We take a look at Stanford's stout defense and impressive linebacking corps.
As discussed in Part 1 of the preview, Stanford's 3-4 defense will likely be the best defense UCLA faces this season. They rank 10th nationally in scoring defense, allowing only 16.9 ppg and 70th in scoring offense with 28 ppg. They're 2nd in the nation in rushing defense, allowing just 71 ypg, and lead the nation with 100 tackles for loss. They do allow 257 ypg through the air, but that doesn't mean they are weak against the pass, however, and they have tallied 43 sacks this season, which is good for 2nd in the nation.
Stanford features a very strong defensive line, but the linebacking corps really stands out. The line does a great job occupying blockers, and Stanford's group of linebackers is big, fast, and aggressive. They do not get out of position often, and UCLA will have to sustain drives to score on Saturday.
Stanford's defensive line is led by DE Ben Gardner. (6'4 275 lbs. Jr.), who has been very productive with 6 sacks and 13 tackles for loss. The lighter end (6'4 251 lbs.) has been off to a hot start, and has 5.5 tackles for loss and 2.5 sacks this season. Opposite Gardner, Henry Anderson (6'6 278 lbs. Jr.) starts and adds 3.5 sacks and 9 tackles for loss. Josh Mauro (6'6 277 lbs. Jr.) and Aziz Shittu (6'3 264 Fr.) will also play in the end rotation, and Shittu figures to be a very good end in the future.
At nose, Terrence Stephens is sitting out the game and David Perry (6'2 300 lbs. So.) will be filling in. Losing Stephens is a big hit to the defense, and especially with regard to depth at the nose position.
Shayne Skov (6'3 242 lbs. Sr.) starts in the middle and is one of the better middle linebackers in the country. Despite missing a game due to a DUI suspension, Skov leads the team with 58 tackles, and also has 2.5 sacks and 6 tackles for loss. A.J. Tarpley (6'2 238 lbs. So.) starts at the other middle spot. He has 43 tackles on the season. Behind Tarpley and Skov, Stanford has excellent depth in Jerek Lancaster (6'1 242 lbs. Jr.) and James Vaughters (6'2 246 lbs. So.).
Outside, Chase Thomas (6'4 248 lbs. Sr.) has been tremendous and has become more of a rounded linebacker. He has 3 sacks and 11 tackles for loss in addition to his 57 tackles.
Trent Murphy (6'6 261 lbs. Sr.) will man the other OLB spot. Murphy has supplanted Thomas as the pass rusher, and leads the team with 8.5 sacks and 15.5 tackles for loss. Murphy has been a very strong performer and adds 47 tackles to sack totals.
Stanford lost three of four starters to graduation, but their defense hasn't missed a bit. In fact, the only returning starter, CB Barry Browning (6'1 182 lbs. Jr.), is now backing up Alex Carter (6'0 200 lbs. Fr.) at corner. Opposite Carter, Terrence Brown (6'1 178 lbs. Jr.) will start and is backed up by very talented Wayne Lyons (6'1 187 lbs. So.). At nickleback, Usua Amanam (5'10 176 lbs. Jr.) returns and fits the role perfectly.
The safeties are Jordan Richards (5'11 208 lbs. So.) and Ed Reynolds (6'2 207 lbs. So.). Reynolds leads the team with 5 interceptions, which he has returned for 221 yards and 3 touchdowns. Richards was recruited as a WR and has vaulted up the depth chart. Backing up Reynolds is highly touted Devon Carrington (6'1 199 lbs. Jr.).
Overall, the Stanford secondary has been solid, but they are really helped by Stanford's elite front seven. Opposing quarterbacks do put up decent yards against the group, but the secondary has a lot of take aways and the defense has a ton of sacks.
Drew Terrell will handle punt returns, and is averaging over 12 yards per return with touchdown. Ty Montgomery has done a good job returning kickoffs as well, gaining over 25 yards per return.
Jr. Jordan Williamson returns at placekicker. He is 13 of 22 on FG attempts and 35 of 36 on XP attempts this season. He is doing much better on kickoffs this season, and 45% of his kickoffs have been touchbacks this year after getting only 12% touchbacks last season.
Sr. Daniel Zychlinski handles punting duties and is averaging roughly 42 yards per punt. Only 15 of his 57 punts have been returned, and Stanford has done an excellent job in coverage this season.
That concludes the preview of the Stanford Cardinal. Fire away with any additional thoughts and comments.