Stanford Insider 2014 Preview Show Episode 2: WR
Entering 2013, Stanford did not return a single wide receiver who had caught a touchdown the season prior.
Entering 2014, there are question marks at every single Stanford position group, except wide receiver and cornerback.
Read that again and repeat it aloud, because this is the first time the Cardinal have been able to say that heading into a season. Corner and receiver have traditionally been Stanford's two weakest position groups. We'll discuss the defensive back situation in a later preview piece, but let's talk about their offensive counterparts now: David Shaw's 2014 wide receiver corps is -- seemingly suddenly -- one of the most talented in program history.
What a difference a year makes.
Last year, the unit became, by far, the most explosive of the Harbaugh-Shaw era, and that happened without any help from the tight end position, which mustered only 10 catches all season. Presumably, the Cardinal will enjoy more help from those big boys this year, so the receivers' chance to truly shine is here.
Stanford Receivers: Tracking Explosiveness
||% Pass Attempts Completed >15 Yards
||% Pass Attempts Completed >25 Yards
The dream scenario for this unit hinges on a positive domino effect that can be achieved through continued improvement of its individual parts. Ty Montgomery is a known star; his 61 catches more than doubled the output of Stanford's second leading receiver last year. That No. 2 guy was six-foot-four "match-up nightmare" Devon Cajuste, who has reportedly worked into fantastic shape over the offseason. Though he's a big receiver whose body type fits the tight end prototype, Cajuste has reportedly run a blazing 40-yard dash. Thus, there's optimism that he'll be able to move his success from the slot to the outside in 2014.
"He's worked extremely hard this year," Shaw said. "He's 224 and runs in the low 4.4s. Numbers like that don't make sense."
If Cajuste can shine outside, and if Montgomery can again occupy the opposition's other (top) cornerback, the Stanford passing game should be in business. That's because the Cardinal owns wide receiver depth beyond its top two guys that can feast on the resulting safety and nickel back mismatches. Michael Rector's speed makes him one of the Pac-12's most dangerous deep threats, while Francis Owusu looks physically primed for a breakout season. If both can avoid the focus of the opposition's secondary, a big year is in order.
Stanford also features Jordan Pratt (remember his huge deep catch in the Pac-12 Championship Game) and steadying presence Jeff Trojan at the receiver position. Both have meaningful game experience, and both bolster a corps that should be deep enough to withstand some injury issues. That's important, because Montgomery's fourth-quarter Rose Bowl exit seemed particularly damaging to Stanford eight months ago.
2013 Stanford WR Production
Rollins Stallworth, Shaw's "fade specialist" of a year ago, hauled in a beautiful deep pass from Ryan Burns in last Saturday's open practice, while Dontonio Jordan, Conner Crane, and Gautam Krishnamurthi will also provide depth behind the primary six bodies at receiver. It will also be intriguing to keep an eye on the development of incoming freshman walk-on Addison Johnson, a player who's only five-foot-nine but packs intense speed.
Kodi Whitfield, the team's third leading receiver a year ago, is now playing safety. Kelsey Young lined up on the perimeter last year, but he has since moved to the backfield. There seems to be a possibility that freshman running back Christian McCaffrey may take Young's place as a specialty weapon on the outside. The staff has been blown away by the youngster's moves and explosiveness, and Shaw has stated that he may well see playing time in some capacity. Given Stanford's crowded backfield situation, some perimeter-stretching duty might be the best fit for McCaffrey, but that's just speculation at this point. We take this discussion into great detail in the podcast above, which is co-hosted by Bootleg contributor RJ Abeytia.
Previous Installments in this 2014 Preview Series
Stanford Preview 1: Quarterback (Pt. 1)
Stanford Preview 2: Quarterback (Pt. 2)
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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