Rebuilding a staff

At the introductory press conference for new Stanford head coach David Shaw last Thursday, he pointedly refused to answer the question on everyone's mind: what will become of the Stanford coaching staff? Departed head coach Jim Harbaugh got a lot of the press and deservedly so, but he assembled an exemplary staff who all played crucial roles in Stanford's Orange Bowl title last season.

Exhibit A is Shaw himself, who was promoted from offensive coordinator to head coach after spending five seasons under Harbaugh—the pair worked together for a year at USD before coming north to the Farm. Shaw has deep Stanford ties, playing on the team as a wide receiver from 1991-94 and graduating in 1995, and his father Willie Shaw was an assistant coach for the Cardinal in the 1990s.

Shaw's immediate task on the assistant coaching front will be finding new offensive and defensive coordinators. Harbaugh's new team, the NFL's San Francisco 49ers, raided the Cardinal coaching staff late last week. Three Stanford coaches—assistant head coach Greg Roman, defensive coordinator Vic Fangio and offensive line coach Tim Drevno—will join Harbaugh in San Francisco next season. Roman will be the team's offensive coordinator, while Fangio and Drevno will have the same roles they played on Stanford's staff.

The coaching brain drain will certainly have an impact on Stanford's program. Though Harbaugh never divulged exactly how the Cardinal called its offensive plays last season, it's widely believed that Roman was often the man behind the play-calling and the main brain behind Stanford's wild offensive success. Drevno coached an exemplary line that was among the best in the country, allowing Stanford to play its punishing style of football and keeping quarterback Andrew Luck on his feet. The Cardinal surrendered only five sacks all season.

However, the biggest loss has to be Fangio, who turned Stanford's defense into a force in his only season on the Farm. The unit's turnaround, from the Cardinal's weak link into one of the Pac-10's most potent defenses, came about in no small part due to his schemes and coaching. With a year of experience in the college game, Fangio could have been even better this season, but it's all a moot point now that he's back in the NFL.

With those three gone, and with Stanford keeping a tight lid on any assistant coaching speculation, I figured it's a good time to take a look at the three big names left on Shaw's staff and assess what role they might be playing for the Cardinal (or someone else) next season. Most of this is speculative, and while Shaw could certainly bring in outside candidates, he hasn't given any indication about which external coaches he might be considering.

Pep Hamilton, wide receivers coach
Reports have indicated that Hamilton has been promoted by Shaw to the vacant offensive coordinator position, fitting into the theme of ensuring continuity with the Harbaugh era. Hamilton has done a good job with Stanford's wide receivers, with Chris Owusu, Doug Baldwin and Ryan Whalen all having good years as targets for Andrew Luck. If I had to guess, I'd say that Luck's return factored pretty heavily into the decision to promote from within. As the sports press often likes to say, Luck is a finished product, and the last thing Stanford needs is a brand new coach who's going to tinker with the system and mechanics with whom Luck has had so much success.

Lance Anderson, linebackers coach
Anderson could be a candidate for promotion to defensive coordinator, given how dominant Stanford's linebackers were over the course of the season. That unit capped its season with a stellar performance against Virginia Tech in the Orange Bowl, where quarterback Tyrod Taylor was sacked eight times and Shayne Skov was an absolute beast. Anderson also isn't likely to bolt to the pros, since he's most valuable to Stanford as its recruiting coordinator. Keeping top-notch recruiting classes coming to the Farm is one of Shaw's top priorities, and keeping Anderson on staff will help achieve that goal.

Brian Polian, special teams coordinator
Like Anderson, Polian's main value is on the recruiting trail, and he's had a big hand in bringing highly touted recruits to Stanford. Polian has not shined as in-game coach however, as Stanford's special teams units didn't distinguish themselves this season. Polian has NFL connections—his father Bill is the president of the Indianapolis Colts and brother Chris is the team's general manager—but he isn't leaving the college game anytime soon, and he will likely hold the same position on Shaw's staff.

Keep reading all week, as we'll provide updates on Shaw's search for a coaching staff as they become available.

Are you fully subscribed to The Bootleg? If not, then you are missing out on all the top Cardinal coverage we provide daily on our award-winning website. Sign up today for the biggest and best in Stanford sports coverage with (sign-up)!

The Bootleg Top Stories