One of the best things about college football from a fan and writer standpoint is there really is no offseason. Now I can imagine it’s exhausting to be a college football coach and they get a pretty nice salary for that but I can also bet a college head coach loves the day after National Signing Day. You know which players are coming back and you can finally take a deep breath on which recruits will be coming to school in the summer and the schedule for the following year is out and so on. The 2017-18 year for college football officially begins.
Now it’s only February but if ESPN can have a “Way Too Early” look at 2017, then so can I. This will be updated periodically throughout the year but for now, let’s take a short look at the upcoming season.
Stanford has lost its two best players from 2016 and they were both All-Americans who have forever changed the Stanford football landscape. That doesn’t mean all is lost. Offensively, Stanford returns Bryce Love who will be a running back that can churn out yards just like #5. He might not have it all but that doesn’t mean he can’t be an all-conference back and for what it’s worth, he’s faster than C-Mac.
Another returner that won’t be on anybody’s radar but is one of the best wide receivers in the conference in Trent Irwin. If Irwin went to a school that threw the ball 50 times a game, he would have 20 catches and 150 yards and that’s on a bad day. That doesn’t even include Donald Stewart who was “gently” placed in to the lineup but will be a force in the 2017 season.
Where things get dicey but will be very intriguing is the quarterback situation. Stanford has its 2016 opening day starter in Ryan Burns, its ACL-torn yet Sun Bowl starter and undefeated quarterback in Keller Chryst, and redshirt phenom K.J. Costello who is probably better than both. Coach David Shaw will never tell but if I were a fly on the in the coaches room, barring the ACL injury, this was a great scenario for Stanford.
Chryst will sit out spring camp and with Burns returning, it forces Costello to earn the starting nod rather than just giving it to him and when Chryst returns most likely for fall camp, Costello will have shown he can be the top dog even though Chryst has never lost a game. As far as the line goes, look out for redshirt freshman Devery Hamilton to make his way into the starting lineup and help a good but not a Stanford-esque offensive line from 2016.
Defensively, Solomon Thomas will be missed but Alabama loses a Solomon Thomas every year so there is no sympathy in that. Harrison Phillips is just the right guy who can help all of the young bucks out on the line as he is one the grittiest players on the team.
As for defensive backs, Quenton Meeks is one of the best cornerbacks to ever wear a Stanford jersey and it’s not even close. Meeks injury last year showed how important he is to the team and when healthy, opposing quarterbacks avoid him like the plague and when they challenge him, they turn into pick-6’s. Meeks is underrated nationally and he will probably be on many draft boards for the 2018 NFL Draft.
Meanwhile, Stanford is known for its “intellectual brutality” and part of that is being a guy who wants to help out the team and rarely be “the guy”. That guy for Stanford is fullback Daniel Marx who is unstoppable when healthy and makes the running game go-round. That also means being a guy who needs to make a few field goals here and there. While “King” Conrad Ukropina is gone, Jake Bailey or my personal favorite Jet Toner becomes the new guy to start drilling 50-yarders for fun.
While many of those returners have played meaningful snaps nonetheless been in the system for a year, let’s look at how many of the 2017 recruits have a chance to play right away. Let’s just start off with the offensive linemen. Walker Little and Foster Sarrell are big kids who will come to Stanford with only a few months on campus before the season begins. They are talented enough to play right away even if they aren’t starting. If I were 2016 starter A.T. Hall, I wouldn’t leave the training facility because these kids are ready to go come fall.
Did I mention Stanford had a quarterback conundrum? Insert 5-star recruit Davis Mills who is considered by many to be the best quarterback in all of the 2017 class. Very unlikely he’ll play given Andrew Luck even sat out his true freshman year but still has a chance.
If you have Zach Ertz, Austin Hooper, or Coby Fleener on your NFL fantasy teams, you’ll probably be drafting incoming tight-end Colby Parkinson very soon. He might be the best pass-catcher not only for tight ends in the class but wide receivers as well. That’s no slight to incoming wide receiver Osiris St. Brown either whose brother happens to be the best wide receiver at Notre Dame. Throw in the self-proclaimed “Thunder and Lighting” Sione Heimuli-Lund and Connor Wedington as potential backfield mates, defensive line recruits Ryan Johnson and Dalyn Wade-Perry and do it all athlete Paulson Adebo as guys who might be playing in meaningful games very soon.
Now that the players are pretty much set, how about that 2017 schedule. Stanford technically plays on 4 different days and will be playing on two different continents. Stanford plays Rice in Australia and barring the team completely goes down under, it will be a fun trip and will go into USC 1-0. That game will be fun because with the extra time off and a game that could be a blowout, it’ll be interesting to see who Shaw plays. Stanford has TRUE road games at USC, Utah, and Washington State that will be grinders and the stat to watch out for regardless of what happens from now until October 7th at Utah is Stanford has only beaten Utah three times; 2 of those 3 victories came before the Great Depression.
The home schedule plays into Stanford’s strength as they get UCLA, Oregon, Washington, Cal, and Notre Dame all on the farm. While Stanford isn’t known for its home field advantage, I’d rather play with some of our students at home than 70,000 opposing students somewhere else. While I won’t pick which games Stanford wins and loses yet because duh, it’s only February, I will say that I see another 10-win season staring us right in the face.