This time last year I thought the Stanford secondary would be its greatest strength in 2018. Last summer, Quenton Meeks, Alijah Holder, and Justin Reid were all budding stars but didn’t seem to be top NFL prospects. Frankly, I figured they would all return for their final year. Unfortunately, I was wrong. With Meeks and Reid bolting early, the Cardinal now face uncertainty in their secondary ahead of the 2018 season.
One thing the secondary has a lot of is depth. Two summers ago, I had the chance to speak with Meeks, and he kept stressing how many players could make an impact for the Cardinal. Most of the names he mentioned are still apart of the program.
He spoke about Reid’s likely replacement, Ben Edwards. “Some of the collisions I’ve seen him make have been unbelievable,” he said. “Whenever I see them I’m just glad I’m not the one on the end!”
Meeks also noted that “Frank Buncom IV and Brandon Simmons are very good players and can be difference makers on the field.” Both players remain on the team and figure to fight for playing time.
However, the team has seen many new faces arrive on the Farm since my interview with Meeks. Malik Antoine played last year as a redshirt freshman and shined late in the year versus Notre Dame and TCU, combining for 11 tackles, forcing one fumble, and recovering a loose ball. Expect Antoine to have an even bigger role in 2018.
David Shaw has also continued to stress the secondary in recruiting. In 2016, the Cardinal snagged two four-star players, Obi Eboh and Treyjohn Butler, who haven’t seen much playing time yet, and in 2017, four-star recruit Paulson Adebo joined the team and redshirted last year.
All the names stated above have yet to prove themselves on the field, but the Cardinal have two seasoned veterans returning in 2018. Alameen Murphy returns for his final year on campus and has played in every game the past three seasons. Murphy, though, has never been a lockdown corner, so don’t count on it suddenly happening this year.
The other player returning and most important player in the secondary is Alijah Holder, who suffered a horrific season-ending injury versus Oregon State. When healthy, Holder has started every game for the Cardinal, but unfortunately, in the past two years, he’s only played 12 games because of injuries. Simply put, the secondary needs a healthy Holder in 2018 to succeed.
The bottom line for the secondary is that no one, besides a healthy Holder, has separated themselves as every down players. Luckily for the Cardinal, their defensive backs coach, Duane Akina, has helped 33 players reach the NFL. He’s a seasoned coach, and with so much depth in the secondary, Akina is bound to find a budding star in the mix to pair with a healthy Holder.