The most inexperienced among the defensive position groups, we also discussed
above that they had a winter of many wounds. It is hard to handicap these
three positions without knowing who will be on the field this spring. We
know redshirt freshman Pannel Egboh is out, which is a huge loss as the player
expected by the Cardinal coaches to probably be the team's best defensive
lineman this year. Every time there is a display of disappointment this
spring in the front trio, there will be the caveat added: "but this is without
Egboh... just wait for Egboh to return."
The remaining competition at right defensive end mixes some experience with
abject inexperience. Redshirt junior Chris Horn made his mark last fall
with three sacks, each coming in one of Stanford's road victories. His
banner performance came when he recorded three tackles for loss at Arizona.
A surprise contributor in 2005, he suddenly becomes one of the veterans and
expected leaders in 2006. Horn has just two career starts and just 15
career tackles, but that towers over much of the rest of the defensive line.
He will be challenged to become much more consistent and physical this year.
He has to play regularly, either as a starter or off the bench, for Stanford to
have a chance this year up front. Also at right defensive end is redshirt
freshman and converted linebacker Tom McAndrew. We expected him to play
with his hand on the ground at some time during his college career, and that
move came in the winter. He was an active playmaker on the scout defense
as a linebacker in the fall, but we have no idea what to expect from him as a
defensive end this spring. What we do know is that McAndrew arrived at
Stanford with a huge 6'5" frame that easily wore 251 pounds, and now he has
grown to 270. He moves well and will only get bigger and stronger.
The future is bright for McAndrew, but the question this spring is how far ahead
is his success?
At the other defensive end position, the fight for playing time in Julian Jenkins' vacated position will be fierce. If redshirt sophomore Gustav Rydstedt can practice, he
brings the most experience to the position. He started eight games in
2005, and though his statistical contributions were not great, it remains to be
seen how effective a playmaker he can be if healthy. The Swedish import
played through injuries, so the book has not yet been written on him.
Another player with something to prove this spring is redshirt junior Mike Macellari. The 6'5" two-way athlete has flip-flopped between positions on
the offensive and defensive lines with painful frequency. His last switch
moved him to defensive end halfway through the season last fall. He
actually showed some promise with a good bull rush, though this spring is his
chance to settle down and learn the position as a more complete pass rusher.
Macellari is a good athlete with a big body who may still make his mark at
Stanford. And then there is redshirt freshman Matt Kopa, who like McAndrew
is in his first spring and looking to make a name for himself after working on
the scout team defense all fall. Kopa had a good deal of hype out of high
school, and we didn't put him on the cover of our Football Recruiting Yearbook
issue of the magazine without reason. He already presented a towering
figure in the fall, but he has added some size and starts the spring at 280-plus
pounds. Redshirt sophomore Alfred Johnson toils as the lone walk-on on the
defensive line, but he has been a selfless worker in the season as well as
That leaves the middle of the line. Nose tackle is the most difficult
and arguably the most critical position in the 3-4 defense. Some would say
that Babatunde Oshinowo singularly made the 3-4 work because of his size and
power, able to take on two blockers and still able to push into the offensive
backfield. Stanford is fortunate to have a pair of big bodies in the
redshirt freshman class in Ekom Udofia and James McGillicuddy.
Unfortunately, one or both may not be available this spring, following their
winter injuries. If we had to guess, we would say that Udofia will
practice while McGillicuddy will be out. Both really need this spring
because the 3-4 defense cannot work without a force in the middle to tie up
blockers and free up lanes for the linebackers. Either will be watched
closely if they can compete, but Udofia will be a central story of this spring
if he can make it through 15 practices. He has freakish strength and
quickness at his size, and now he hopes to add the conditioning he did not
possess at the start of his freshman year. He worked with strength &
conditioning coach Ron Forbes to trim off a great deal of weight during the fall
and has been steadily adding rock solid weight since. Currently in the
range of 305-310 pounds, he is a beast. A good-to-decent Stanford defense
in 2006 undoubtedly will require a productive Udofia in the middle. The
forgotten man, who will see plenty of time this spring if either of the
youngsters are on the training table, is redshirt junior David Jackson.
Most observers will look past Jackson in projecting the nose tackle position,
but Stanford has to maintain a solid two-deep even in the face of injury.
And this is a position that will often experience injury. Jackson lacks
the God-given frame or strength of his younger position mates, but he does carry
experience upon which defensive line coach Dave Tipton will lean this spring.
As important as Babtunde Oshinowo was to the 3-4, you could argue that the
player for whom it was created was Jon Alston. In 2003, he was a reserve
outside linebacker, not quite big enough to get on the field, yet Stanford's
pass rush lagged. Adding a spot for him in the defense unlocked success
for both Alston and the Cardinal the last two years. But the question that
begs us today: How unique was Jon Alston? Is there another like him to
make that position work? That is a question seeking an answer this spring,
with three very different players hoping to solve the riddle. The eldest
candidate is redshirt junior Emmanuel Awofadeju, who came to Stanford with great
promise and expectations. He was lean but quick, and he is the type of
athlete who precisely benefits from playing in a 3-4 rather than a 4-3 defense.
The problem is that Awofadeju was stuck behind Alston and Timi Wusu, but now
that both have graduated, this is his chance to emerge. Awofadeju has
grown stronger, but his challenge has been his maturity and playmaking
While Awofadeju has been learning to play outside linebacker in Stanford's
3-4 defense the last two years and awaited his turn, redshirt sophomore
Austin Gunder is brand new to the position after moving from tight end this
winter. Gunder has the body type, but does he have the quickness?
That is an open question, as is whether he is better suited to play the "Rush"
outside linebacker position or its "Sam" counterpart on the strong side of the
field. There is no doubt that redshirt freshman Clinton Snyder belongs at
outside linebacker. Though he lost part of last fall with surgery to clean
up a bone chip in his foot, Snyder was an inspiring force on the scout team
defense. He has all the tools, plus a nose for the ball and a ravenous
playmaking hunger. Snyder is also like Awofadeju in that his quickness and
athleticism are greatly suited to Stanford's 3-4, but would today but undersized
as a defensive end. Many people inside and outside the program half-expect Snyder to be the breakout player of this defense in 2006. He has our full attention.
The "Sam" outside linebacker position is more common in modern defenses, but
the two players slotted at the position for Stanford are not common.
Redshirt junior Udeme Udofia has grown (in more ways than one) each year at
Stanford, and he was a quietly effective playmaker in his 11 starts last fall.
Udofia made huge plays in the wins at Arizona and Oregon State and would have
been hailed as a hero in the UCLA game if not for the late turn of events that
toppled the Cardinal's upset bid. He is overshadowed by numerous players
in the front seven, including his brother two years his junior. But the
elder Udofia had a great winter and is seen by teammates as one of the leaders
of the defense. That all being said, there will be a lot of eyes watching
redshirt freshman Will Powers as he challenges Udofia for his starting job this
spring. Powers is a local boy who came to Stanford last fall with as much
acclaim as any linebacker in the last four years, though he also contributed at
defensive end for the scout team defense during his redshirt year. Taking
him out of the scout environment and putting him full-time with the Stanford
defense to compete at outside linebacker puts Powers in a position where we can
really examine his ability for the first time in college. He is talented
enough to push Udofia, and there are some observers who believe he could win the
job. Whoever exits April atop the depth chart, this is one of the best
battles for any position on the field this year. Walk-on redshirt
sophomore Brandon Willetts is also slated for this position, and hopefully he
can settle into a role after bouncing between inside and outside 'backer spots
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