Last week, we highlighted five Stanford players to watch on offense and special teams during spring practice.
What about Coach David Shaw's defense? In 2011, the Cardinal D was stellar in September and early October, and much less so in the last month of the regular season and against Oklahoma State in the Fiesta Bowl.
The secondary in particular was riddled by injuries and torched for over 240 yards per game and managed only seven interceptions all season.
Here are five defensive players worth watching this spring. One is on everyone’s radar, while the others may be under nearly everyone’s radar.
ILB Shayne Skov’s triumphs and tribulations are well-documented. Team leader, ferocious tackler, nose for the ball. Suffered an ACL injury last September that caused him to miss most of the 2011 season.
And, an arrest in late January for DUI.
Will Coach Shaw announce discipline for Skov this spring? If so, what will it be? A game or two? Dismissal from the team? Something in between?
Wayne Lyons was one of Stanford’s most highly touted recent recruits as a 4-star DB out of Dillard HS in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. He was ranked as the 10th overall prospect in the entire nation in 2011 by The Sporting News.
Like Andrew Luck, Lyons was valedictorian of his high school class. He also clocked a 4.5 in the 40 and has a 33-inch vertical leap.
As a true freshman in 2011, Lyons showed flashes of brilliance in the Cardinal’s first two games last September before breaking a bone in his left foot. He didn’t play again, had surgery and was redshirted. He missed much of his senior year in high school with a knee injury.
In the Cardinal’s first open practice of the spring on March 3, Lyons impressed with his coverage and added an interception and a pass breakup. With CBs Johnson Bademosi and Corey Gatewood graduating, Lyons will need to step into a starting role by regaining his form this spring—while remaining healthy.
Coach Shaw has predicted that Lyons could develop into a national caliber player. If so, Lyons should be a star this spring.
Like Lyons, true freshman safety Jordan Richards saw action in all 13 of the Cardinal’s 2011 games, with 15 solo and 31 total tackles.
Richards, a two-way star at Folsom HS in Folsom, CA, showed some tackling and coverage ability at the safety position in 2011. He is one of several returning DBs vying to replace graduating safeties Delano Howell (who was good enough to be invited to the NFL combine last month) and Michael Thomas (who led Stanford with three INTs in 2011).
Who, you may ask, is Myles Muagututia? Well, he’s a junior former walk-on who was a member of Stanford’s 2010 NCAA champion volleyball team.
As a redshirt sophomore in 2011, he joined Jordan Richards in being pressed into service in Stanford’s injury-depleted secondary, and saw time at safety in all 13 of Stanford’s games.
Now, it appears that the 6’2”, 210 lb. Samoan from San Diego may be tried at ILB. The Cardinal received admirable 2011 performances there from Jarek Lancaster and A.J. Tarpley after Shayne Skov was lost for the season with a knee injury, but Skov’s status remains uncertain after his DUI arrest in January.
MM is a proven athlete who made some plays in 2011. He might make more in 2012.
James Vaughters was a 4-star OLB recruit out of Tucker HS in Stone Mountain, GA.
At 6’2’, 250 lbs., Vaughters played in every game in 2011, with a sack and several tackles for loss. He played explosively in the first half of the season, but was quieter in the key stretch of November games against Oregon, Cal and Notre Dame.
Returning starting OLBs Chase Thomas and Trent Murphy combined for over 90 tackles and 15 sacks in 2011. Vaughters could play a key 2012 role in joining Thomas and Murphy.