Stanford Football: What You Need to Know About Cardinal's TEs

Joe GoldmanCorrespondent IMarch 30, 2017

Stanford Football: What You Need to Know About Cardinal's TEs

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    Coby Fleener is gone and now playing TE for the Indianapolis Colts. Most teams would be devastated by such a loss, but Stanford is actually in outstanding shape at the position.

    Fleener was one of the best TEs to ever wear Stanford Cardinal. The team has big shoes to fill, but Stanford brings back an excellent TE core that should pick up the slack following his departure.

    Stanford has a big and talented group of TEs that will surprisingly prove to be one of its greatest strengths.

    Here’s everything you need to know about Stanford’s new-look TE rotation.

Fleener's Replacements

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    Levine Toilolo, Zach Ertz and Davis Dudchock (yes, three awkward names to pronounce) highlight one of the deepest TE cores Stanford has ever had.

    Toilolo and Ertz are relatively unknown to most non-Stanford fans, as they were Stanford’s fifth and sixth leading receivers last season according to ESPN. With Fleener gone and a weak WR core, Toilolo and Ertz are more important than ever.

    Meanwhile, the Junior Dudchock is yet to catch a pass in a game, but will have a much bigger role in 2012. Expect him to be targeted early to get him accustomed to the offense and the pressure of being a Division 1 pass catcher.

    This depth at TE is one of Stanford’s best assets this season. All three TEs will have increased roles this season and will be imperative in Stanford’s quest to the BCS.

    More importantly, Stanford doesn’t just have quantity at TE—it has the talent to back it up.

Talent

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    The ultra-talented Toilolo and Ertz highlight Stanford’s best-in-conference TE core.

    Neither Toilolo nor Ertz were Rivals top-100 recruits. However, both are late bloomers and are as talented as any other TEs in the conference.

    Toilolo should be considered a Mackey Award candidate right out of the gate. He was brilliant in his limited amount of snaps behind Fleener and should be considered a lock for, at the very least, the all-Pac-12 team.

    Meanwhile, Ertz is slightly quicker and plays more like a wideout. He caught a TD pass in each of his first three games last season and had one against Oklahoma State in the Fiesta Bowl.

    Keep in mind that Toilolo and Ertz put up these numbers with Coby Fleener on the team. The two are set to explode in 2012.

Size

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    Even after losing the 6’6”, 250-pound Coby Fleener to the NFL, the Cardinal miraculously got bigger at TE.

    Toilolo comes in at 6’8”, 265 lbs while Ertz is a solid 6’6”, 252 lbs. Hopefully Pac-12 opponents are ready for a bruising.

    Moreover, it also sets up the Cardinal to create matchup nightmares for many of its opponents, most notably in its biggest game of the year against the USC Trojans.

    The USC linebackers and defensive backs are quick and talented but very undersized. On September 15, QB Josh Nunes will capitalize on this mismatch by targeting Toilolo and Ertz throughout the game.

    This size at TE is crucial and gives Stanford a better chance at upsetting the Trojans.

Who Starts?

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    The simple answer is Toilolo. He’s bigger, has better hands, is more of a pure TE and was named to the John Mackey Award preseason watch list.

    However, most of the time the Cardinal will run a Toilolo and Ertz system, not one or the other. Ertz could be used as a WR while the bigger Toilolo plays TE, and it's not unreasonable to expect 600 yards from both of them this season.

    Coach David Shaw has some tricks up his sleeve, so it’s also possible the Cardinal will run a dynamic two TE system.

    The bottom line is that both Toilolo and Ertz are set to have big seasons. Depth at TE is a major bonus for Stanford—not a starting job competition.