There is no questioning the fact that ‘The David Shaw Era’ has been the greatest run for Stanford Football in the long and proud history of the incomparable university. As I have written before in regard to Coach Shaw, having been a three-sport athlete on The Farm, and having played football for legends of the game Bill Walsh and Dennis Green, he himself is a living legend. David Shaw is 81-26 in eight years as the Stanford head coach, with two Rose Bowl victories in his three New Year’s Day trips to Pasadena, three PAC-12 Championships, four PAC-12 Coach of the Year awards, and five PAC-12 North Division Titles. Oh, and did I mention that “The Shaw” is 8-0 vs. arch-rival CAL? That might be the greatest reality of them all, for he, and the Cardinal faithful.
In regard to Shaw’s 2019 Stanford squad, there is a great deal to be optimistic about. Starting quarterback and team leader K.J. Costello will return as a senior, having been named 2nd Team All-PAC 12 for his efforts on the gridiron this year (263 for 396 passing / 3,435 passing yards / 29 TD’s / 11 INT / 66.4 CMP%). Playing behind an offensive line that was up and down this season, Costello was still able to throw for the second most touchdowns and third most passing yards in a season in school history. That is a big, big positive for The Card.
Amongst the O-line, for which Stanford has become known for producing high-caliber NFL talent over the past decade, their two best players will be returning in ’19. Sophomore tackle and future ‘1st Rounder’ Walker Little was named 1st Team All-PAC 12 this season, while junior guard Nate Herbig (two-time All-PAC 12 selection) was named to the 2nd Team. They will both be key factors for this offense next fall.
In terms of the receiving corp, junior tight end Kaden Smith (2nd Team All-PAC 12) and sophomore tight end Colby Parkinson (Honorable Mention All-PAC 12) will both be playing on Sundays soon, but K.J. Costello and Cardinal fans everywhere hope they both return for what could be a special season. Waiting in the wings, junior TE Scooter Harrington can also ball.
Among the Stanford wide receivers, while losing J.J. Arcega-Whiteside (2nd Team All-PAC 12 in 2018 / two-time All-PAC 12 selection) and Trenton Irwin to the professional ranks will certainly leave a void, there is a wealth of young talent that remains. Junior Donald Stewart, sophomores Osiris St. Brown and Connor Wedington, and freshman Michael Wilson will make for an exciting WR position group in 2019.
In the backfield, All-World running back Bryce Love is simply irreplaceable. Though he played hurt throughout this year, his heart, focus, toughness, and leadership by example will be unquestionably missed. Going forward, RB is the big question mark for this offense, and they will need both juniors Trevor Speights and Dorian Maddox to step up in a significant ways.
Turning to the defense, there is also a great deal for Coach Shaw to feel good about. Super sophomore cornerback Paulson Adebo has been named an All-American (2nd Team), as well as 1st Team All-PAC 12. He is a lockdown corner on the outside, and while he could likely leave for the draft with his stock as high as it is, if he stays the secondary immediately becomes top-tier in the conference.
Also at CB, Cardinal junior Obi Eboh had a few nice games this year, and looks to start opposite Adebo in ’19. Additionally on the back end, safeties junior Malik Antoine and sophomore Noah Williams have shown flashes of tremendous ability this season as well.
Within the linebacking corp, fifth-year senior and All-PAC 12 Honorable Mention MLB Bobby Okereke’s (two-time ALL-PAC 12 selection) shoes will be very hard to fill, but fortunately senior Sean Barton will be back for a 5th year to lead this group in 2019. He is a tough and instinctual veteran, who will give his younger teammates a strong model for success. Fellow linebackers junior Curtis Robinson, and sophomores Gabe Reid and Jordan Fox, will all serve beside Barton at the heart of the Stanford D next year.
In the trenches defensively, the Cardinal D-line should be the most improved position group of all by my measure. Junior defensive end Jovan Swann (Honorable Mention All-PAC 12) is already a beast on the outside, and look for freshman DE Thomas Booker to make a name for himself coming off the other edge in ’19. On the inside, junior Michael Williams and sophomore Dalyn Wade-Perry both gained valuable experience this season, and will both be impact players for The Card going forward.
On the special teams front next season, Stanford will definitely miss four year staring punter / situational kicker Jake Bailey (three-time All-PAC 12 selection), who was named 2nd Team All-PAC 12 this year. However, they will retain their 2nd Team All-PAC 12 junior place-kicker Jet Toner (two-time All-PAC 12 selection), who is also as reliable as they come.
All things considered, and though the PAC-12 is always a good old fashioned fist fight, I expect Stanford to run for The Roses next season, Write, it, down.
No matter, win or lose, ROLL RED.