As was the case last year, Stanford's 3-4 defense will likely be the best defense UCLA faces this season. They are experienced, talented, and deep. That said, the unit as a whole has not been as dominant as it was last season when Stanford was 5th nationally against the run and led the nation in sacks and tackles for loss.
The biggest reason for concern on the Farm is the inconsistent play for the defense. While Stanford has held 3 of 6 teams to 51 yards or less on the ground and 234 yards or less through the air, they have also allowed 139 yards or more to 3 of 6 opponents, including 284 to Army and 181 to Utah, and 322 yards or more through the air to 3 of 6 opponents, including 350 to Washington and 367 to Arizona St.
Despite the inconsistent numbers, Stanford has once again proven to have the ability to win the line of scrimmage. Stanford is #30 in the country with 15 sacks, and #21 in the country with 44 tackles for loss. Whether or not UCLA can avoid negative plays is going to play a huge factor in Saturday's game. In last year's contests, Stanford tallied 10 sacks and 18 tackles for loss against the Bruins.
You can view their full depth chart here. We'll take a closer look at the key players at each of the three levels.
Stanford's defensive line is led by a pair of bookend 5th year senior defensive ends. Ben Gardner. (6'4 277 lbs. Sr.) has been productive with 2.5 sacks and 5.5 tackles for loss. Opposite Gardner, Josh Mauro (6'6 282 lbs. Sr.) has 3 sacks and 4 tackles for loss. Stanford's key reserve here is Luke Kaumatule (6'7 267 lbs. So.), who is moving from starting tight end to defensive line this week due to injuries and lack of production from Aziz Shittu (6'3 280 lbs. So.). Kaumatule is very athletic and was a highly regarded end coming out of high school, and the move could light a fire with Shittu, who was also a very highly recruited lineman.
At nose, David Parry (6'2 303 lbs. Sr.) and Anthony Hayes (6'3 293 lbs. Jr.) form a solid duo. Parry is somewhat nicked up, but he should be able to play on Saturday.
The linebacking corps starts three seniors, including two 5th year seniors. The unit is one of the best linebacking units in the conference.
Shayne Skov (6'3 242 lbs. Sr.) starts in the middle and is one of the better middle linebackers in the country. Skov leads the team with 52 tackles, and also has 2.5 sacks and 6 tackles for loss. A.J. Tarpley (6'2 238 lbs. Sr.) starts at the other middle spot. He has 41 tackles on the season. Behind Tarpley and Skov, Stanford has experienced depth in Jerek Lancaster (6'1 242 lbs. Sr.) and Joe Hemschoot (6'1 225 lbs. Sr.).
Outside, Stanford is replacing Chase Thomas but returns Trent Murphy (6'6 261 lbs. Sr.). Murphy has 5 sacks and 8 tackles for loss this season. The other starting linebacker is James Vaughters (6'2 254 lbs. Jr.) who has 3 tackles for loss and one sack. Blake Leuders (6'5 260 lbs. Sr.) and Kevin Anderson (6'4 244 lbs. Jr.) back up Thomas and Vaughters.
Stanford has a big, experienced secondary that only lost one key contributor from last year's secondary. Alex Carter (6'0 200 lbs. So.) started last year at corner and returns. Opposite Carter, Wayne Lyons (6'1 196 lbs. Jr.) replaces departed Terrance Brown. Stanford also has Barry Browning (6'1 182 lbs. Sr.), who started two years ago but now backs up Carter. At nickle, Usua Amanam (5'10 176 lbs. Sr.) returns and fits the role perfectly.
The returning safeties are Jordan Richards (5'11 208 lbs. Jr.) and Ed Reynolds (6'2 207 lbs. Jr.). Reynolds led the team last year in interceptions with 6 and does have an interception this year, but he has an impressive 44 tackles this year.
One super sub to keep an eye on is Devon Carrington (6'1 204 lbs. Sr.). Carrington is listed as Reynolds backup at FS and Lyons' backup at CB.
That concludes the preview of the Stanford Cardinal defense. Fire away with any additional thoughts and comments.