Tarpley, Anderson on the Way Back
Inside linebacker A.J. Tarpley and defensive end Henry Anderson will both return to Stanford for their fifth year of eligibility in 2014, providing a significant offseason boost to a Cardinal defense that's certainly losing Shayne Skov, Trent Murphy, and Josh Mauro. Anderson, who missed much of the season with a knee injury that bothered him even after his November 7 return, should allow the Cardinal to maintain much of its physical prowess along the defensive line. Tarpley's 93 tackles this season were second only to Skov, so his return helps buoy a linebacker corps that will also be required to replace top-flight talent next year.
Coming back for 1 more year. pic.twitter.com/Q0xMReAvVj— Henry Anderson (@HenryAnderson91) January 9, 2014
Both of today's decisions were expected, but three less certain ones remain to be made. Left guard David Yankey, free safety Ed Reynolds, and right tackle Cam Fleming all have until January 15 to decide whether or not they want to declare for the NFL Draft. The Bootleg's predictions: Yankey and Reynolds will leave Stanford, while Fleming will stick around for his fifth year. By the way, here's our complete 2014 Stanford defensive prospectus.
In other news, David Shaw re-affirmed our earlier news from the Rose Bowl locker room, which hinted at good news for wide receiver Ty Montgomery. He injured his knee during the fourth quarter on January 1 but is working his way back to a return in spring ball.
Big Recruiting Weekend
Stanford must quickly turn the page from a disappointing Rose Bowl to the immediate future. The February 5 National Signing Day is less than a month away, and significant work is still required to close what's expected to be a large 2014 recruiting class. The Cardinal have received verbal pledges from 16 recruits thus far, but The Bootleg estimates that about 23 scholarship will be open next year.
That makes this primary official visit weekend critical for David Shaw's efforts to ink another solid recruiting class. Tight end Dalton Schultz, offensive linemen Casey Tucker and Jesse Burkett, defensive end Solomon Thomas, and defensive back Terrence Alexander -- all key Stanford targets who have not yet pledged to play for the Cardinal -- are expected to visit campus this weekend.
Immediate commitments from Schultz, Tucker, and Thomas are not expected since all three have official visits to other schools scheduled after this weekend, but Stanford does appear to be in strong shape with each of the undecideds. The Cardinal is battling home-state Utah and Arizona State for Schultz and Tucker, respectively, while Thomas has listed a top five of Stanford, Ohio State, Arkansas, Texas, and UCLA. Alexander, a strong Stanford lean, is awaiting an admissions decision, while Burkett is currently committed to Vanderbilt.
Here's a complete list of this weekend's visitors.
2014 Schedule: Fan Disappointment, But Good Football Spacing?
The Pac-12 has released Stanford's 2014 schedule, and it features one of the least appealing (from the fans' perspective) home slates possible for a team competing in such a strong conference. Even-numbered years typically feature 'down' schedules, since the Cardinal plays marquee games against Oregon, Notre Dame, Cal, and UCLA on the road in these seasons. But 2014's schedule is especially disappointing because Stanford's sole prestigious home match-up against USC is slotted for September 6, a full two weeks before students arrive on campus for Fall Quarter (2012 featured a similar problem, but the USC game was a week later on September 15, so many students were able to work around the scheduling difficulty).
The Cardinal opens with three consecutive home games, leaving only three home contests against remarkably average competition (Washington State, Oregon State, and Utah -- a combined 18-20 in 2013) on the table for when school is in session. The October 10 game against the Cougars falls on a Friday night, and the season-opening tilt with South Bay rival San Jose State has been replaced with an August 30 match-up against FCS program UC Davis. The Spartans will travel to play Auburn instead.
The Good News
However disappointing the schedule may be to students and season ticketholders, it must be noted that from a strictly football perspective, Stanford's schedule does offer appealing spacing between what are expected to be the team's toughest opponents. The Trojans are sandwiched by easily winnable games against Davis and Army, while trips to Arizona State and Oregon are buffered by the home games against Washington State, Oregon State, and Utah -- all of which are very manageable. There appears to be only one truly daunting two-game stretch on the entire slate, and that comes when the Farm Boys will travel to Washington (Sept. 27) and Notre Dame (Oct. 4) on back-to-back Saturdays.
Return of the Rematch?
The season finale at UCLA is an unexpected quirk. After the 2012 season, during which Stanford played the Bruins two times in six days, Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott said that schedules would no longer feature inter-divisional match-ups on the final week of the regular season to prevent another immediate title game rematch. Despite that, the possibility of 2012 deja vu is back on the table: The Cardinal and the Bruins will go at it on November 28 (Black Friday), one week before the Friday, December 5 Pac-12 Championship Game.
2014 Stanford Schedule
April 12 - Spring Game
August 30 - vs. UC Davis
September 6 - vs. USC
September 13 - vs. Army
September 20 - Bye
September 27 - at Washington
October 4 - at Notre Dame
October 10 (Friday) - vs. Washington State
October 18 - at ASU
October 25 - vs. Oregon State
November 1 - at Oregon
November 8 - Bye
November 15 - vs. Utah
November 22 - at Cal
November 28 - at UCLA
December 5 (Friday) - Pac-12 Championship
David Lombardi is the Stanford Insider for The Bootleg. Check him out at www.davidlombardisports.com and follow him on Twitter @DavidMLombardi.
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