Skill Position Starters
Stanford ranks 13th in the nation with 219 rushing yards per game (over 230 in three of its last four) and 13th in scoring as well (35.3 points-per-contest). The Cardinal has scored 38, 33, 51, 55, and 28 points in its last five outings.
- Quarterback – Redshirt-Freshman #12 Andrew Luck: Talented, mobile, strong-armed first-year player still lacks consistent accuracy but can beat a defense with both his feet and rocket arm. The 6'4" 235-pound Luck can make every throw and enters the final game of his college career in which he won't be the focal point of the Cardinal offense.
Running back Toby Gerhart (below) is a given Saturday night; he will produce over the course of four quarters vs. the Irish. If Notre Dame can keep Luck in check (as did the Cal Bears last week, limiting him to 10 completions in 30 attempts) the defense could contribute to an upset win for a program under difficult circumstances on The Farm.
- Running back – Senior #34 Toby Gerhart: The nation's 3rd leading rusher at 139 yards per game and ranks first nationally in total touchdowns (23). Gerhart posted more than 100 yards on just 13 carries last season vs. the Irish and has piled up just under 800 rushing yards and 13 touchdowns in his last five games.
The Irish have faced Joe McKnight, Dion Lewis and the duo of Jordan Todman/Andre Dixon already this season but Gerhart represents the biggest individual challenge of the season for the struggling Notre Dame front seven. He's an automatic six points in goal line situations and is rarely stopped when hit short of the line of scrimmage.
- Fullback – Sophomore #48 Owen Marecic: A tremendous lead-blocker for Gerhart and key No. 1A to the powerful Stanford running game. The 6'1" 244-pound junior finishes every block and it will be incumbent upon Irish middle linebacker Brian Smith to find a way to shed or the Irish rush defense will be in for a rough evening in Palo Alto.
Marecic has notched 8 receptions for a surprising 16.5 yards per catch and a touchdown. Has two rushing touchdowns on just five rushing attempts this year but Marecic earns his keep as one of the nation's best blockers from the I-formation.
- Wide Receiver – Junior #8 Ryan Whalen: Savvy route runner leads the the Cardinal in receptions (48) receiving yards (786) and is tied for second on the squad in TD receptions with three. The 6'2" 205-pound former walk-on led Stanford with 34 catches last season including a career-best eight catch/91-yard performance vs. Notre Dame in South Bend. Whalen is a willing receiver underneath, more than capable of bracing for the hit and concentrating on tough catches inside and though he doesn't have great speed, serves as a dependable downfield target as well with good concentration in one-on-one situations.
- Wide Receiver – Sophomore #81 Chris Owusu: Described by Charlie Weis as a "dynamic return man," Owusu serves as Luck's downfield threat on go routes and has improved as a threat inside the hash marks this season. The 6'2" 201-pound sophomore was Jimmy Clausen's high school teammate at Oaks Christian. Ranks second on the squad with 34 receptions for 636 yards and leads the team with five touchdown grabs. Owusu has averaged 32.5 yards on kick returns this season (4th nationally) including three returns for touchdowns and another against Oregon inside the Duck's 15-yard line to open the contest.
- Tight End – 5th-Year Senior #83 Jim Dray: A returning starter, the 6'5" 255-pounder from Bergen Catholic high school in New Jersey has started 32 career games at tight end. A reliable red zone target, Dray caught a 4th Quarter touchdown pass last season vs. the Irish and has added three more scores this year on eight receptions.
- Left Tackle – Redshirt-Freshman #73 Jonathan Martin: Noted by Weis for his improvement over the course of the season, the 6'6" 291-pound Martin uses his hands well in pass protection as Luck's blindside protector (the Cardinal have allowed just six sacks this season).
- Left Guard – Junior #71 Andrew Phillips: In his second season as a starter, the 6'5" 299-pounder made the switch from the right side for 2009 and works well in tandem with center Chris Beeler and shows good feet for an interior 300-pounder in pass protection and finding linebackers at the second level.
- Center – Junior #72 Chris Beeler: . 6'3" 285-pound transfer from Oklahoma runs the show inside for one of the nation's most physical offensive lines. Excels sealing his defender, a key element to the running game as flailing arm tackles do little to deter Gerhart's inside power.
- Right Guard – Redshirt-Freshman #52 David DeCastro: Massive first year player, the 6'5" 310-pound first year starter is a powerful lead blocker, capable of neutralizing the defensive tackle and still limiting a linebacker attempting to fill his running lane.
- Right Tackle – Senior #63 Chris Marinelli: Public enemy No. 1 for Irish fans last season after calling out the Notre Dame defensive line and these words of wisdom:
"They have one sack all year in 200 blitzes. We are going to gash the (expletive) out of them, I promise you that."
Notre Dame sacked Stanford quarterback Tavita Pritchard five times (a regular season high); two over the shoulder of Marinelli as senior Pat Kuntz played the game of his life vs. the mouthy right tackle.
The 6'7" 300-pound four-year starter (37 career starts to lead the Cardinal) has improved this season, especially as a run-blocker as Gerhart often follows Marinelli over the right side into the end zone.
- Running back – Freshman #31 Stepfan Taylor: At 5'11" 209 pounds, Taylor offers a change-of-pace from Gerhart, playing in all 11 games while rushing for 267 yards (a robust 6.1 average) and two touchdowns.
- Wide Receiver (Slot) – Junior #17 Griff Whalen: Switched from the defensive backfield in the spring and has emerged as of late as a reliable inside receiver. Griff is not related to teammate and fellow receiver Ryan Whalen (above).
- Tight End – Junior #82 Coby Fleener: At 6'6" 241 pounds, Fleener stresses the defense when flexed out as an extra receiver (much like the "detached" look Irish fans have seen with Kyle Rudolph). Ranks third on the team with 16 receptions and 202 yards on the season. li>
- Tight End – Junior #88 Konrad Reuland: Notre Dame transfer is in a hybrid tight end/receiver role, catching six passes for 142 yards (23.7 average is the highest on the squad), a total that includes a 45-yard catch. Reuland has started three games (Washington, UCLA, Arizona) as an extra wide receiver.