An experienced defensive line is sure to keep Stanford moving on its ascent up the Pac-12 standings from its immense progress last season.
True, Andrew Luck will be playing a large role in winning games, but a good offense isn't always the best defense.
Luckily for Stanford, their defensive line will spearhead an under-appreciated Cardinal defensive attack.
Stanford is one of the few teams to effectively run the 3-4 defense.
The defensive line is the key, sacrificing their individual glory to occupy the offensive line, allowing the linebackers to make plays.
Senior Matthew Masifilo is the lone returning starter on the defensive line, but he's a good one, named honorable mention All Pac-10 in 2010.
His leadership will prove invaluable to his linemates Terrence Stephens and Ben Gardner.
In order for the 3-4 to be effective, you need a linebacking unit that works together and loves to tackle.
Led by All-American candidate Shayne Skov, this group will be licking their chops at opposing ball carriers.
The only knock on Skov is that he plays so hard he gets dinged up, but his motor never stops.
His partner in crime, fellow linebacker Chase Thomas, led the Cardinal in tackles for loss and sacks. He'll be looking to improve on those totals this year in this newly potent defensive scheme.
Starting corners Johnson Bademosi and Barry Browning bring experience to the Cardinal defensive backfield.
Bademosi (who competes for the Cardinal Track and Field team) has the size and speed to effectively blanket his opponent’s No. 1 receiver.
On the other side, Browning has the technique in coverage but at only 176 pounds, has to be careful the other team's running game doesn't overpower him.
As with most Stanford players, he is ahead of the learning curve in applying his skills to the situation in front of him.
There aren't many better last lines of defense than the Cardinal's Michael Thomas and Delano Howell.
Howell is on several preseason watch lists, and Thomas was honorable mention All Pac-10 last year.
They both might have saved their best for last, having big games against Virginia Tech in the Orange Bowl.
Teams will have to think twice before flinging the ball downfield against this dynamic duo.
From Musketeers to superheroes, the Cardinal defense is stacked to make a name for themselves in the 2011 season.
This resurgent Stanford defense, if they can avoid serious injury, could provide the perfect complement to the vaunted offense, leading to a storybook conclusion in the BCS.