BF.C First Look: Stanford

THE BEAVERS jump right into the thick of things with a Pac-10 contest in Week One, at Stanford. The Cardinal struggled to score points last year and head into their fall camp without a clear No. 1 quarterback. But optimism is high -- in Palo Alto and also in the local media -- that Stanford could send Oregon State home with an 0-1 mark to begin conference play.

Inside slant:
  • The Mercury News in part cites Oregon State's slow starts the past two years and moving the game up from October to Aug. 28 as potentially having a "monumental effect on the season — in a very positive way for the Cardinal."

  • QB Tavita Pritchard might have engineered the biggest upset in college football last year in the win over USC but he also may have lost his hold on the starter's job. Stanford went into the spring with co-starters at quarterback and ended the same way. Meanwhile, Jim Harbaugh has said the job is up for grabs and in the SID's spring outlook, which a school usually uses to promote the positives of a player, it was surprisingly uncomplimentary on the redshirt junior, saying for example in it's 2007 rundown that Pritchard, "was inconsistent for the remainder of the season".

  • Stanford this year split up spring ball into two sessions, from Feb. 26 - March 11, and from April 3 - April 12. The goal was to minimize the effect of injuries and allow more analysis by the coaching staff. The list of injured Cardinals who missed all or part of spring ball was lengthy, with 15 players sidelined to start the first session.

  • Harbaugh on occasion will use the media to send a message. Heading into spring ball, he said, "It's got to be an evaluation of every single guy on the team, any possible guy that could contribute and help in this '08 season has to be given a chance to do that, and then we've got to identify 'Can count on them?' or 'don't count on me', or 'they're a mistake and shouldn't be on a football team.' "

  • Richard Sherman is the Cardinal's best wide receiver and has led the team in receiving yards the past two seasons but Harbaugh clearly wants more from him, as this quote headed into spring ball illustrates: "But right now I couldn't tell you who best, second-best receivers are or who our two starters are. Jobs can be earned in the spring, no question about it."

  • Harbaugh singled out the following players who stood out during spring ball: CB Wopamo Osaisai, RB Taylor McGraw, OL Gustav Rydstedt, OT Ben Muth, WR Coby Fleener, DE Erik Lorig.

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    2007 Record: (4-8, 3-6)
    Coach: Jim Harbaugh (4-8 at Stanford, 33-14 overall)

    Oregon State at Stanford
    Thursday, Aug. 28, ESPN2, 6 p.m.

    * Stanford officially lists players with six or more starts as a starter so the numbers don't add up to 11 on either side of the ball.

    Offensive Starters Returning (9):
    Jim Dray (TE), Alex Fletcher (OG), Austin Gunder (TE), Anthony Kimble (RB), Owen Marecic (FB), Chris Marinelli (OT), Ben Muth (OT), Tavita Pritchard (QB), Richard Sherman (WR)
    Offensive Starters Lost (4):
    Mark Bradford (WR), Mikal Brewer (OG), Tim Mattran (C), Evan Moore (WR)

    Defensive Starters Returning (11):
    Chike Amajoyi (LB), Pannel Egboh (DE), Levirt Griffin (DE), Erik Lorig (DE), Nick Macaluso (LB), Pat Maynor (LB), Bo McNally (S), Wopamo Osaisai (CB), Clinton Snyder (LB), Ekom Udofia (DT), Austin Yancy (S)
    Defensive Starters Lost (2):
    Chris Horn (DT), Nick Sanchez (CB)

    Specialist Starters Returning (0): None
    Specialist Starters Lost (3): Derek Belch (PK), Brent Newhouse (LS), Jay Ottovegio (P)

    Offensive snapshot:
    While Pritchard and Alex Loukas are listed as co-starters at quarterback, don't rule out Jason Forcier. Stanford was woeful trying to score points in '07 and left tackle Allen Smith, their best lineman, has a fractured kneecap and might miss the season although Harbaugh has downplayed that possibility. The line allowed 48 sacks last year, the fourth worst in DI-A. The Mercury News opined earlier this year Stanford could be a power offense, with improvement up front and with the RBs, and questions surrounding the QB position.

    Defensive snapshot:
    A pressuring, attack style defense, the Cardinal played better in '07 than the stats would indicate. The defensive line and linebackers are the strength here but depth was an issue this spring and especially at d-tackle. Still, the defensive line has the potential to be the best Stanford has fielded in some time, if they can stay healthy. Big things are being counted upon this year up front from Udofia and Sione Fua and a linebacker corps led by Clinton Snyder (96 tackles, 2nd on team).

    Headed into fall camp..
    It's difficult to see a huge change in offensive production for Stanford but it's not hard to fathom there could at least be some decent improvement from last year's lackluster O. A long running quarterback controversy, however, could also take away much of those potential gains. The defense, keyed by the line, could be a very good group. There will be a few tweaks with a new defensive coordinator -- and look for them to put more of an emphasis on stopping the run. Stanford will have their share of stops in the backfield and sacks but they will also take more risks to do so. Last year, Stanford gave up a good number of long plays. With Stanford trying to correct that and still bring plenty of heat, the middle of the field, the short to mid-range slant or cross, could end up being a key way teams try to hurt Stanford on passing downs.

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