Tom Hayes, was at Kansas and the Washington Redskins prior to landing in Palo Alto. The linebackers are Stanford's strength and there are question marks just about everywhere else. The Cardinal defense is struggling almost as much as the offense, although the defense did battle UCLA fairly well despite being hung out to dry by their sputtering offense.
The Irish running game started to show some life
against Purdue, and it should be able to sustain itself this weekend.
Stanford not only gives up a mind-boggling 282 rushing yards per contest,
but they allow 5.8 yards per rushing attempt. Even more troubling for the
Stanford defense is that they are allowing teams to convert 60 percent on
Key Match-up: For the third straight weekend Notre Dame will face a very suspect defensive backfield. I'd make that my key match-up, but the defense is giving up so much ground that Weis will work Darius Walker early and often as he showed against Purdue. Notre Dame's offensive line must start establishing itself.
Anticipated Depth Chart. Returning starter = +
Chris Horn is probably the best player on the line due to his experience, but he needs to be more productive for this unit. He doesn't apply much pressure and struggles at times to hold his ground in the 3-4. Because Notre Dame isn't extremely physical upfront, he could have a big game.
Ekom Udofia and Pannel Egboh will
start at the other slots, but Notre Dame will see a rotation of several
players. Both Udofia and Egboh have made plays, but they're not making
enough of them near the line of scrimmage.
I'm not sure what has transpired in with the linebacking corps for the Cardinal, but they aren't making a lot of plays behind the line of scrimmage. They have a bunch of talent here, so I'm going to guess that the new defensive line is having trouble holding ground. There are several players that have started in the past, but they are now down the depth chart. Udeme Udofia (6-4, 240, Sr.) and Mike Silva (6-2, 230, Sr) are two of those players.
Clinton Snyder leads the defense in
tackles while Michael Okwo is third. Okwo will fly all over the field to
Brandon Harrison was the starting strong safety last season
and at times he looks like a strong safety playing cornerback. I think he's
playing out of position because of need. the other cornerback, Tim
Sims, hasn't done much better. Both players have struggled making plays on
Final Thoughts: There is no reason Notre Dame shouldn't dominate this contest. then again the Irish should have pushed this team all over the field last season and they didn't. The difference this season is that Mark Bradford will not be roaming the Notre Dame secondary. He is the guy Stanford needs to stretch the field on offense and he has given the Irish a bunch of trouble in the past.
The defense played more inspired last weekend against UCLA, but if their offense struggles, the defense is going to have a difficult time holding up under the pressure of Notre Dame's offense.
Preview: Notre Dame vs Stanford
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