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UCLA Football: Previewing the Stanford Cardinal - Part 2 – Offense

We take a look at Stanford's power-running offense and point out their key players.

Just like the JetSki, Stepfan Taylor is having a BEASTLY senior season.
Just like the JetSki, Stepfan Taylor is having a BEASTLY senior season.
Steve Dykes

AHMB is having some technical difficulties with his laptop today, so I am going to sub in for him and share our notes on Stanford's offense.

When I watch the Stanford offense it reminds me of a classic NFL team that is built on a hard-hitting defense, a power running team which only needs it's QB to "manage" the game. Of course, last four years Stanford had a magical with once-in-a-generation talent Andrew Luck leading the team. When he left for the NFL, yours truly like many others thought Stanford would fall off the map. But I have to give David Shaw a lot of credit for putting together a great season to date with first year QBs, who have not really lit up the conference.

Shaw has been riding the Stepfan Taylor train all season and have mixed in the skill sets of two tight ends who will probably play on Sundays. Watching these guys I keep thinking of the Ravens (and the 49ers since last season), who have experienced a lot of success with just solid, fundamentally sound power football.


Stanford started the season with senior Josh Nunes starting at QB. Not sure how many of you remember but Nunes and Richard Breahut were two of the most high profile Southern California QB recruits (other than Matt Barkley) to come out of their class. As we blogged previously on BN Norm Chow decided to scout both of them and offered Brehaut the UCLA scholarship, Nunes headed off the firm. Well, Nunes has had a tough junior year (he is a red-shirt), as he was replaced mid-season by red-shirt freshman Kevin Hogan. Nunes ended up completing 52.4 % of his passes for 1643 yards, 10 TDs and 7 interceptions.

But what Kevin Hogan brought to the table was the mobility factor. Hogan has played pretty well since taking over completing 74.2 percent of his passes for 658 yards, throwing 7 TDs and only 3 picks. He is also the second leading rusher on the team with 150 yards (1 TD) in 33 attempts. He has been efficient for David Shaw and no doubt riding in with lot of confidence after pulling off that upset against Oregon.

Oh and for those wondering about Brett Nottingham, the red-shirt sophomore is buried at the 3rd spot in the depth chart. We haven't seen him getting any action this year and not sure if he is going to be able to supplant Hogan in next 3-4 years. For the record, we are not bitter as if we had gotten Nottingham, it probably would have meant Brett Hundley playing for Washington Huskies (no, I don't want to imagine that).

Running Backs

Former 4 start recruit Jr. Stepfan Taylor, finishing up his Stanford career stellar senior campaign. The 5'11, 208 lbs. tailback has put together his third straight 1000 yard+ season establishing himself as one of the premiere backs in the West Coast if the country. Right now Taylor is the fourth leading rusher in the conference with 1,222 yards in 258 carries (averaging 4.7 yards per attempt). He can also catch the ball a bit as he has 188 receiving yards, and has provided Stanford a steady offensive punch all season, scoring 9 touchdowns. Taylor rushed for 1330 yards last season, including 12 touchdowns (10 rushing and 2 receiving). Suffice to say he is going to keep both Mora and Spanos all week.

As mentioned above, Kevin Hogan is the second leading rusher behind Taylor and remember Hogan didn't really take over till midpoint of the season. So the backfield combination of Hogan and Taylor creates additional worries for Spanos because together they provide Stanford a multi-dimensional look, they didn't have before under Nunes. Besides those guys, Anthony Wilkerson, 6-1, 218 red-shirt junior often gets some reps, as he has rushed for 140 yards in 30 carries. Ricky Seale (5-9, 193 redshirt sophomore).

At fullback red-shirt Jr. Ryan Hewitt (6'4 248 lbs.) is more versatile and can be used more as an H-Back. He has 11 receptions on the year for 103 yards and a touchdown. Lee War is also listed at the FB spot in the team's depth chart, but hasn't gotten much action.

Receivers and Tight Ends

Mentioned above Stanford being an old-school NFL offense. If you look through the breakdown of team's 196 receptions, you will see the numbers are dominated by it's TEs and RBs. In fact the folks at Rule of Tree voiced some concerns about that trend line this week. Redshirt juniors Zach Ertz (6'6 52 lbs.) and Levine Toilolo (6'8 265 lbs.) are the two-headed monsters and I am getting a headache thinking about how our LBers are going to match up against them.

Ertz and Toilolo are both former 4 star recruits. Ertz leads the team with 58 receptions for 747 yards and 6 TDs. Toilolo is second with 377 receiving yards (22 receptions) and 4 TDs. They are matchup nightmares. Despite their size, they are not plodding tight ends. Toilolo has excellent leaping ability and will pose issues for us when Stanford gets to the red zone.

At receiver, Stanford is replacing Srs. Chris Owusu and Sr. Griff Whalen with Srs. Jamal-Rashad Patterson (6'3 208 lbs.) and Sr. Drew Terrell (5'11 180 lbs.). Patterson is a former 4 start recruit has all the size and speed a wide receiver could need, but hasn't really exploded into the college game. So far this season, Patterson caught 12 balls for 217 yards and 2 scores. Watch, now that I have called him out, he will go on to have huge games against our much maligned CBs (who may still be beaming from last Saturday).Drew Terrell has had a pretty decent season to date catching 25 balls for 362 yards and 2 scores.

Other receivers who will see action include 6-2, 212 sophomore Ty Montgomery, who has 23 catches for 183 yards and 5-10, 195 red-shirt freshman Kelsey Young, who has 8 catches for 74 yards. And don't forget about the running backs. As mentioned above, Taylor is a threat of the backfield as he has 29 catches for 188 yards and 2 scores. FB Ryan Hewitt can also be worked in as a HB as he has 11 catches for 103 yards and 1 TD this season.

Offensive Line

Stanford's offense is largely predicated on the maulers up front. This is perhaps the most physically brutal offense line UCLA has faced all season. This is impressive because Andrew Luck is not the only NFL talent Stanford has had to replace season, They had to reshuffle their OL a bit in order to replace guys like OG David DeCastro and OT Jonathan Martin, who have gone on to punch their Sunday tickets. While they started off a little slow this year, it is still the engine that drives the Stanford offense.

Led by returning players LT Jr. David Yankey (6'5, 301 lbs.), LG RS Jr, Khalil Wilkes (6'3, 291 lbs.), C Sr. Sam Schwartzstein (6'3, 292 lbs.), RG RS Jr, Kevin Danser (6'6, 98 lbs.) and RT RS So. Cameron Fleming (6'6, 314 lbs.), the Cardinal offensive line has played extremely well this year. They have given up 1.36 sacks per game (15 total) and paved the way for 169 rushing yards per game.

That concludes Part II of the preview of the Stanford Cardinal. It is going to be a challenge for Mora and Spanos to handle these guys this Saturday. But I kind of think back to how teams scheme for my favorite team - the 49ers. The best way to beat the Niners is prevent it's QBs (Alex Smith or Colin Kaepernick) from getting into any kind of comfortable rhythm. The way to do that would be to win the battle in the trenches in first and second down, making sure Hogan doesn't have manageable third (or second) down situations.

I imagine we will see some run blitzes from our D, keying on Taylor and attempts to get in Hogan's face early on. Given Hogan's mobility - there will also be a need to have an alert spy (Kendricks?) to make sure he is not picking up cheap real estate.

Fire away with any further comments and thoughts, and be sure to check back in for Part III of the preview, where we'll take a look at Stanford's defense and special teams. Stanford folks - obviously notes above are our observations as fans from another team. If you would like to point out anything that is not on the mark or needs additional perspective, invite you to share in our comment threads.