Can Stanford do it again?
David Shaw and the Stanford football team will face a defining test in the upcoming 2014 season. The Cardinal will have to overcome a heap of adversity to remain a football powerhouse.
Stanford is losing six starters on offense, four on defense, and three other important contributors. They lose 5 All Americans including 1st team offensive guard David Yankey and 1st team free safety Ed Reynolds, both of whom are eligible for another season (CBS Sports). They also lose key backups in nickelback Usua Amanam, defensive end Ben Gardner, and running back Anthony Wilkerson. It is a challenge for any team to replace starters but this Stanford team has to replace thirteen solid players.
Stanford also has lost two key coaches: defensive coordinator Derek Mason to Vanderbilt, and recruiting coordinator Mike Sanford to Boise State. The problem the Stanford institution has is that it desires to be a consistent national power in college football, but the school refuses to pay their coaches the same salaries as other top programs. Shaw’s current salary is $2.5 million which is less than half the money as Alabama’s Nick Saban makes at over $5.5 (USA Today). Stanford must hold onto their coaches if they want to continue their success.
The 2014 season will also be the last Stanford team that has ties to the Harbaugh era recruits. Shaw’s test is to continue the top recruiting that Harbaugh began. The 2013 class was not up to the standards of a football power, ranking 40th in the nation with only twelve players. The good news is that Shaw and Stanford are on track for a top 25 recruiting class this season. The Cardinal will need depth and versatility from these young players to replace their losses.
Finally, Stanford faces an even tougher schedule than their #1 ranked strength of schedule in 2013 (FBSchedules.com). Five of their six road games are against teams that finished the 2013 season ranked in the top 25 in the AP Poll in Washington, Notre Dame, Arizona State, Oregon, and UCLA (Sports Illustrated). This is a daunting set of opponents to face on the road, especially when Stanford is known to not play nearly as well away from The Farm. Stanford has not lost at home since falling to Oregon in 2011, but was upset twice by ranked opponents on the road in 2013.
Stanford will have to rely more heavily on their veterans in Kevin Hogan and Ty Montgomery, but they will have to find different ways to win. Stanford will be without a star running back and is losing four offensive linemen, so the ground attack is likely to suffer as it did late in all three of their losses in 2013.
Shaw and the Cardinal face adversity from all sorts of directions heading in to the 2014 season. Can Stanford overcome all these obstacles and remain a football powerhouse? If it does, Shaw’s reputation will grow and the Cardinal might be there to stay.
By Taylor Spielman – February 5th , 2014
(Photo credit: DennisMansfield.com)