Stanford Past, NFL Future: Recapping The Bootleg's Series
The majority of post-NFL Draft publicity has gone to the six Stanford players selected in May and surprise snub Shayne Skov, who signed with the San Francisco 49ers shortly after the league passed him over throughout seven rounds of selections. Here's a link to each of The Bootleg's features on this group:
Stanford Past, Foxboro Future: Fleming
Stanford Past, Carolina Future: Gaffney
Stanford Past, Cowboys Future: Gardner
Stanford Past, Redskins Future: Murphy
Stanford Past, San Francisco Future: Skov
Stanford Past, Eagles Future: Reynolds
Stanford Past, Vikings Future: Yankey
It's very possible that this graduated Stanford class will have an impact on the NFL beyond Skov and the draftees. A total of 14 Cardinal players set their sights on professional football this year. Here's a final look back and ahead at each of the remaining seven:
Carrington's signature Stanford moment came at Autzen Stadium in 2012, and it ended up being a critical one in the larger realm of the program's accomplishments. When Marcus Mariota escaped a first quarter rush and sprinted down the far sideline, Oregon had again broken past the Cardinal defense. It all seemed to be a repeat of previous years: The Ducks were running away from the Farm Boys. Dreams seemed as if they would again die at the hands of the Quack Attack.
This time, though, Stanford caught up.
In a tremendous display of straight-line speed, Carrington came from the opposite side of the field to run down Mariota on a 70-yard diagonal trajectory and save a touchdown. When De'Anthony Thomas prematurely celebrated and didn't block for his quarterback downfield, Carrington pounced to cut Mariota's scamper short.
Just a few plays later, Shayne Skov stuffed Oregon's fourth-and-goal attempt, and the Cardinal were on the elusive path toward victory at Autzen Stadium. Carrington's spectacular play embodied the significant upgrade in athleticism that Stanford has developed amongst its second string, a depth improvement that has been essential in the program's rise and stay amongst the nation's elite.
Carrington tried out with the Pittsburgh Steelers. His next NFL shot will likely come through a practice squad.
After David DeCastro left to the NFL following the 2011 Fiesta Bowl campaign, Danser had monolithic shoes to fill at right guard, and he blossomed into a productive two-year starter for the Cardinal at the position. Together with right tackle Cam Fleming, the Bay Area (Bellarmine College Prep, San Jose) native formed a dependable side of the Stanford line. Mike Bloomgren counted on Danser and right tackle Cam Fleming often. The Cardinal's physical mutilations of Oregon and Arizona State (twice) in 2013 are certainly highlights here, as Danser was an integral bulldozer in all three of those games.
Though Danser is not a household name in the room of NFL prospects, the Tennessee Titans invited Danser to their rookie minicamp, and he should have a practice squad opportunity to prove himself at the next level.
The fullback position may be extinct in much of the college football world, but it has thrived at Stanford during the Harbaugh-Shaw era. Owen Marecic brought the fullback to true prominence on the Farm, and Hewitt did an admirable job succeeding him -- in both the versatility and the long, flowing Braveheart warrior-hair departments.
When reviewing Hewitt's college legacy, it's important to note that he sacrificed to perform dirty work that was vital to Stanford's power run offense. Originally a tight end, the six-foot-four specimen moved his tall frame to the backfield, where he frequently smashed pads with opposing linebackers during the Cardinal's greatest era of rushing success. Though Hewitt did catch 34 passes for 282 yards and five touchdowns from Andrew Luck in 2011, he undoubtedly enjoyed less of the offensive spotlight than he would have at tight end -- especially after Luck left in 2012 and 2013.
Still, big no. 85 did touch the ball in some unforgettable Stanford moments: His playaction touchdown reception at the Los Angeles Coliseum in 2011 sparked the Cardinal's epic triple overtime comeback win at USC and his dive over the line of scrimmage at Oregon in 2012 converted a make-or-break fourth down on the game-tying drive.
Those two notable plays showcased only a smidgen of Hewitt's overall versatility. He's a tough Swiss Army Knife, and that fact encouraged the Cincinnati Bengals to sign him as an undrafted free agent.
Though he only started at inside linebacker during his sophomore season, Lancaster led Stanford with 70 tackles that year, and his sturdy contributions should not be overlooked. The 2011 loss of Shayne Skov put the Cardinal's defense in an extremely precarious position, and the team may well have missed out on that year's BCS run (Fiesta) had it not been for Lancaster's sturdy play to right the damaged ship on the inside.
Beyond that, no. 35 was one of the most valuable pieces of a Stanford special teams unit that has established itself as a consistent national leader in this era of unprecedented program success. His contributions in that phase of the game underscore his legacy as one of the Cardinal's pure football players, a Texas product who was invaluable to the program's focus on detail in some unheralded yet critical facets of the game.
Lancaster earned a rookie minicamp invitation from the Oakland Raiders.
Former Stanford defensive coordinator Derek Mason aptly described Mauro as a "bull in a china shop," and it's likely that Cardinal fans will remember the Texan in that light because of the havoc he wreaked against Pac-12 offenses up front.
After Andrew Luck's departure, Stanford's defense morphed into an elite unit thanks in large part to the beastly development of its defensive line. Along with Ben Gardner and Henry Anderson, Mauro formed the end of a squad that led the nation and set Stanford records in sacks and tackles for loss in 2012. The unusual height of the big boys up front (Mauro is six-foot-sive, 280 pounds) also created a wall that batted down, redirected, and -- in the case of the Cardinal's 2013 home annihilation of Arizona State -- intercepted opposing passes (see no. 90 rumble with the football here).
Like Hewitt, Mauro signed as an undrafted free agent with the Pittsburgh Steelers. He has the size and motor to compete for a spot in the NFL. To the surprise of some, all 32 teams took a pass on him in the draft, so Mauro should possess the appropriate hunger to succeed as well. There are a handful of Stanford products using the "chip on the shoulder" mentality for NFL fuel, and Mauro may well be the next to join the club.
Tyler Gaffney's return to Stanford football for the 2013 season may have hurt Wilkerson's legacy, as many assumed he was in line to be the Cardinal's featured back before no. 25's return. Despite Gaffney's prolific season, Wilkerson still enjoyed considerable senior productivity of his own (84 carries, 379 yards). That put the finishing touches on a steady career that included productivity beginning in his true freshman season (56 carries, 289 yards).
The Indianapolis Colts have become a destination for ex-Stanford players. Luck, Coby Fleener, Griff Whalen, and Delano Howell already populated that roster before Wilkerson signed as an undrafted free agent with the club.
The center position carries heavy responsibility in Stanford's complex offense, and the way Wilkes seized the job after Sam Schwartzstein's departure in 2013 impressed many around the program. After starting at left guard in 2012, he shifted over to the position Cardinal coaches call "the quarterback of the offensive line" for the program's second straight Rose Bowl run. Together with Stanford's other bruisers, he helped pave the way for Tyler Gaffney's spectacular year.
Perhaps excellent communication skills contributed to the effort.
"Khalil Wilkes has invented a new language that is used purely in the Stanford locker room," fellow center Conor McFadden told the Stanford Daily.
Wilkes' most impressive moments may have come against Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year Will Sutton in both of the Cardinal's victories over Arizona State. When Stanford blasted the Sun Devils on its way to a 39-7 lead in the first meeting, Wilkes drove Sutton backwards several times. The extra strength that he had worked to add over his final college offseason clearly paid dividends, as did his solid mental grasp of the team's offensive line.
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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