Meet R.J. Stanford, Part II

R.J. Stanford has a lot to work on before he plays his way into Carolina's rotation. The speedy rookie must refine his technique and improve his play-making skills, among other things. But according to Utah's assistant head coach, John Pease, Stanford has all the tools to develop into a top-of-the-line defender.

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John Pease knows what it takes to succeed in the NFL. By the time the Panthers joined the league in 1995, Pease was already in his tenth season coaching on the Big Stage. In all, he spent 19 years as an NFL assistant coach, splitting time between the New Orleans Saints and Jacksonville Jaguars.

Pease coached a lot of outstanding players during his time in the NFL, yet he counts R.J. Stanford among the best he has ever mentored.

"He is a wonderful kid with good size and blazing speed," said Pease of Stanford. "Prior to going into the NFL he did not have great hands, but he will work on that as hard as he needs to. He's also a great special teams player. He will make [Carolina's] team because he's a good football player."

Stanford is a well-rounded player. A former running back, he can return kicks and run end-arounds. On defense, he has experience playing outside and covering the slot.

His well-rounded nature extends beyond the field, as well.

"We appreciate education at Utah," Pease said. "That includes being on time and punctual. R.J. is a great kid with a great skill-set and a sense of discipline that was demanded by Coach [Kyle] Whittingham."

Pease recognizes Stanford has a long way to go. He says Stanford must improve his ability to make plays on the ball, a notion supported by the fact that Stanford had only one interception during his Utah career.

Fortunately, Pease believes Stanford will not sulk if he doesn't find instant success.

"I think he will just keep on working," Pease said. "There aren't many players that shine right off the bat. I was in the league for 19 years, and trust me, even Dan Marino and John Elway struggled the first year. It's not an easy league, but he is a great player. I think it could be a couple of years before he really blooms."

Stanford found an ideal landing spot with a Panthers team undergoing a youth movement. Carolina is committed to developing its young players, which could afford Stanford the time and opportunities he needs to realize his potential.

If he can do that in Carolina, the reward will more than justify the wait.

"R.J. has all the physical tools," Pease said. "He just needs to get used to the tempo of everybody around him."

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