Stanford coach Troy Taylor has gone back and forth between between quarterbacks this season, but is currently settled on QB Ashton Daniels over Justin Lampson. In four full starts (plus bits and pieces of other games), the 6-2 215 pound Daniels has thrown for 1,255 yards, with 8 touchdowns and 3 interceptions, while completing 60% of his passes for 7.2 yards per attempt. He was previously Stanford’s wildcat QB and known mostly as a running threat but has shown himself to be a more decent passer and game manager than many would have expected.
His main target is WR Elic Ayomanor, a 6-2 210 pound player with good strength, blazing speed for his size, and an NFL future. He exploded in the Colorado game with 13 catches, 294 yards, and 3 touchdowns to spark the comeback victory. He made impressive catches downfield, including against the helmet of CB Travis Hunter, and also outraced the entire CU defense on a 97 yard catch and run. He hasn’t come close to those numbers in any other game, but last week against UCLA had a respectable 8 catches for 90 yards. WR Tiger Bachmeier has started to come on too, and the 6-1 freshman showcases strong route running and the ability to fight through traffic to make contested catches.
TE Ben Yurosek is one of the Pac-12’s best and can create big plays in the passing game. However, he’s been kept in to help pass block quite a bit which limits his opportunities downfield. He has 16 catches for 239 yards and a touchdown this year.
The offensive line is struggling to protect Daniels who has been sacked 14 times this year. Back up QB Justin Lampson has been sacked himself 11 times. Even in games where they kept the QB upright, like the Hawaii game, the OL allowed pressure 16 times. The line has made running the ball a non-factor, too. Part of that is not having RB Casey Filkins healthy, but he may return against the Huskies and likely will boost the run game somewhat. He’s an efficient runner who keeps his shoulder square, makes quick cuts, and gets the yards available to him.
With new Bradford M. Freeman Director of Football Troy Taylor at the helm, this is a tempo offense and a big departure from Stanford attacks of the past - they are top 40 in the country in plays per game. On the season they’re getting 67% of their yards through the air and have been relying on the pass game more as the year progresses. Of passes beyond the LOS, more than 60% are inside the numbers, particularly in the 0-19 yard range. They accumulate most of their yards that way, but Daniels has 4 touchdowns and 6 “big time throws” when going beyond 20 yards. But that’s about all the success he’s having on that part of the field, connecting on just 8/25 deep shots.
The scheme employs a lot of creative Troy Taylor concepts, mixing up some air raid concepts with zone read/RPO schemes. There isn’t much pre-snap motion and they run a lot of plays out of tight formations, likely for improved pass protection.
This offense hasn’t been able to execute yet at the level Troy Taylor would envision. They are constantly off schedule, averaging more than 15 third down attempts per game, and only converting 38% of them. They were a measly 1-for-15 last week against UCLA. Beyond that, slow starts have plagued this offense. They ultimately won the game Colorado game, but dug themselves into a 29-0 hole in the first half, and spotted UCLA a 35-0 lead last week. That’s been the story week after week.
This is one of the lowest scoring offenses in the country at just 21.3 points per game. They are 106th in rushing EPA, 110th in passing, and 117th in early downs. Just not good all around. Outside of the offensive line play - which still hasn’t come close to getting fixed - the big issue with the offense has been explosive plays. They may have found the answer with Ayemanor, but defenses will be scheming to prevent him from going deep. So how does Stanford counter?