Former safety Zach Hoffpauir is pulling a "Gaffney" and returning to The Farm for his final year of football eligibility, per his Instagram account:
A two-sport star in football and baseball, Hoffpauir left Stanford after being drafted in the 22nd round by the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2015. Through both Class-A and Rookie ball that season, he posted a just-okay OPS of 0.775. His lackluster numbers (especially at an older age of 22) help explain why he's taking (at least) a pause in his baseball career. Long bus rides and poor pay (especially as a 22nd round pick with little to no signing bonus) probably make Division-I football and a shot at the NFL seem like Hollywood by comparison.
He will provide some much-needed leadership to a young Stanford secondary after the departures of seniors Ronnie Harris and Kodi Whitfield. Hoffpauir joins Dallas Lloyd as the only upperclassmen in the defensive back corps. There was much collective hand-wringing over the inexperience of the Stanford secondary this past season, especially during the Oregon-Cal-Notre Dame stretch of the schedule while Ronnie Harris was out with an ankle injury. The leadership of the older Hoffpauir (and ongoing presence of Dallas Lloyd) and the younger players having a season of experience under their belts should help make the secondary a strength going forward rather than a liability.
Not surprisingly, the spring camp competition for both safety positions will be stiff. In addition to Hoffpauir and Lloyd, Justin Reid, Ben Edwards, Denzel Franklin, Brandon Simmons, and possible incoming freshmen will all be competing for playing time at the safety positions. This is a good problem for the good guys to have, and it is a testament to the talent available at the position that even seniors like Lloyd and Hoffpauir will have to hustle for time. Hoffpauir will also probably compete for playing time at nickel corner with Terrence Alexander and 2015 breakout star Quenton Meeks.
Hoffpauir should have at least a decent shot to play and play a fair amount. He was an All Pac-12 Honorable Mention in 2014, his last year at Stanford, and David Shaw has been extremely complimentary about him in the past. At the beginning of the 2014 season, Shaw said of Hoffpauir: "He's such a playmaker...[he's] so dynamic and he’s so explosive. He was great in the nickel. His speed and his physical nature are extremely impressive." Combine that with defensive backs coach Duane Akina's taste for rotating players, and you have a player who should provide an impact this season.
Here's hoping Hoffpauir can do what Tyler Gaffney ('13) did when he returned from baseball: provide veteran leadership and make plays on the field. We're very glad to have him back on The Farm.