Stanford Cardinal football is known for their powerful offensive line that plows through defenders and creates space for running backs. However last year, an inexperienced offensive line struggled, allowing defenders into the backfield and keeping running lanes jammed. This year, the offensive line needs to bounce back in order for Stanford to improve.
The Stanford line ranked 100th nationally in sacks allowed last year, and Ryan Burns was constantly under pressure in every loss. Similarly, Christian McCaffrey never found running room, and as a result, he got banged up and missed time. Offensive woes derived from the line last year, and this year, the offensive line can only get better.
As of now, there are only two definite starters on the offensive line: Jesse Burkette and Nate Herbig. Burkette started every game at center last year while Herbig began to start midway through last season.
Herbig became a bright spot on the offensive line, and the true freshman guard sparked a midseason offensive revival. Yes, Stanford played weaker opponents late, but it’s not like Washington State had stellar defense early in the season. With Herbig starting, there was clear improvement, and he’ll undoubtedly play a huge role moving forward.
After Burkette and Herbig, the starting positions are less clear with plenty of returning players and incoming freshmen. Former five star Casey Tucker was a starting member of the star studded line in 2015, but in 2016, he battled a few injuries and looked slow on his feet. Still, Tucker will most likely get the nod at tackle. At the other tackle position, A.T. Hall, David Bright, Foster Sarell, and Walker Little will compete for the starting job, but frankly, both positions are up for grabs; it’s just a matter of who proves themselves.
Joining Herbig at guard will probably be either Brandon Fanaika or Nick Wilson, but freshman Devery Hamilton could slide into the starting rotation. As a tackle in high school, Hamilton could switch positions, and although difficult, the switch is doable.
Ultimately, the offensive line isn’t going to rely on talent, but they’ll rely on depth. With competition this summer, every player will be pushed to improve, and every player will have a replacement in case of injury. Depth will make the line solid but still not dominant.
Furthermore, it’s almost impossible for Stanford to not improve. They only lost one starter, Johnny Caspers, a good offensive lineman but not good enough to play on Sundays. With their depth, Stanford will find a solid replacement for Caspers, and the offensive line will do a better job protecting their quarterback and running back.
Still don’t expect the offensive line to be as good as they were in 2015; they simply don’t have the star power. Expect an improvement though, and eventually with so many young players, expect Stanford to dominate the line again in the future.