SCOUT COLLEGE FOOTBALL
PREVIEW: Stanford CARDINAL
Last Season's Record: 12-1, Orange Bowl Champions!
Returning Starters/Letterwinners: 5 (offense) / 6 (defense)
Key Losses: NT Sione Fua, FB/ILB Owen Marecic, C Chase Beeler. OG Andrew Phillips, OT Derek Hall, and WR Ryan Whalen are also big losses, but Fua and First-Team All-Americans Mareric and Beeler epitomized Jim Harbaugh's blue-collar approach to football that elevated Stanford to the nation's elite. Given the Cardinal's current personnel, Fua, a bull-strong 3-4 nose tackle, might be the hardest to replace. While not technically player losses, Stanford will also have to cope with the departure of highly regarded coordinators Greg Roman (OC) and Vic Fangio (DC) to Harbaugh and the NFL's 49ers.
Key Returnees: QB Andrew Luck, ILB Shayne Skov, OG David DeCastro: OT Jonathan Martin, TE Coby Fleener, SS Delano Howell, FS Michael Thomas, OLB Chase Thomas, RB Stepfan Taylor, WR Chris Owusu. While Stanford lacks depth at certain positions, they return as much prime, NFL-caliber talent as any team in the newly minted Pacific-12 conference, and perhaps the nation. Look for TE Zach Ertz and RB Anthony Wilkerson to have break-out years and complement an already potent roster.
Best Game: Nov. 12, at home vs. Oregon. Stanford had a seven-point half-time lead before the wheels came off during the third quarter at Autzen last year, costing Stanford a "table run".
Projected 2011 Finish: 10-2 (11-2)
Outlook: Veteran quarterback and 2010 Heisman runner-up Andrew Luck as well as several key pieces from last year's Orange Bowl champion squad are back, but there are holes to be filled along both lines and question marks that come with a re-worked coaching staff. Even assuming good health, it remains to be seen whether the Card will be able to recover from the loss of the inaugural Paul Horning Award winner Owen Marecic, senior defensive tackle Sione Fua and a quartet of starting offensive linemen (including valuable "jack-of-all-trades" James McGillicuddy). That challenge may have the biggest impact on Stanford's success in 2011, although replacing the contributions of the myriad departed coaches is also a concern, as is navigating a difficult second-half schedule. Nevertheless, the outlook for the Stanford's upcoming season is the brightest it has been in many years. Having the best college football player in the nation along with a smattering of future first-round NFL picks on the roster should lead to another successful, "recruiting scandal-free" campaign for the squeaky-clean Cardinal.
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