2012 here we come
It’s now been a few days since 11-2 Stanford’s come-from-ahead 41-38 overtime Fiesta Bowl loss to Oklahoma State. Fear not, for there are at least five huge reasons to be optimistic for the Cardinal's 2012 season.
But first -- aren’t bowl games just grand? Take two highly ranked teams who have never played each other, hype thoroughly for a month, and then let them have at it. Combine the mystery of the unknown (not talking about you, LSU v. Alabama) with weeks of round-the-clock preparation by offensive masterminds.
Result? An instant classic.
I digress. The Fiesta Bowl is officially ancient history. This slideshow is all about 5 reasons for Stanford to be optimistic for the rest of 2012. Read on to learn more.
23-3 in 2010-11
After three consecutive winning seasons highlighted by two straight BCS bowls and a 23-3 combined record in 2010-11, the Cardinal has some swagger.
Plus, early indications are that the incoming class of 2016 will feature a number of top recruits on offense, notably Barry J. Sanders, the heralded RB and son of the 1988 Heisman Trophy winner and NFL Hall of Famer, Barry Sanders. More on Barry J. later this month.
And, Stanford's schedule for 2012 opens with three straight home games, which will be an ideal situation for the post-Luck offense. The first two games against San Jose State and Duke should be a good warmup for whoever replaces Andrew Luck at QB.
The third home game is against a USC team that could be top ranked to begin the season. However, the Trojans have been notoriously slow September starters during the Matt Barkley/Lane Kiffin era. Stanford has beaten USC in four of their last five meetings.
There will be some difficult road trips, notably to Oregon in November, along with Washington and Notre Dame. And the Big Game rivalry game against Cal will be in Berkeley. But Stanford has been remarkably successful away from The Farm in the past three years.
Skov: crazy good
Where were you on the night of September 17, 2011?
Stanford fans remember that night all too well. That’s when LB Shayne Skov, the Cardinal’s defensive leader, blew out his knee against Arizona.
Skov led Stanford in 2010 in tackles and sacks, and then smoked VaTech in the 2011 Orange Bowl, to the tune of three sacks and 12 total tackles.
He’s dynamic, disruptive and has that uncanny sixth sense which places him in close proximity to the football at all times.
Unfortunately for Stanford, he didn’t play again after September 17. Would he have made a difference against Oregon, or in the Fiesta Bowl? The answer here is a resounding YES.
Fortunately for Stanford, he should be back for the 2012 season. Pac12 offenses, beware.
Taylor: 1,363 yards and 12 total TDs in 2011
Senior RB Jeremy Stewart and linemen David DeCastro and Jonathan Martin are moving on, but the rest of the formidable Stanford power run game returns.
Notably, RB Stepfan Taylor will be back for his senior year. He ran roughshod over OSU in the Fiesta Bowl with 35 carries for 177 yards and two touchdowns. Taylor totaled 1,363 yards, scored 12 touchdowns rushing and receiving, and averaged 5.5 yards per carry for the season.
The 5’11’ 210 pound Texan will enter 2012 as one of the nation’s leading backs.
The backfield should also feature Tyler Gaffney, who averaged 6.1 yards per carry in 2011, and Anthony Wilkerson, who averaged 5 yards per carry. Fullbacks Ryan Hewitt (five touchdown catches in 2011) and Geoff Meinken also return.
More reason for excitement: the marquee RB recruit, Barry J. Sanders, has committed to play his college football at Stanford.
Montgomery: great things to come
Whoever replaces Andrew Luck will have plenty of experienced targets.
Senior TE Coby Fleener caught 10 touchdowns in 2011 and averaged 19.6 yards per catch. He will next be seen playing on Sundays (which will make him the fifth Stanford TE currently in the NFL, joining Evan Moore, Alex Smith, Konrad Reuland and Jim Dray).
Luckily for the Cardinal, Fleener’s two TE sidekicks, 6’ 8” Levine Toilolo and 6’ 6” Zach Ertz, will be back. None of Stanford’s 2011 opponents ever figured out how to cover either of them. In the Fiesta Bowl, Ertz scored on a 16-yard touchdown.
The Fiesta Bowl was also a night to remember for freshman WR Ty Montgomery.
He got deep for a 53-yard first quarter touchdown, had his helmet knocked off from a Markelle Martin hit, finished with career highs of seven receptions for 120 yards, and added two kick returns for another 48 yards.
Not bad for a freshman who had started just three games leading up to the Bowl. Montgomery could be a superstar in the making.
Williamson: much better days ahead
Ever hear of Jordan Williamson before the Fiesta Bowl? If not, you have now.
Williamson is, for all the wrong reasons, America’s most famous college placekicker. To paraphrase the late great actor Lloyd Bridges from the movie “Airplane,” Williamson, who will be a redshirt junior in 2012, picked a bad game to miss a lot of field goals.
But he was not lacking for confidence leading up to the Fiesta Bowl, exclaiming in an interview with the Stanford athletic department that he eagerly looked forward to kicking in the University of Phoenix dome.
Says here he will be back with a vengeance in 2012. Karma.
As for Stanford's recruiting for the incoming class of 2016, watch this space in coming weeks for more details. In addition to the previously mentioned Barry J. Sanders, there are many other future stars who have committed to the Cardinal.
Stanford has made an unprecedented two straight trips to BCS bowls. The Post-Luck Cardinal can make it three in a row.