04.Nov.2016 Blogging with the Enemy: Stanford
Hey guys, below are the questions you guys asked Hank from the Stanford blog.
- Is what happened to Oregon post-Chip starting to happen to Stanford, post-Harbaugh?
The short answer is no; the long (2,000 word) answer is here: http://www.gomightycard.com/2016/10/this-isnt-the-apocalypse.html. Here’s something in between. There are those Stanford fans who still cling to the Myth of Jim Harbaugh, the fire bringer in khaki pants who descended from Mt. Olympus and enlightened the huddled masses. There’s some truth to that. I don’t think any human being — or demigod, for that matter — aside from Harbaugh could’ve wrought such a transformation, but David Shaw was the perfect choice to keep things going. In fact, he’s been better than Harbaugh, in my opinion. Any number of programs have had a good season or two and reached a nice bowl, but few can match the consistency that Stanford has enjoyed under Shaw. This season is a blip. Eight different starters have missed games this season, including the player who should’ve won the Heisman last year, and there’s a new quarterback. Two of them, in fact. I’ve argued that the Cardinal has actually overachieved this season. They sit at 5-3, and they’ll likely be favored in each of their remaining games. A 9-3 regular season isn’t out of the question; a bowl win would mean a double-digit season. Few schools outside of Tuscaloosa would complain about that.
- What happened to the offense?
A lot of things happened to the offense, starting with the graduation of Kevin Hogan. Going from a four-year starter to a player who had thrown only a handful of passes in mop-up duty was always going to be difficult, but inconsistencies along the offensive line made things even worse. Three new starters were installed on the line, and they didn’t click immediately. Making things worse, injuries and poor performance forced midseason changes for the first time in recent memory. Because of all this, Christian McCaffrey was struggling, and then he was injured at the end of the Washington State game. He missed Notre Dame, played less at less than a hundred percent in the Colorado loss, and suddenly his Heisman hopes and Stanford’s running game both disappeared. The other problem is that Bryce Love, Robin to McCaffrey’s Batman, was also injured. Last week was the first time both running backs were healthy, and that completely changed the offense. Things are looking up.
- Stanford has a couple notable guys banged up (OL Johnny Caspers-questionable this week, FB Daniel Marx-doubtful) how talented are their backups and are there other important players likely to miss the Beavs game? What adjustments are likely in view of the probable absence of these guys?
As mentioned above, injuries have been a huge issue. In addition to Caspers, fellow lineman Dave Bright has also been nicked up. Off the top of my head, at least seven different players have started on the offensive line, including true freshman Nate Herbig (a future star at guard). The loss of fullback Daniel Marx has also been significant. The fullback position is critical to the Cardinal running game, and Marx’s primary backup, Reagan Williams, is considerably smaller and less experienced than Marx. In addition to Williams, you’ll also see Chris Harrell, a converted tight end, leading the way for McCaffrey and Love.
- I understand that Chryst has averaged 3.5 yds per passing attempt and his long last week was 18yds; it has been written, “Stanford does not threaten a defense deep at all and makes scheming for their offense incredibly easy as they are still very one dimensional”Does the Stanford blogger agree?
The Stanford blogger does agree, at least with the first part of the statement. Most observers expected Keller Chryst to win the starting job based on his pedigree and status as the number two quarterback last season, so it was a surprise when Ryan Burns won the competition and started the first seven games. After Burns’s poor performance against Colorado, however, it was anything but a surprise when Shaw went to Chryst last week. I can’t say that he was bad, but he certainly wasn’t spectacular. That yards per attempt number that you cite tells you everything you need to know. He did look downfield a few times, but he was never able to connect. Part of the problem was his lack of accuracy, but the greater concern is that Stanford’s receivers just aren’t stretching the field right now. Defenses have nothing to be afraid of. Speed merchant Michael Rector has been disturbingly quiet this season, and the team’s best receiver, Trenton Irwin, has averaged just 11.5 yards per catch. The lack of a running game over the past five weeks has certainly contributed to this, so it’s possible the return to health of McCaffrey and Love will open things up a bit in that regard. We’ll see.
- How does this year’s team compare to the last few years as far as being physical?
The most disconcerting thing about this season was watching the offensive line getting physically beaten by Washington and Washington State. Stanford has obviously lost games over the past four seasons, but at no time during that stretch were they ever physically overmatched. As far as the offensive line goes, much of that has to do with injuries and inexperience. On the other side of the ball, the physicality is right where it’s always been. This is probably the best defensive line Stanford has fielded in at least three years, led by junior defensive end Solomon Thomas, a sure-fire All-Pac-12 selection and a candidate for defensive player of the year in the conference. He’s an absolute force, and you’ll probably hear his name being called frequently on Saturday.
- Did they expect such a big drop off in QB play with Hogan graduating? He seemed to be more of a manager vs a playmaker.
If you’re thinking about people like Cam Newton and Marcus Mariota and Andrew Luck when you say playmaker, then you’re right, that’s not Kevin Hogan. He was always under appreciated by those who didn’t watch him on a consist basis because he never did anything spectacular. There are highlight reels full of jaw-dropping plays Andrew Luck made during his time at Stanford — fifty-yard runs, one-handed catches, forty-yard throws from his knees, bone-jarring tackles of opposing linebackers — but Hogan simply did his job and led his team to three Rose Bowls. Quarterbacks in the Stanford system have to be game managers. They have to be able to stand at the line of scrimmage and check from a pass to a run or from a run to a pass, and that makes for a long learning curve. There was no way that Burns or Chryst was going to come in and match Hogan’s production. That being said, I don’t think anyone would’ve predicted such a severe drop.
- How much can you bench press?
As everyone knows, Stanford is nothing more than a muscle factory, so you won’t be surprised to know that I can bench at least 75-80 pounds.
- How is Scarlett coming along? He’s had some touches this year, is he developing as expected?
McCaffrey made a point of mentioning Cameron Scarlett at Pac-12 Media Day this summer, saying that he had improved tremendously and was ready to contribute, but there hasn’t been much so far. When he was signed people expected him to develop into Stanford’s next power back. At 220 pounds he’s twenty pounds heavier than McCaffrey and almost forty pounds bigger than Love, and he’s gotten some short yardage carries. The problem is that there just aren’t enough carries to go around. Next year will probably be his year.