Walk down University Avenue and it is not hard to find a Cardinal fan who is convinced that Stanford will get a bowl bid this year.
In years past, you would have just brushed this person aside as a drunken college student. But this year, there could actually be some validity to that statement.
Jim Harbaugh has the Cardinal set up for a great season. Many of his recruits have received a ton of buzz since the beginning of spring drills and they certainly have the faithful pumped for the season to start.
There are still several improvements that Stanford will need to exhibit in order to lock down a bowl berth this season and it will start with their offense.
Let's take a look at the Cardinal offense to see how they grade in the preseason.
Redshirt freshman Andrew Luck has certainly captured a lot of hype following the Cardinals’ spring drills. After dazzling coaches with touch, power, and accuracy, Luck shot up the depth chart and will be put to the test immediately in his first season.
Luck was a five-star recruit out of Houston, TX and ranked fourth in the nation amongst QBs in his year. If his game-time play truly mimics his current potential, then someone needs to call the National Security Agency, because Stanford could have a very dangerous weapon on their hands.
Running Backs: B
Toby Gerhart set Stanford’s single-season rushing record last season with 1,136 yards, averaging 94.7 yards per game. He led all Pac-10 running backs with eight 100-yard games and looks to keep bowling his way through defenses this season.
Whether or not he will be able to duplicate his previous performance is the question that gets Palo Alto anxious.
The backfield takes a slight loss in the graduation of Anthony Kimble, who last year rushed for over 700 yards, lit up the scoreboard with six touchdowns, and was a very nice complement to Toby.
Junior Jeremy Stewart will need to make long strides early in order to fill this role and to keep this backfield chugging along.
Wide Receivers/Tight Ends: C+
Depending on how the Stanford receiving corps moves forward with Luck, the production from this group could quickly become explosive.
The Cardinal return their top two receivers from last year in Ryan Whalen and Doug Baldwin. Both will be put to a much greater test this year with a passing game that has the potential to be more prevalent.
Harbaugh admits that another receiver is going to have to step it up for this passing offense to be successful and Chris Owusu could be that guy. Owusu turned some heads late last year and has been impressive during spring drills.
Also look for tight end Konrad Reuland to make a splash and to get a few looks from Luck despite being the No. 2 TE on the depth chart.
Offensive Line: C
Stanford is faced with its biggest loss from last year’s squad on the O-line. The departure of Alex Fletcher and Ben Muth cannot be overlooked and figuring out how this trickles down to the running game should be the biggest concern.
The Cardinal do have fifth year senior Chris Marinelli returning and two juniors in Chase Beeler and Andrew Phillips, all who have decent experience at working the line.
Filling the hole at right guard will be redshirt freshman David DeCastro. The 6'5", 290-pound beast was a highly ranked, four-star prospect coming out of Bellevue, WA and is expected to make an immediate impact.
David will be joined by fellow redshirt freshman Jonathan Martin who had a very productive spring and looks to start at left tackle.
Bringing youth to the line can always be a nail-biter but if these two are up to the task Stanford could have strong right and left sides for a few years to come.
Please check out how the Stanford defense graded in my next article