13 for '13: Alex Carter and the great leap forward

Stephen Dunn

We have a pretty good idea of what to expect from Shayne Skov and Kevin Hogan this season - but 13 less heralded Cardinal players whose ability to adjust to larger roles will determine whether Stanford is competing for a 4th straight BCS invite or settling for a spot in the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl.

PREVIOUSLYAndrus PeatDavid Parry

Name: Alex Carter
Position: CB
Year: Sophomore 
Ht./Wt.: 6-foot, 200 lbs.
Career Stats: 14 games played, eight starts, 46 tackles, 3 forced fumbles as a freshman in 2012
Shoes to Fill: Terrence Brown

The Situation: Carter came into 2012 as a four-star recruit and the nation's fourth-best safety prospect, and left the 2012 season as the most impressive, most impactful freshman on Stanford's team. In fact, he was the only true freshman to become a starter (even though the offensive linemen all played a substantial amount, they didn't lock down one position like Carter did). After just one season, it's fair to say that he's indisputably the best cornerback on the Cardinal roster - but he has to go about proving it in 2013. Terrence Brown, Stanford's most steady CB, left early for the NFL, and now Carter will be tasked with improving on his extraordinary 2012 season and holding down the opponent's leading wideout every week. With the Pac-12 boasting guys like Marqise Lee, that won't be the easiest job in the world.

Camp Report: So far, Carter has done nothing to indicate that he's slowing down. The story, according to Cardinal Sports Report, is about who will play corner on the opposite side of the field:

True freshman corner Alex Carter flashed an NFL-caliber skillset... Either way, while Alex Carter is well on his way towards becoming a college star, Stanford will need a second corner to emerge for its defense to reach full potential. Shaw said that he's not as concerned about identifying one firm starter as he is about seeing a sustained high level of play from the corners.

What he's done: Carter's 2012 season (He had 46 tackles, including three tackles for loss, one pass breakup, and a team-high three forced fumbles) impressed pretty much everyone, including the Pac-12 coaches. Consequently, Carter was the only freshman on Stanford's team to earn Honorable Mention All-Pac-12 honors.

His season highlights were a career-high seven tackles in the Rose Bowl, and this massive hit against Colorado (36 seconds in):

That breakout play prompted some high praise from David Shaw to The Stanford Daily:

"Quick, fast, explosive, aggressive, tough, great ball skills, he's grown every single week and he's still growing," Shaw said. "He's kind of what you want out there as a corner.... He's just got more size and weight than those other guys. When he comes up and hits you, he lets you feel it."

Where he came from: Carter, a native of Ashburn Woods, Virginia, is one of many Cardinal players to have a father with NFL experience. His dad, Tom Carter, played at Notre Dame then spent nine years in the league with the Redskins, Bears and Bengals.

Carter was rated as a four-star recruit by ESPN, Rivals and Scout, but he was pegged as a safety by both Rivals and Scout - which makes his transition to the college game even a little more impressive.

Shaw had the sense that he was getting a good one when Carter signed with the Cardinal, and he threw out some hyperbolic praise for him on national signing day in 2012, before Carter had even taken a snap in Palo Alto:

"We're always looking for defensive backs, there's been years where we've gone through classes without a single one," Shaw said "But to get a guy like Alex Carter, who's that big physical corner that NFL teams are looking for."

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