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Whether by injury, suspension or ineligibility, losing players is an unfortunate aspect of a typical college football season. Being able to avoid losing your team's most important players is an even taller task...
Records obtained by the Tallahassee Democrat indicate the football recruiting budget has nearly doubled under Jimbo Fisher.
The success of the last two season of Stanford football will be hard to ever match. The Cardinal was 23-3 in the 2010 and 2011 seasons with BCS bowls at the end of each campaign. Last year’s 11-2 record included a 41-38 overtime loss to Oklahoma State in the Fiesta Bowl
The rise to national prominence began under the guidance of the outspoken Jim Harbaugh, who coached his last game in Palo Alto to move across the bay to take over the San Francisco 49ers. Stanford’s success continued last year with rookie head coach David Shaw on the sidelines.
Of course, the common thread between the two was the quarterback – Andrew Luck.
Shaw enters his second season with the unenviable task of continuing Stanford’s recent success without Luck, whom the Indianapolis Colts strapped with the unenviable task of replacing Peyton Manning when they made him the No. 1 overall pick in April’s NFL Draft.
Luck is far from the only significant player Shaw and Stanford must replace heading into 2012, but he is at the top of the list.
Dave Fowkes, who covers Stanford football for Stanfordfootballreport.com, provided great insight on the Cardinal for this report.
Luck’s 9,430 career passing yards rank second in school history. In just three seasons he also set Stanford school records for touchdown passes (82), completion percentage (.687; 713-1064), passing efficiency (162.76) and total offense (10,387).
Luck passed for 3,517 yards (71.3 percent) with 37 touchdowns and just 10 interceptions in his final season on The Farm.
Fowkes calls the 2012 race to replace Luck “wide open”, with redshirt junior Josh Nunes and last year’s back-up, redshirt sophomore Brett Nottingham, as the primary contenders. A pair of redshirt freshmen is also in the mix, but Fowkes expects the two veterans to battle it out.
“Because the offense they run is so complicated it’s not just going to be the guys that’s got the physical tools,” Fowkes said of the criteria for determining Luck’s successor. “It’s going to be who manages the offense the best and makes the fewest amount of mistakes.”
With Nottingham and Nunes at the top of the list, Fowkes says limiting those mistakes will likely be the biggest factor in who starts at quarterback at the start of the fall.
“Right now both of them are still trying to learn even though they’ve been in the system for a couple years,” Fowkes said of Luck’s former understudies. “No one can run the offense quite like Andrew Luck did. The guy that wins the job is probably going to be that guy who makes fewer mistakes, because there’s just not that big a difference physically.”
“We’re (media covering Stanford) guessing it’s gonna be Nottingham, but the competition will go into training camp (for) probably at least the first two weeks for sure.”
There is significant turnover at receiver as well. Ryan Hewitt was just Stanford’s fourth overall receiver last year, but he is their top returning receiver this fall. The senior to be caught 34 passes for 282 yards and five touchdowns last season. Fellow senior, tight end Zach Ertz, is the only other returnee of Stanford’s top five receiving targets in 2011. Ertz had 27 grabs for 346 yards and four TDs last season.
In addition to replacing the number one overall pick in this year’s NFL Draft and top receiving options, the Cardinal must also find replacements for first and second round selections from the offensive line.
Guard David DeCastro was selected 24th overall by the Pittsburgh Steelers, while left tackle Jonathon Martin went to the Miami Dolphins with the 42nd overall pick. The Cardinal lost three starters after the 2010 season, but was able to keep things together because of those two.
“This year there are some real depth issues in the offensive line,” Fowkes apprised. “They had a great recruiting class coming in. Arguably Stanford’s all-time best offensive line recruiting class. There’s a real chance Stanford could have a true freshman starting at left tackle this season.”
Fowkes also expects Kevin Danser should win the job at right guard.
The upside for Stanford on the offensive side of the ball is the return of running back Stepfan Taylor. The senior from Mansfield, TX provides a nice security blanket for his team’s next quarterback. Taylor ran for 1,330 net yards (5.5/carry) last year while totaling just 33 negative yards all year.
The Stanford coaching staff considers Taylor to be the best back in the country, and they will likely look to ride him with an inexperienced quarterback at the helm. Running back is also the offensive position that is the deepest on the depth chart.
“This is gonna be a running football team,” Fowkes said flatly. “They are gonna had the ball to Taylor and then it’s power football and play good defense.”
There is a familiar name that will suit-up for Stanford this fall. 1988 Heisman Trophy winner Barry Sanders’ namesake, Barry Sanders, Jr. will be a freshman this year. Fowkes expects him to see time at running back and possibly even receiver.
Last year’s leading tackler, Jerek Lancaster, is back to lead a front seven that Fowkes expects to be “very good”. Lancaster had 70 tackles with 3.5 sacks and seven tackles for loss in 2012. Outside linebacker Chase Thomas (52 tackles), who could have gone to the NFL after last season, is also back to help anchor a stout front seven. Thomas led the Cardinal with 17.5 tackles for loss and 8.5 sacks a year ago.
Another inside linebacker, senior Shane Skov, gives Stanford even more pop at inside linebacker. He went down last September with a knee injury, but Fowkes says his recovery has gone well. Skov is one of the few injuries Fowkes says Stanford was dealing with during the spring.
While the front seven should be Stanford’s defensive strength in 2012 the secondary is another story. Three of the Cardinal’s four starters at defensive back from 2011 are gone. Fowkes believes the difference between Stanford having just a “good” defense or a “great” one will be determined by whether or not it can match-up with the wide receivers across the Pac-12.
“They’ve always had trouble with speed,” Fowkes said of Stanford’s biggest issue in the secondary. “Especially when you match-up with the USCs and the Oregons. There is some talent there. We’ll probably see one or two freshmen get some time in the rotation in the secondary this year as well, but it’s a real question mark.”
Shaw has plenty of work to do in his second season as Stanford head coach. His coaching staff remains mostly intact from last year, although there have been a handful of changes.
Last season’s co-defensive coordinator and inside linebackers coach Jason Tarver is now the defensive coordinator for the Oakland Raiders. Derek Mason, who was calling defensive plays last year, remains as defensive coordinator.
David Kotulski is the new inside linebackers coach on the staff and Pete Alamar is the new special teams coach. Former Notre Dame special teams coordinator is also gone from the Cardinal staff. After two seasons there as special teams coordinator, he now holds that position as well as tight ends coach at Texas A&M. He was hired after former Houston head coach Kevin Sumlin was named to head the program.
The only possible concern anyone might seem to have about Shaw is his good guy vibe – especially compared to the in your face bravado that his successor and former Stanford boss, Jim Harbaugh, has.
“Shaw comes across as such a nice guy,” Fowkes said. “Shaw is such nice guy, and sometimes you worry about that. Maybe he doesn’t have that edge. In year one that wasn’t a problem at all.”
Though he might not have as much bark as Harbaugh, Shaw has something that even Harbaugh didn’t have – Stanford pedigree.
“He really understands the Stanford way,” Fowkes said of the second-year head coach. “He is a Stanford graduate. He has been in and out of this program for his entire life. His dad was an assistant coach for Stanford twice. That’s what everyone here loves about him-he understands what it takes to succeed at Stanford.”
Fowkes conceded that it would be easy for a lot of coaches to be easy going with the likes of Luck calling the signals and two high round NFL picks to protect him.
“I think this year really is a big test year for him,” Fowkes added of how year two at the helm might go for Shaw. “Now it truly is his team. With a new quarterback this is his team, so I think this is gonna be a real test year for him.”
2015 OL Talks ND Offer
ck made sure California offensive lineman Reno Rosene knew it.
“We had a practice and Coach Martin was there along with Coach Denbrock,” the Oaks Christian freshman said.
“After practice, my offensive coordinator Casey Clausen came up to me and told me to give him a call and Coach Martin told me I was the first freshman they offered this year.”
The 6-foot-5, 290-pound freshman was excited by the offer, which was his first, and the fact that he was the 2015 prospect offered by the Irish.
“It was great,” he said. “I feel like the hard work is paying off. Even though there is a lot more to be done and working hard, it just feels like this past offseason has really done a lot for me.”
Martin explained why the Irish felt comfortable pulling the trigger at such an early stage.
“He said they see a lot of big guys, a lot of big linemen, and since I was such a young kid, my leadership was great and I had really good aggression in practice, which a lot of kids don’t have outside of having pads on,” Rosene said. “He really liked those two things, aggression and leadership.”
Casey Clausen is the older brother of former Irish quarterback Jimmy Clausen and has told Rosene positive things about Notre Dame.
“He thinks it’s a great school,” said Rosene.
From what he knows, Rosene agrees with Clausen.
“I know they have a really rich history with football and great alumni behind them,” Rosene said. “They’re education is right up there with Stanford, so I know they’re a great school overall.”
The 2015 prospect is hoping to visit South Bend soon.
“I’m pretty sure this summer,” he said. “I’m trying to work it out right now. I should be getting to one of the camps. I just want to check out the campus. I’ve never been there before, I’ve never even been to Indiana, so I’m pretty excited to check it out and meet the coaching staff as well.”
Rosene is also hearing from programs like USC, UCLA, LSU and Alabama. He’s seen a rise in interest since the Notre Dame offer.
“I got more letters than usual the next couple of days after that and I was getting more looks from the coaches that were coming and being told to call them,” he said.
Rosene has already identified a couple key factors in his decision down the road.
“I want to be around people that are like me that I like,” he said. “And of course a school that develops offensive linemen, I know Notre Dame does. Coach Martin told me a lot about their offensive line coach.”
Brent's Busy Summer
Justin Brent enjoyed the spring portion of recruiting, which included a visit to Notre Dame’s spring game and several visits from colleges at his high school during the May evaluation period..
“Everything is going great,” the 2014 wide receiver from Speedway High School in Indianapolis said.
“Illinois came by, Northwestern came by. Ohio State was supposed to come by, but my coach wasn’t there when they were coming by. Illinois, Minnesota, Purdue.
“A lot of schools were coming by.”
Notre Dame didn’t make it to Speedway during the month of May, but Irish assistant Mike Elston has stayed in touch.
“He sent me some mail with his card in it and trying to get me up there to their camp,” said Brent. “I’ll be up there June 22nd.”
The Irish’s camp will represent the summer portion of recruiting for Brent, which actually started earlier this month at the Nike Football Training Camp in Champaign, Ill. Brent also made a recent stop at Louisville and is planning to get to Ohio State next week among others.
“I know I’m going to the Notre Dame one and July 30th, I’m going to the Cincinnati under the lights one,” he said.
Brent is looking forward to the chance to perform on the field.
“I just want to go out there and show everybody that it’s not a fluke and I am pretty good,” laughed Brent. “I want to show that I can compete.
“It’s what you work for. It’s something I think about whenever I go through speed, agilities and running routes, just to showcase. Hopefully all of the hard work pays off.”
Brent believes he’s nearing his first offer.
“It’s looking pretty good, but I’ve still got a lot of work to do,” he said.
He doesn’t know what the first offer will feel like.
“It’s something that you really don’t how it’s going to feel until you actually get it, so I don’t know how it’s going to feel,” he said.
A busy summer schedule will also be packed with 7-on-7 events and basketball responsibilities for his high school squads, but the dual-sport athlete won’t be doing AAU basketball this summer.
“This is the first year I’ve done that,” he said. “I’ve been playing AAU since the second or third grade. This is my first year not playing, so hopefully it pays off.”
Gibbons Blows Up
Reilly Gibbons has enjoyed an exciting spring.
“It's just been crazy,” said the 2014 prospect from St. Petersburg Catholic in St. Petersburg, Fla.
It started with Gibbons moving from tight end to offensive tackle.
“The coaches realized that they needed somebody to seal the edge,” the 6-foot-6, 250-pounder said.
“I was kind of hesitant at first and they said we really need you to seal the left side for us in our new offense on outside sweeps. I agreed and I took on the position and it turns out a lot of people like me at it.”
It sure does.
Gibbons grabbed his first offer from Tennessee toward the end of March and added Rutgers, Nebraska and Purdue to his offer sheet a couple of weeks later. But once college coaches made it down to St. Pete to see Gibbons at his new position, offers started pouring in.
South Florida, Northwestern, Illinois, San Diego State, North Carolina, Colorado, Hawaii and West Virginia have all jumped on board.
“It was great,” Gibbons said of the recruiting explosion. “Coaches would come out during spring practice, of course they were there to see Ryan (Green), but a lot of them already knew who I was, which was surprising. I would call them after and they were really excited.
“It's just been great, it really has. It's kind of a humbling experience to have all of these coaches from schools offer me. It's really a good experience.”
Playing with Green, who is Notre Dame’s top running back target in the Class of 2013, hasn’t just brought attention to Gibbons, it’s also given him experience, which has helped at the new position.
“I'm pretty big for my age,” said the rising junior. “I have really long arms and it's kind of easy for me to seal the edge. Last year, I got a lot of experience at it because our team blocks a lot and we have the best running back in the nation. I am a natural left-hander which also helps on the left side. It's just a real good fit.”
Gibbons isn’t turning in his tight end uniform just yet though.
“Next year, they're going to let me keep two jerseys so I can play tight end and tackle,” he said. “Some games I’ll play tight end and some games I’ll play tackle. I'm still working on my speed and still working at getting bigger and stronger and that works for either position.”
Notre Dame assistant Tony Alford should be happy to hear that.
“He was really excited about my position change to left tackle, but he still likes me at tight end too,” Gibbons said of Alford, his recruiter at Notre Dame. “He was just saying a lot of good stuff.”
Gibbons is hoping he hears more good stuff when he returns to South Bend next week for camp.
“I cannot wait,” said Gibbons, who grew up a huge Notre Dame fan and would love to land an offer from the Irish.
He visited Notre Dame for a game last fall and for the Irish’s Junior Day in March. He’s ready to return next week.
“We just booked a flight and it's going to be a blast,” he said. “I really want to show the coaches who they’ve been spending their time talking to and all that stuff.”
Gibbons will be traveling to California the following week to visit Stanford and USC, a couple schools that have been showing very strong interest this spring.
“My dad has always loved those vacation movies and he's always had a dream to go out West and my mom has never been,” laughed Gibbons. “It's going to be our family trip.
“It's going to be great. Stanford has a great education just like Notre Dame. And USC the same way, they have a great law school. It should be fun.”
Gibbons could pick up offers from one or both of the big-time California schools, but right now he’s just focused on impressing the Notre Dame staff.
“I really want to show them that they have to offer me.”
Wolford Will Camp
t's that time of year again when Notre Dame brings in recruits from all across the country to participate in its football camp.
One of the prospects scheduled to be on campus is 2014 quarterback John Wolford of Bishop Kenny High School. The Jacksonville, Fla., native is looking to get up to South Bend later this month.
"I'm going to be headed up to Notre Dame on June 22nd for camp," he said. "I'm really excited to get up there and show the coaching staff what I've got. I know the coaching staff is interested in me and they want to see me throw in person."
Wolford is also looking to make stops at Alabama, Arkansas, Duke, Northwestern, North Carolina, Tennessee, North Carolina State and Miami.
The 6-foot-2, 200-pound signal-caller is yet to receive his first offer, but plenty of programs are showing interest, including, Notre Dame, Oregon, BYU, Cincinnati, Georgia Tech, Louisville, South Carolina, Vanderbilt, Tennessee, UCLA, Miami, Wake Forest, Florida, Clemson, Alabama and Arkansas.
Irish assistant coach Scott Booker has let Wolford know that the Irish are very interested in the young gunslinger.
"I have never talked to him, but he let me know that he was going to be recruiting my area," he explained. "He also told me that the coaching staff wants to see me up close and they're going to recruit me harder over the next year."
Notre Dame is a program the Florida native holds in high regard and he even has family ties to the program.
"I grew up around Notre Dame and it's always been my favorite team," he shared. "I have a few cousins who went to school at Notre Dame and my most of my family is big Notre Dame supporters. It would be an honor to get recruited by Notre Dame."
Wolford also believes that he fits the style of offense Brian Kelly runs.
"I love the offense they run because you get to throw the ball all over the field but there is balance to it," he stated. "I think that I could be good fit in that offense. Their history and tradition speaks for itself and the new coaching staff they have there carries themselves very well."
As a sophomore, Wolford threw for nearly 2,700 yards with 35 touchdowns against just three interceptions, he also added eight rushing scores. Now the talented prospect is focused on his junior season.
"I can't wait for next season to start," he said. "We have a lot of talent coming back this year and we should be able to make a run at a state championship."
OK, EGND. I'm sure that you will be happy to know that I will not visit the daily coffee site anymore.
Your anti-Obama crusade is too much for me.
The Catholic Church has the richest history of teaching social justice and peace of any Christian denomination in the world. The American Catholic bishops, all appointed by John Paul II and later popes, fall far short of this great heritage. The only moral issues according to them are related to sex.
Obama's policies are more in line with this rich heritage of Catholic social teaching than any policies pursued under these bishops for almost 40 years. For example, every human person should have adequate and equal access to affordable healthcare. (If you haven't read these encyclicals, tracts and Vatican II documents, then I have no use for your response on this point.)
Stick to football, and keep your political ideas to yourself, as I and others do.
I am devoted to real catholicism and not to those mentioned above who have hijacked the most basic message of the Gospels.
I will always be a beloved follower of Notre Dame football. Go Fighting Irish!
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