If Stanford is to live up to the enormous expectations surrounding the program in David Shaw's first year at the helm, it will take more than strong individual performances by the Cardinal's established stars. We know what to expect from the likes of Andrew Luck, Jonathan Martin, David DeCastro, Stepfan Taylor, a healthy Chris Owusu, Shayne Skov, and Delano Howell. (Namely, greatness.)
Over the next 11 days, I'll profile 11 less heralded players whose ability to adjust to larger roles will help make or break the Cardinal's season.
Today: Jordan Williamson
If the Stanford offense is as dominant as many expect it will be this season, Jordan Williamson will remain slightly less anonymous than the Cardinal's starting punter. Kickoffs and extra points won't get a placekicker noticed, but here's betting Williamson would rather lead the country in touchbacks and PATs than field goals.
The reality is that the Cardinal will likely find themselves in at least one game that is decided by Williamson's foot. The redshirt freshman is expected to replace Nate Whitaker, an all-conference performer who made 17-of-19 field goals, including a game-winning kick against USC, last season. Whitaker also set a school record with 61 extra points made in 66 attempts. Eric Whitaker, Nate's younger brother, is prepared to step in should Williamson falter.
Here's how Stanford special teams coach Brian Polian described the kicking competition between Williamson and Whitaker heading into fall camp:
"This is a results-based business. Jordan Williamson made tremendous strides for a true freshman in the spring. We were very pleased with the job he did. Eric Whitaker has some experience and is a little bit older and has seen some stuff that Jordan hasn't."
By mid-August, Shaw was close to naming Williamson the starter. "Jordan Williamson has been very, very good," Shaw said. "It's getting to the point where it's almost a moot point, but we are going to keep evaluating." After the Cardinal's scrimmage, Dave Fowkes reported that "Williamson is clearly the kicker this year."
So what do we know about Williamson? He has a big leg, having drilled two field goals from 50-plus yards as a senior at Westwood High School in Austin. He's also accurate from close range, having converted all 93 of his extra point attempts in high school. We know that he's had a good camp and the coaches are impressed with him, but we don't know much else. It might be best if it stays that way.