Winter is about laying the foundation for the fall - in the weight room and in the football offices.
That's what David Shaw's Stanford teams have been all about, and he now has to tackle another off-season of staff turnover after losing trusted offensive assistant Mike Sanford to Boise State and rising star Derek Mason to Vanderbilt. So where do Shaw and Stanford go from here?
The next DC
With Mason's departure, it seems likely that David Shaw will promote from within to find his next defensive coordinator - that's generally been his first choice during the time he's controlled the program. The natural name to consider, then, is outside linebackers coach Lance Anderson. Anderson has coached from the sideline for years now, and he's almost always the first guy off the sideline to talk to the D during timeouts.
Anderson hasn't called defensive plays in a long time, but that doesn't mean in any way that he's unfit for the job - he's coached defensive line and outside linebackers for the last seven seasons, so he's as plugged in to Stanford's 3-4 defense as anyone on staff. Anderson turned down the chance to go to University of South Florida to be the defensive coordinator for the Bulls last year, it seems logical that he may have been waiting for this promotion. After all, it was pretty obvious that Mason's sharp mind wouldn't stay on the Farm forever.
The other good thing about promoting Anderson is that it would allow one of Stanford's best recruiters to take on more responsibility within the program. Anderson's been recognized as one of the best recruiters on the west coast for several years, and he plays an integral role in the program as the staff's admissions liaison.
Thinking outside the box
Of course, because Derek Mason was Stanford's DB coach - and he took inside linebackers coach David Kotulski with him to Vanderbilt - there might be some serious staff changes if Shaw decides to go a different direction. A natural name to mention for the next DC is former USC and Cal coordinator Clancy Pendergast, who runs a 3-4 system and also coaches defensive backs, but hasn't found a landing spot since leaving USC.
Cost might be prohibitive with acquiring Pendergast - he's an extremely experienced guy and might want to go to the NFL - but he's had proven success as both a coach and as a recruiter in the Pac-12. And given that Mason was a very solid recruiter (and that Stanford lost recruiting whiz Mike Sanford to Boise State this offseason) it's going to be important to get some aggressive, credible recruiters on the trail.
Potential staff changes
Mason's already taken Kotulski and some other (less well-known) assistants from Stanford, but his hiring of former UCLA head coach Karl Dorrell to be his offensive coordinator means that Mike Bloomgren won't be heading with him to Nashville. It seemed that there was the potential for that to happen when Vandy O-line coach Herb Hand left to go to Penn State, but instead it means that the only offensive assistant that Shaw must replace is Mike Sanford (even though Tavita Pritchard was promoted to take Sanford's old job). Shaw will likely have to find just three or four new position coaches to fill out his staff before spring practice starts.
Mason and Sanford's departure means that Stanford is losing two of its most important recruiters in one year, but it doesn't look like they've had big ripple effects on this year's class. Four-star Utah tight end Dalton Schultz and four-star Arizona tackle Casey Tucker have committed to the Cardinal within the last week, and while defenders Nifae Leaalo and Kirk Tucker both decommitted during that time frame, it appears that they were not admitted, thus ending their recruitment rather abruptly and somewhat awkwardly. But so it goes at Stanford.
The biggest recruiting question up in the air at the moment is defensive lineman Solomon Thomas, a Texas native who's narrowed his choices down to Stanford, UCLA and Arkansas. Mason leaving may impact his choice, but most notable recruiting analysts have Thomas pegged as a future Cardinal come signing day. He's at Arkansas this weekend, though.
(Important editorial note: It would be great if Thomas would come to Stanford, because he is one bad mother-effing man. His senior year highlights are sick nasty.)