The Stanford Cardinal: Three Keys to Success

David HedlindAnalyst IIApril 26, 2009

STANFORD - NOVEMBER 15:  Toby Gerhart #7 of the Stanford Cardinals runs the ball during the game against the USC Trojans at Stanford Stadium on November 15, 2008 in Stanford, California. (Photo by: Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images)


This is the fourth in a ten part series about what I see as three points that will contribute to the success or needs to be fixed for the success of each PAC-10 team. I am posting in order, 10-1 from the 2008 season. Obviously there are going to be more than three things, but these things stood out to me.

Head Coach Jim Harbaugh

Under head coach Jim Harbaugh, Stanford has done nothing but improve.

The year before Harbaugh took over, the Cardinals went 1-11. Since his arrival they have increased their win total each season. In year one the record was 4-8. Bigger than the record though were wins over USC and rival California. Year two may not have had big name wins but still increased the number to five wins.

Harbaugh then went out and brought in a recruiting class that was ranked as the fifteenth best class by

With steady improvement and a high ranked recruiting class, many expect Stanford to make their first bowl since 2001.

Toby Gerhart

The biggest question in regards to senior running back Toby Gerhart has little to do with football, but will impact the team greatly. Gerhart is also on the baseball team. A little later this year we will find out if he chooses to stay with the football team or move on to the next level in baseball.

Gerhart rushed for 1136 yards on 210 carries. Believe it or not but this was a Stanford single season record. The Stanford offense has become run first under Harbaugh, and the loss of a runner like Gerhart would greatly hurt that offense.

I don’t know if anyone on the current roster could just step in for Gerhart. Behind him are three-star junior Jeremy Stewart and four-star sophomore Delano Howell. The recruiting class is also bringing in a couple of four-star running backs.

Gerhart may not have been the highest rated among the current or incoming backs but he is the most proven. Should he stay, Harbaugh and Stanford know what they can expect. If he leaves the responsibility falls to a seemingly talented, yet unproven group.

Tavita Pritchard and Andrew Luck

Senior quarter back Tavita Pritchard would be the obvious choice as the starter for the 2009 season. He has been what I would only call OK as a starter, including making his first start beating 40-point favorite USC in 2007.

He only has a 7-12 record as a starter, but again remember this is Stanford we are talking about. Not your most historically powerful team.

Pritchard has more interceptions (22) than touchdown passes (15), but he still got the Cardinals to 5-7 and one game away from bowl eligibility.

With these kinds of numbers, it is still not at all surprising to see someone challenging him in spring. That someone is redshirt freshman Andrew Luck.

Luck was a five-star recruit and has truly turned Stanford spring practice into a quarterback competition.

Junior Alex Loukas is also in the mix but Pritchard and Luck have been getting most of the reps.

"All three quarterbacks are performing very well," said Harbaugh, "It's a true quarterback competition. Whatever player emerges as the starter will know they beat out a very good player."

I think it is clear it is going to come down to Pritchard and Luck. Either way I think the two deep at the position is looking good for Stanford to make some noise in 2009.