Stanford's first 2014 spring practice is Monday. With that, the team can officially begin working toward answering the question marks that stand in the way of the new goal: An appearance in college football's inaugural four-team playoff. Over the past two weeks, The Bootleg has thoroughly evaluated the state of the Farm Boys at every position group. Here's a full compilation of these spring previews:
Stanford Moving Forward: Quarterback (Pt. 1)
Stanford Moving Forward: Running Back (Pt. 2)
Stanford Moving Forward: Wide Receiver/Tight End (Pt. 3)
Stanford Moving Forward: Offensive Line (Pt. 4)
Stanford Moving Forward: Defensive Line (Pt. 5)
Stanford Moving Forward: Linebacker (Pt. 6)
*Part 7, A breakdown of Stanford's situation at defensive back will come early this week, after an initial look at the position group in spring practice.
As a way to summarize those detailed breakdowns, here are five key questions to keep in mind as spring practice begins:
Will the Stanford secondary situation begin to sort itself out?
As of today, Stanford has yet to publicly announce the hiring of a new defensive backs coach to take the place of departed defense coordinator Derek Mason, though Duane Akina and Eric Lewis have both been rumored to prime candidates for an integral spot that will be responsible for developing a secondary in a precarious transitional state. Ed Reynolds won't be back next year, so the Cardinal are scrambling to figure out their future plans at free safety, a transition made much dicier by Drew Madhu's medical retirement before last season. Dallas Lloyd and Kodi Whitfield have moved over from offense to give this position of need a shot in the arm, and spring ball should give at least some indication of their readiness there.
How quickly is Luke Kaumatule catching on at defensive end?
Ben Gardner and Josh Mauro are gone, but our close look at Stanford's defensive line prospects discussed the promising potential of talent along the line moving forward. Six-foot-seven, 265-pound Luke Kaumatule can provide a major boost to this unit -- but just how quickly is he learning the ropes after a midseason switch from tight end? It's time to find out.
Are Stanford's current freshmen on track for significant action next year?
The departures from the Cardinal's front seven were documented in this piece. New opportunities for playing time are opening up. Some veteran names (Blake Martinez, Kevin Anderson) are the favorites to grab the lead roles, but current freshmen Mike Tyler, Peter Kalambayi, and Kevin Palma will also vie to plug critical holes. Spring practice should provide a measurement of their progress, which in turn should help us project Stanford's 2014 depth chart.
What does the current offensive line two-deep look like?
Four of five starting offensive linemen have departed, so there's going to be a ton of movement for Stanford up front. Our in-depth look at the position broke down a bevy of potential shifts. This much is for sure: The reloading up front will certainly be one of the most intriguing aspects of spring ball.
Is the tight end position really on track to make a comeback in 2014?
Dalton Schultz won't be around yet, but Austin Hooper, Eric Cotton, and Greg Taboada have all worked for several months to physically prepare themselves for meaningful action. Since Stanford's tight ends combined for only 10 catches in 2014, there should be a close eye on the potential re-emergence of the position. We went into greater detail here.
David Lombardi is the Stanford Insider for The Bootleg. Check him out at www.davidlombardisports.com and follow him on Twitter @DavidMLombardi.
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