Another BCS bowl season is firmly in the books on the Farm, and with the students returning to classes for winter quarter, it’s already time to look ahead to see what 2013 will bring for the Rose Bowl champions.
First, the table for 2013 has already been set by the NFL – Zach Ertz, Levine Toilolo and Terrence Brown have decided to forego their senior seasons and move to the big leagues, while Shayne Skov, Trent Murphy and Ben Gardner – key parts of the defense that led the nation in sacks - are going to stick around for another run in the fall.
Meanwhile, all-time leading rusher (and Rose Bowl MVP) Stepfan Taylor and stud outside linebacker Chase Thomas will be drafted in April and graduate in June. Additionally, center Sam Schwarzstein, defensive tackle Terrence Stephens, punter Daniel Zychlinski and wide receivers Drew Terrell and Jamal Rashad-Patterson will also move on.
Altogether, it adds up to this – the 2013 Stanford offense will return seven starters, but loses its biggest and best playmakers, and the elite Stanford D will return ten starters.
Already, that’s a huge win for the Cardinal, and sets them up for another BCS run next season.
The defense, the offensive line (which returns four upperclassman starters) and the quarterback will all be rock solid – and that’s a foundation that almost always leads to success. The schedule is backloaded with games against Cal, Oregon, Notre Dame and USC in the final five weeks of the year, giving the team plenty of time to settle in to its new identity before making a postseason push.
NationalChamps.net, a website that makes its living predicting where teams will be ranked, already has the Cardinal slotted as 2013’s preseason No. 2, right behind -- you guessed it -- Alabama.
But all of those expectations do come loaded with some changes and uncertainty.
Pep Hamilton has already rejected an offer to move to Virginia Tech, but will he want to move to the NFL if one of those teams in need of an offensive coordinator comes calling?
The recruiting class is bound to be a smaller, less highly touted group than last year’s class – the 5th best in the country. (However, that small group already looks impressive.)
Stanford will lose players that accounted for 74.4% of its offensive yardage in 2012 – including the best all-around running back in school history. The Cardinal will need playmakers to step up at wide receiver and at tight end to give Kevin Hogan some new semblance of a passing threat.
However, the Cardinal can be sure that no matter what changes come down the line – and no matter how big those changes are – the coaching staff is more than equipped to handle the task. David Shaw and company assured everyone that they can handle big transitions without missing a beat – but I guess even that shouldn’t be a surprise any more.
For years now, Stanford has been teaching us one thing over and over again: doubting the Cardinal is not a profitable proposition.
And that bodes well for 2013.