J.J. Arcega-Whiteside is tall, Trenton Irwin is dependable, and Michael Rector was fast. Those three made up the core of the receiving unit last year, and for the Cardinal passing game to improve, they’ll need to find a replacement for the hole Rector left after graduating.
Let’s start with Stanford's returning weapons, J.J. Arcega-Whiteside and Trenton Irwin. The Cardinal will continue to use Arcega-Whiteside as an endzone and third down weapon. His height gives him an advantage against smaller corners, and he proved his value early last season against UCLA.
Trenton Irwin never seems to drop a ball. A highly rated player out of high school, he has incredible hands and has great route running skills. Stanford will turn to him as their main receiver, and after taking a larger role last season, expect Irwin to be a solid WR1.
Stanford does return two starters, but they also lose one, Michael Rector. Rector was really, really fast. He spread out the defense and gave Stanford a threat downfield, so David Shaw will need to find a new receiver who fits this mold. Enter Donald Stewart. He doesn't have the speed of Rector, but he played last year as a true freshman, and Shaw is only willing to play true freshman unless he sees something special in them. Stewart will get more opportunities this year in spread formations and could be the breakout player Stanford needs.
Now, you might be wondering who will replace Rector's speed? That's easy. Isiah Brandt-Sims. While Rector was really fast, this kid is wicked fast. He's a track star on the Farm, and although he won't get a bunch of playing time, he'll be a potential game changer and a downfield threat when on the field.
Stanford (aka Tight End University) has produced plenty of NFL tight ends, including Coby Fleener and Zach Ertz. Now, the Farm has become a hot destination for high school tight ends. The top ranked tight end in high school, Colby Parkinson will arrive on campus as a true freshman, but it's unlikely he'll play immediately. Instead, Stanford will turn to two other top ranked tight ends out of high school, Dalton Schultz and Kaden Smith. Shultz will start for the Cardinal, and Shaw will utilize Smith in tight end formations. With a surplus talent of tight ends, the Cardinal are bound to control games using their big bodied pass catchers.
Overall, this receiving corps seems better than last year. Rector didn’t live up to expectations, and Irwin and Arcega-Whiteside should take a big leap. Meanwhile, Stanford returns their starting tight end and has plenty of depth behind him. Still, Stanford won’t be a passing team, but when they do throw, whoever is behind center will have plenty of options.