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. Hours before Stanford kicks off against its season against San Jose State, here are the final two.
Today: Griff Whalen and Leveine Toilolo
Doug Baldwin didn't wait long to announce his presence last year. The season opener was a coming out party for the senior, who totaled 111 yards and two touchdowns, including an 81-yarder, in a win against Sacramento State. Baldwin, who was filling in for the injured Chris Owusu, would emerge as Andrew Luck's go-to receiver during the season.
Griff Whalen, who had 17 catches for 249 yards and a touchdown in a limited role last season, would like to get off to an equally fast start against San Jose State. Head coach David Shaw said Whalen had the best camp of his career and Mr. No Relation to Ryan could be a nice complement to Owusu. Drew Terrell and Corey Gatewood will backup Whalen at the No. 2 receiver spot, but look for Ty Montgomery to work his way into the rotation as well.
Tight end Levine Toilolo hopes today's season opener is nothing like last year's, save for the result on the scoreboard. The 6-foot-8 tight end caught a 27-yard pass from Luck on the second play from scrimmage, took a helmet to the knee, and just like that, was out for the season with two torn ligaments in his right knee.
Toilolo will wear braces on both knees this season, but Shaw isn't concerned about any loss of speed.
"I don't care if it takes a tenth off his 40 time. He's not here because he runs a 10.4 100 meters. He's here because he's a big target and a physical blocker."
Toilolo is one of three outstanding tight ends that Luck will have in his arsenal. Zach Ertz and Coby Fleener shined in 2010 and will be a big part of the offense again this season. Could Toilolo be the best of the bunch? It'll be exciting to find out.