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2023 Team Talent Preview: Stanford

What can we expect for the Cardinal in Year One under new head coach Troy Taylor?

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: SEP 24 Stanford at Washington Photo by Jesse Beals/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Welcome to the 2nd part in our series looking at the rosters of every Pac-12 team as we head ever closer to opening day. The order is organized by my team talent rankings. For more information on how those numbers came about, check out the intro for the WSU post. And while you’re there, go ahead and read the whole thing then come back. We’ll wait for you.

Past Teams- 12. Washington State Cougars

(Names in bold are projected starters by Phil Steele. Otherwise, names are listed in order of scoring in the talent ranking system)

TOTAL OFFENSE- 914.1 (11th)

Quarterback- 68.8 (11th)

Starter- Myles Jackson (46.6)

Reserves- Ashton Daniels (44.3), Ari Patu (40.0), Justin Lamson (18.5)

The Cardinal aren’t last in the rankings but this is the least experienced group of quarterbacks in the conference. Projected starter Ari Patu is 3rd here but there’s not much of a separation between Jackson (the true freshman), Daniels, and Patu. This looks like a legitimate 3-man competition entering fall camp with Patu having the experience edge even though he still has played fewer than 100 offensive snaps in college. Maybe one of these guys turns into a star in new head coach Troy Taylor’s offense but it’s not hard to imagine this spot holding Stanford back from being able to compete this year.

Running Back- 96.2 (10th)

Starter- E.J Smith (67.1)

Reserves- Casey Filkins (58.1), Sedrick Irvin (45.2), Caleb Hampton (33.8), Brendon Barrow (24.2)

There’s some room for optimism here despite Stanford again ranking near the bottom. E.J Smith (son of hall-of-famer Emmitt) looked like he was about to have a major breakthrough season last year before getting hurt at the end of their 2nd game against USC. He’s now averaging 6.1 yards per carry for his career but on just 56 total carries plus has fumbled 3 times. Can he both stay healthy and take care of the ball?

Filkins took over once Smith went down and was serviceable but at 4.0 yards per carry for his career doesn’t look like he’s ever going to be a primary option. He did chip in with 200+ receiving yards and 17 catches so Filkins should be able to at least help out on 3rd downs as the more experienced back.

Wide Receiver- 251.4 (11th)

Starters-John Humphreys (78.2), Mudia Reuben (60.8), Ahmari Borden (46.9)

Reserves- Tiger Bachmeier (46.2), Jackson Harris (42.6), Bryce Farrell (42.5), Ismael Cisse (36.1)

The depth falls off a cliff pretty quickly on the Stanford depth chart. Four of the seven names above are true freshmen and they’re the ones not highlighted in bold. None of the true frosh were 4-stars (although Bachmeier and Borden were just short) but probably multiple of them will get a good amount of playing time given what else is on the roster.

Humphreys is by far the most experienced name among the group after finishing 5th on the team in receiving yards last year. He also is the only returning WR to have more than 53 total yards. Yikes. That’s what happens though when your top-3 receivers all either graduate or leave early to the draft. If you’re looking for an experienced group to help break in a new quarterback? This isn’t it.

Tight End- 110.8 (2nd)

Starter- Benjamin Yurosek (79.0)

Reserves- Shield Taylor (63.5), Sam Roush (59.4), CJ Hawkins (45.7),

This is what you’re looking for to help your new quarterback. Yurosek was 2nd team all-conference last year only behind eventual 1st round pick Dalton Kincaid from Utah and is the favorite to be 1st team in the preseason. He was 2nd on the team in receptions and even managed to take an end around for 50 yards against USC (a little less impressive after we saw USC’s defense the entire year). He should be the favorite to lead Stanford in receiving this year even from the tight end spot.

Taylor and Roush both were fairly highly rated coming out of high school and Taylor falls under the tight end list here even though he was more of an H-back under David Shaw. Neither of them should come close to challenging Yurosek but played 100+ snaps and are serviceable back-up options.

Offensive Line- 387.0 (8th)

Starters- C Levi Rogers (66.9), Jack Leyrer (66.6), LT Alec Bank (51.9), LG Trevor Mayberry (51.2), RT Fisher Anderson (47.0)

Reserves- Simione Pale (43.8), Zak Yamauchi (43.4), Luka Baklenko (42.9), Lucas Heyer (40.8), Charlie Symonds (36.2), Allen Thomason (28.4), Connor McLaughlin (27.3), RG Jake Maikkula (26.6)

(A note that my listed starters here are the 5 highest scorers even if some of them play the same position. If the backup right tackle has a higher rating than the starting left guard, the LG gets bumped to reserves above.)

If you don’t pay attention to the portal then you’re shocked to see Stanford finish as low as 8th given the history of their offensive line under Jim Harbaugh then David Shaw. If you pay attention to the portal then you’re shocked to see Stanford even manage 8th place. That’s because the Cardinal lost 4 starters to power conference programs and another reserve player to cross-Bay rival Cal this offseason.

The only man left standing (crouching?) is Woodinville native Levi Rogers who played right guard last season but may shift further inside to center. Jack Leyrer has the next most FBS starts with 3 filling in at both tackle spots. Phil Steele doesn’t have him winning a starting spot but he should at least be a serviceable swing tackle. The left side of the line is projected to be made up from a pair of Ivy League transfers; Bank from Harvard and Mayberry from Penn. Both have FCS starting experience but had below average PFF grades even at that level which isn’t adjusted for competition. That’s not a great sign.

Right now Steele has Maikkula listed as the favorite to start at right tackle but he has 0 career snaps as a redshirt freshman. If there are any injuries at all then at least one true freshman is going to need to play. There are 5 new ones that were all mid to high 3-star recruits and the odds are that multiple make the 2-deep with a chance one wins a job in fall camp. Relying on freshmen along the offensive line is never a great sign but especially not with a new starting quarterback learning a new offensive system.

TOTAL DEFENSE- 852.9 (12th)

Defensive Line- 151.4 (11th)

Starters- Jaxson Moi (57.8), Tobin Phillips (56.4)

Reserves- Anthony Franklin (42.0), Braden Marceau-Olayinka (32.3), Zach Rowell (28.3), Austin Uke (27.3)

The good news is that Stanford returns their 3 highest snap count players from last season on the interior of the defensive line. The bad news is that they also had one of the worst rush defenses in all of college football. All 3 of Moi, Phillips, and Franklin had a PFF grade below 47.0 where average is approximately 60.0. Clearly the hope is that each can get better in a new scheme and with another year of experience under their belt.

I’m putting each team in a default nickel defense with 2 DL and 2 ED players but Steele’s starting projections has Stanford in a 3-4 with no nickel back. That’s why there are 3 projected starters in this group and there will only be 2 with the corners even though Franklin counts as a backup for the purposes of the scoring here.

Edge Rushers- 209.2 (6th)

Starters- David Bailey (87.3), Aaron Armitage (69.9)

Reserves- Ernest Cooper IV (59.1), Lance Keneley (45.1), Gavin Gweniger (39.1), Tevarua Tafiti (38.7), Tre Williams (38.3)

Stanford has generally done a pretty good job recruiting edge rushers in recent years so their depth is rounded out by a lot of fringe 4-stars who haven’t seen much (or any) of the field so far. There is some potential star power here though. David Bailey was 2nd on the team in QB pressures as a true freshman after coming in with a 0.9718 rating in the 247 Sports Composite. With leading pass rusher Stephon Herron having transferred to Louisville it means the #1 pass rusher job is open for Bailey to step right into.

It makes some sense that Keneley is the favorite to start opposite Bailey as he was the #4 edge rusher behind Bailey, Herron, and Aeneas DiCosmo and Herron and DiCosmo are now gone. Aaron Armitage though was right behind him on the depth chart and is a year younger and was a higher rated recruit. If he takes a leap it’s not crazy to think he jumps ahead. The sleeper is Ernest Cooper IV who was a 4-star true freshman last year and had a very high PFF grade despite not getting as much playing time as Keneley or Armitage. Overall, this is a really solid group and should be one of the strengths of the team.

Linebackers- 129.8 (11th)

Starters- Gaethan Bernadel (62.8), Tristan Sinclair (46.6)

Reserves- Ese Dubre (22.8), Matt Rose (18.8), Benjamin Hudson (18.7), Spencer Jorgensen (15.9)

Last year’s top linebacker, Levani Damuni, transferred to Utah and several others graduated leaving a gaping hole at the middle linebacker spot on the depth chart. To help plug the hole the Cardinal added Florida International transfer Gaethan Bernadel who was solid as the heart of the middle of their defense. It’s a step up in competition obviously but there’s reason to think he can be at least an average starter right away.

Next to him though is a question mark. Sinclair struggled in a reserve linebacker role missing 22% of his tackles and fielding a below average PFF Grade. Literally the only player behind him with any defensive snaps to his name is former walk-on Spencer Jorgensen. It’s not great.

Cornerbacks- 188.1 (11th)

Starters- Jshawn Frausto-Ramos (47.4), Zahran Manley (45.0), Omari Porter (43.9)

Reserves- Collin Wright (40.2), Terian Williams II (32.4), Aaron Morris (31.2)

Stanford lost their top-5 corners in terms of playing time from last year and didn’t replace any of them in the portal. That is how you get no one with an individual score above a 50. There are plenty of potential upside plays. Manley and Porter have combined for 3 starts and when you throw in Collin Wright all of them have decent to good PFF grades. There just isn’t a ton of experience even though Manley and Porter are in their 5th and 4th years of college respectively. The wild card will be 4-star true freshman Jshawn Frausto-Ramos who will have a chance to compete for immediate playing time. Maybe this unit turns out okay but unless you’ve been at every Stanford practice there’s no way anyone can say that for certain.

Safeties- 166.2 (10th)

Starters- Jimmy Wyrick (68.0), Jaden Slocum (62.5)

Reserves- Alaka’i Gilman (50.7), Che Ojarikre (37.2), Mitch Leigber (34.2)

There’s a little more depth at the safety position but not by that much. Both last year’s starters depart due to running out of eligibility which means the 3 reserves (Wyrick, Slocum, and Gilman) get elevated to more playing time. Gilman will likely get the first chance since he’s a year older and was higher on last year’s depth chart. All 3 (plus true freshman Ojarikre) were almost identically rated by recruiting services coming out of high school. Expect the trio to play the majority of the snaps and there’s a chance the actual starters come down to availability and rotate around a little bit.

OVERALL TEAM- 1,767.0 (11th)

If you’re a Stanford fan (pretending for a moment they exist) then you’ve got to be happy about the way that Troy Taylor has been able to recruit so far in the class of 2024. Stanford stands at 15th right now in part because they have 28 commitments already. That’s going to be sorely needed because this might be another rough season. The talent just isn’t there right away for Taylor to get set for success even if he coaches his butt off.

On offense, the only established positions are running back and tight end but the offensive line isn’t set up to be a ground and pound masher type team. On defense, the outside linebackers should be able to pressure the quarterback but they’re replacing the entire secondary so it’s likely that receivers are open immediately on quick throws before the unit can get pressure. There’s certainly hope that things can turn around in 2024 but this looks like Taylor gets off to a slow start trying to transition out of the David Shaw era. I’d make Stanford my early favorite to finish last in the Pac as they were just about tied with WSU at the bottom in talent but have a much bigger question mark at quarterback.