For our weekly feature taking a close look at Washington’s opponent, we turn today to Jon Wilner of the San Jose Mercury News, who runs the popular College Hotline blog, to give us his answers to five questions on Stanford.
1, Can you give us a brief overview of the Stanford offense to date?
A: The best way to describe the Stanford offense is balanced. The Cardinal is averaging 216 yards rushing and 250 receiving. Tailback Stepfan Taylor has taken over for Toby Gerhart and is 6th in the Pac-10 in rushing. Quarterback Andrew Luck (pictured right) can make plays with his feet as well as his arm, much like Jake Locker. And he won’t hesitate to throw to his tight ends and running backs, as well as his receivers. The offensive line is one of the best in the conference and has stayed remarkably healthy this season, allowing Stanford to make use of the same power running game it deployed last year with Gerhart.
2, And can you give a similar overview of the defense?
A: The defense was ripped apart last season but, with a new coordinator and new scheme (the 3-4), looked to be vastly improved in September when it shut out UCLA and limited Notre Dame. But then it gave up 87 points to Oregon and USC and reality set in: Yes, it’s better than last year, but it’s still not one of the league’s best. The line is solid, and the linebackers are smart and physical. But the back seven lacks speed and struggles in space, just as it did last year. And the best defensive back, safety Delano Howell, did not play last week because of an undisclosed injury. His status for Saturday’s game is uncertain.
3, And the special teams?
A: Chris Owusu is a dangerous kick returner but has been injured throughout the year and may not play this week. Kicker Eric Whitaker is lights-out on field goals (11-of-11) but has missed three PATs. The coverage teams are solid.
4, Andrew Luck got a lot of hype before the year as a potential high pick in the NFL Draft whenever he decides to come out. Has he played to that level so far?
A: For the most part, yes. Luck has a much tougher assignment without Gerhart around — he’s the focus of every defense instead of being a complementary player. He can make all the throws, he can run as well as any pro-style quarterback in the country, and he makes accurate reads. But he has forced a few passes (more INTs this year than all of last season) and struggled with timing because several of his primary receivers have been hurt.
5, Finally, what are a couple of the key things Jim Harbaugh has done to get the Stanford program where it is today?
A: Harbaugh has made the players believe they can win, first and foremost. He has installed a power running game that plays to Stanford’s physical offensive line. He also has a very good feel for play-calling. And lastly, he has recruited well — in part because of increased resources (in the form of manpower) from the university. After many years of losing, Stanford is devoting much more money to its football program than ever before. That includes salary increases for assistant coaches, to reduce staff turnover, and additional staff members who are able to identify prospects from across the country who meet Stanford’s admissions standards.
October 27, 2010 at 11:47 AM
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