Gone is Blake Martinez. Gone is Kevin Anderson. Stanford loses two veteran linebackers heading into 2016, and particularly, Blake Martinez was a team star throughout his Stanford career. Martinez was on the All-Pac 12 first team and the USA Today All-America second team; he'll be a very hard player to replace. How will Stanford replace their star linebacker from 2015?
Stanford returns eight of ten linebackers who recorded over 9.5 tackles last year. Stanford loses no one besides Martinez and Anderson. That's a good start. At outside linebacker, Peter Kalambayi, Joey Alfieri, and Mike Tyler all return and will most likely rotate for two positions. Out of the three, Peter Kalambayi will most likely lead the way after finishing with fifty two tackles last year and after being named to Phil Steele's first team All Pac-12 team. With Kevin Anderson injured periodically last year, Stanford played mostly without him and should only improve this year at outside linebacker.
Inside linebacker is a different story. Year in and year out, Stanford has had star middle linebackers. First it was Shayne Skov. Then, AJ Tarpley shined. Last year, Blake Martinez stood out. Who will it be this year? Kevin Palma and Bobby Okereke are both possible solutions. As a junior, Palma finished with forty four tackles, and Okereke finished with seven. Compared to Blake Martinez's 141 tackles last year, Palma and Okereke combined tackles are minimal, and they have a long way to go if they hope to make up for Martinez missing. As a fifth year senior, Palma has already shown his potential and will be a similar player from last year. He'll most likely finish with sixty or so tackles and be a good linebacker. Meanwhile, Bobby Okereke was only a redshirt freshman last year. He should improve tremendously but can't possibly make the jump from a backup to an immediate star; he's simply too young and inexperienced. In 2016, the inside linebackers won't be able to fill the shoes of Blake Martinez, and they'll be significantly worse without a star.
The secondary has incredible depth. The defensive line has a star in Solomon Thomas. The linebackers have neither. The outside linebackers will be a solid group. They have some depth and three solid players. However, I'm scared for the inside linebackers, but hopefully, I'm wrong. Every year Stanford finds a way to replace linebackers, but I don't see that happening this year. In 2016, the linebackers will just be an average group.