Stanford Cardinal Report Card: Offense
Most Stanford students have received their first-semester grades by now. But it's time to hand out another set of grades as we evaluate the team's performance on the football field last fall. Here is how the Stanford offense graded out for a 2013 season that ended with a Rose Bowl loss to Michigan State.
This position was difficult to evaluate, because Kevin Hogan's stats were deceiving all season. For example, Hogan had a good game against UCLA, even though he only threw for 100 yards and one touchdown, with one interception. Conversely, he had a relatively poor game in their upset loss to Utah, despite tossing for 246 yards and one touchdown.
Hogan did not single-handedly win a game for the Cardinal, but he managed them well and rarely made critical mistakes to lose games. He matured as a passer and a runner, and while he had postpartum depression after losing Zach Ertz to the NFL, he found comfort in his set of receivers.
But next year he must improve on his 2:1 touchdown-to-interception ratio.
Running Back: A
In this case, the stats don’t lie. Stanford’s running backs were a scary crew. Tyler Gaffney returned from minor league baseball and tore up the Pac-12 with 21 touchdowns and more than 1,700 yards rushing. Anthony Wilkerson, who is even more of a bruiser, helped wear down defenses. However, on nights when Gaffney set a Cardinal record with 45 carries against Oregon, Wilkerson did not get much work. Barry Sanders Jr. contributed on special teams. Stanford could not ask for more from this position, except perhaps on its last offensive play of the Rose Bowl when Ryan Hewitt was stopped on fourth-and-2.
Wide Receivers: B+
Their motto might have been: Make the most of it. The Cardinal averaged 14.6 yards-per-reception, 12th-best in the nation. Their top four receivers, Ty Montgomery, Devon Cajuste, Michael Rector and Kodi Whitfield, averaged 17.5 yards per reception. Stanford threw only 13 times in its upset over Oregon. The offense usually demanded quality over quantity from the receivers.
Montgomery was important enough that head coach David Shaw designed plays to get him the football. He was the Cardinal’s fourth-leading rusher with 159 yards on only 13 attempts, which was a 12.2 average per carry. He was also the best kick returner in college football and was named the Jet Award winner.
Tight Ends: C
As a blocking unit, their efforts were solid. The tight ends assisted in blocking for one of the best rushing attacks in the country. As a pass-catching unit, this group was a disappointment. Expectations were lowered with the departure of Ertz and Levine Toilolo. Still, it was reasonable to expect the tight ends would catch more than 10 passes all season.
Offensive line: A
They were nicknamed the tunnel workers' union, which suited them. The offensive line, led by captain David Yankey, opened holes for Gaffney, the nation’s eighth-leading rusher. The line allowed only 16 sacks in 14 games. Giants like Andrus Peat (6-foot-7, 310) and Cameron Fleming (6-foot-6, 318) have become commonplace for the nation’s toughest offensive line. This line weighed more than 1,500 pounds combined, and they knew how to throw their weight around.
Yankey is the most pro-ready player on the offense and will likely be a high pick in the 2014 draft. Considering the way that Stanford churns out pros, Fleming, who is draft eligible this year, and Peat could be taken in the 2015 draft. Their readiness for the pros demonstrates their elite play on the college level.
During the offseason, media hyped Stanford's defense, but Stanford's offense surpised with 26 or more points is ten of its games. It impressed the nation with big plays at big moments; Kodi Whitfield supplied sportscenter with a Top 10 play. The positional grades average to a B, but don't think that Stanford students will settle for that. Expect bigger things from the offense next year.