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Yeah, that’s right. A RUN AT THE NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP. Not another #KingsOfTheNorth or #KingsOfCali. Not another Pac-12 Championship or a Rose Bowl victory. Been there done that and I have multiple t-shirts to prove it. I’m talking what last year’s team deserved instead of Oklahoma – a spot in the College Football Playoff. But with nearly half of last year’s starters gone, and despite the depth that long-time Stanford fans are still getting used to, a few things are going to have to happen for this team to still be playing in the second & third weeks of January 2017.
The offensive line MUST gel into a functioning unit, and quickly. If you’re reading this, you likely remember 2014. That was with a QB who had a season and a half as a starter. This year there will be a new QB who’s not going to be as mobile as Hogan and is going to need time to make decisions. Stanford has arguably the most electric backfield in the nation, but if the OL isn’t opening holes for them then these guys are going struggle. It starts in the trenches. With the first half of the schedule looking more challenging than the second half, especially a Friday night in Seattle against a veteran, ferocious Husky defense, it needs to happen quickly. I hope Coach Bloomgren has learned from two years ago.
Shaw needs to decide who will be the QB before opening night. Name the last team to be in a CFP/NY6/BCS bowl game that played two QBs? I’m not talking about switching starters mid-season. I’m talking about rotating QBs back & forth during a game. I’m talking about Shaw’s recent comment that he might not name a starter before the season starts. I think this would be a terrible mistake. I read & hear that both Chryst and Burns are VERY talented. But it’s about the offense as a unit coalescing around a leader. Chryst and Burns are not the same person. They aren’t the same personality. One guy needs to be given that job, and if he isn’t performing then you make a change.
Someone needs to step up bigtime at ILB. Blake Martinez. A.J. Tarpley. Shayne Skov. Stanford fans have been seriously spoiled the last few years. Each these guys racked up 100+ tackles and is or was in the NFL. Who’s going to be that guy that makes opposing offenses reluctant to run between the tackles? The returning players in this group will need to step up bigtime from the level of play we saw from them last season. Mike Palma looks the part, but he needs to improve his lateral speed so that he can cover all the way out to the sideline. Jordan Perez is undersized and must make sure he’s in the right position with the right technique to compensate.
Sacks will need to come from the DBs. This doesn’t mean Lance Anderson dialing up blitzes right and left. It means the pass coverage will need to give the front seven that extra second to get to the QB. I love the power and surprise of a quick sack, but what I really enjoy coverage sacks even more because it takes an entire defensive unit to make it happen. Receivers need to be covered AND the front line needs to get pressure. It’s also more demoralizing to the opposing offense because it means that everything they tried to do on that play didn’t work.
Someone needs to step up bigtime at OLB. Chase Thomas, Trent Murphy, Kevin Anderson, James Vaughters. We’ve been even MORE spoiled at OLB than ILB! Stanford has the talent and depth at this position to make it happen, which is why this is the last item on my list. But who is going to step up and get it done? Lots of candidates here. I like Joey Alfieri to be that guy, and I hope Peter Kalambayi can be the player we saw in 2014 who rushed upfield with reckless abandon.
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