The way I see it, with all of the hype surrounding Stanford’s explosive offense going in to this season, their formidable defense has been seriously overlooked. Defensive Coordinator Lance Anderson is in his 12th year on The Farm, and with the dynamic mixture of veterans and young talent returning in ’18-’19, there is no reason this D unit cannot hold their own in a run for the Rose Bowl.
For starters, the Cardinal linebacking corp is as solid as any in the conference this year, and 5th year senior Bobby Okereke (6’4” / 234 lbs) leads the group by his instinctual play on the field. Unquestionably a great tackler, he has both the speed to play sideline-to-sideline, and the size and strength to take on the run effectively. It is this ideal combination of skill sets that lands Okereke on the Butkus Award, Bednarik Award, and Lott Impact Trophy preseason watch lists. Equally impressive and of note, the young man is an Eagle Scout.
Fellow 5th year senior outside linebacker Joey Alfieri (6’4” / 242 lbs) has battled injuries throughout his career, but was still named All-PAC 12 Honorable Mention the past two seasons. Alfieri is a big hitter who gets off blocks well, and he should be a dominant physical presence on the outside for the Cardinal again this year. Senior Casey Toohill (6’4” / 252 lbs), and juniors Jordan Fox (6’3” / 229 lbs) and Curtis Robinson (6’4” / 234 lbs) will also contribute at OLB for Stanford, and all have extensive playing experience under Coach Anderson.
Inside linebacker Jordan Perez (6’3” / 232 lbs), yet another 5th year senior for the Cardinal, brings great speed and a nose for the ball to the heart of this defense. A big question mark though is senior inside linebacker Sean Barton (6’4” / 228 lbs), who is coming back from a season-ending injury he suffered last year versus San Diego State. When healthy he is a solid contributor in every sense, and all in Palo Alto will be hoping for his successful return to action this fall.
The Stanford defensive backfield has been an asset for nearly a decade now, and this year will be no different. 5th year senior cornerbacks Alijah Holder (6’3” - 191 lbs) and Alameen Murphy (6’0” - 200 lbs) are both show stoppers on the outside, and together create one of the best CB tandems in all of college football. Along those lines, both have been named to preseason watch-lists for the Bednarik Award and Wuerffel Trophy respectively.
In the secondary, seniors Frank Buncom (6’3” - 211 lbs) and Ben Edwards (6’1” - 202 lbs) each have a wealth of experience in big games, and are collectively ready to break out this season. Also in the mix, 5th year senior Brandon Simmons (6’0” - 201 lbs) is a quality option in both the slot and at either safety position, and will serve as the ideal insurance policy on the back end for the Cardinal.
Stanford’s D-line is the youngest piece to their defensive puzzle, but they have several outstanding athletes who have quietly been waiting their turn to shine. While no one man could ever fill the void left by the legendary Harrison Phillips, sophomore DT Dalyn Wade-Perry (6’4” - 321 lbs) is the best possible option. Throughout the offseason, Coach Shaw has referenced the young man’s ability with an optimism he rarely entertains, and Perry’s size and strength speak for themselves. Also on the inside, junior DT Michael Williams (6’3” - 299 lbs) will see action both spelling Perry and in goal-line situations.
At defensive end, senior Dylan Jackson (6’6” - 266 lbs) and junior Jovan Swann (6’3” - 277 lbs) both started significant games last year for the Cardinal, and will both look to take it to the next level as key aspects of this D unit.
As I wrote in my article last week, and covered here, this Stanford team has the strength, talent, and character to make a run for ‘The Roses’ in 2019. Write it down.