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Stanford is Plenty Experienced

Thearon W. Henderson - Getty Images

Darius Tahir (@dariustahir) compares the experience level of this year's Stanford team to recent Cardinal squads, as well as future opponents Notre Dame and Oregon.

In an earlier post I asserted as a reason for optimism that the current team was a young one. The lesson here is, always check your numbers—in this case, they come back wishy-washy, and you can (at the moment) look at them and decide what you want.

I've taken the most recent Stanford depth chart and compared them to two different baselines: first, previous Stanford teams through the excellent part of the post-Walt-Harris era (i.e. 2009 onwards) from past media guides; and second, against Notre Dame and Oregon, probably the two best teams remaining on the schedule.* The raw data’s here, if you're interested.

* I used media guides because otherwise I’d have to use late-season depth charts, which seems like a more inappropriate comparison than the media guides. As for the two rival team comparisons—Notre Dame’s depth chart is the most recent available; Oregon’s is from a few days before its first game.

Let's cut to the chase here: in terms of the two-deep, at the most zoomed-out numbers, the team looks utterly unremarkable in terms of age when compared to previous Stanford teams. That comparison, for the record, is a simple upperclass vs. underclass. The 2012 team is the second-most-experienced in terms of class, though 2009 was such an outlier (63% upperclassmen!) that it makes more sense to call the 2012 team a run-of-the-mill one in terms of age.

To use a slightly more specific statistic—seniors in the two-deep—the 2012 team becomes considerably less experienced; in fact, relative to the ultra-experienced 2010 team (30% seniors on both offense and defense), the 2012 team comes out as a much less veteran team.

On the other hand, it's not as if the 2012 team is playing a substantial number of freshmen in the two-deep, coming in second among the four teams surveyed. It's because of the number of true freshmen played that the team looks so young. As noted previously, the 10 true freshmen to have debuted is the most in a while; the previous high was the 6 in 2009 (which, by the way, was Skov, Taylor, Stephens, Patterson, Terrell, Gaffney. Not a bad group.).

As said before, true freshmen usually hit their stride around midseason if they’re to contribute at all early, and with the sheer number playing, you have to like the odds of someone stepping up.

Comparing the numbers to Oregon and Notre Dame reveals the roster is, if anything, a bit on the older side. Compiling the numbers does reveal a source of concern: be agnostic about the Fighting Irish, if you’d like. They’ve certainly earned no faith. But their results have been good while playing what looks like an insanely young roster—a full third of their defensive two-deep are freshmen or redshirt freshmen, for example. 62.5% of the defensive two-deep are underclassmen. And yet they are playing quite well (granted against somewhat, ah, limited offensive opposition). While I'll never underestimate the Irish capacity for disappointment, something may be on the verge of going quite right in the near future.