The Stanford Cardinal have cemented themselves as one of the elite teams in the nation over the last few seasons, especially after a Pac-12 championship in 2012 despite the loss of quarterback Andrew Luck.
However, even the top programs in the nation have some questions to answer throughout the 2013 season, and the Cardinal are no exception.
David Shaw returns one of the best defenses in the country, and Kevin Hogan proved to be one of the most pleasant surprises of 2012. However, Zach Ertz, Levine Toilolo, and Stepfan Taylor are off to the NFL, and there are some holes to fill on both sides of the ball. As a result, the Cardinal do have some question marks that need to be addressed in 2013.
Can Kevin Hogan Keep Up His Production During His Second Year as the Starter?
As a redshirt freshman, Hogan led the Cardinal to five straight wins over ranked teams to finish out the season, and proved to be a true magician with the ball in his hands by extending numerous plays with his feet.
However, he loses three valuable safety valves in Ertz, Toilolo, and Taylor, who all played a big part in Hogan’s ability to make something out of nothing on a consistent basis.
On top of these departures, Hogan will no longer be a surprise. He took over for Josh Nunes halfway through the season, and caught many Pac-12 teams off guard. He needs to prove in 2013 that he can keep up his success when his conference foes are ready for him.
Who Will Become the Next Offensive Playmaker?
In a conference filled with offense playmakers such as Oregon’s De’Anthony Thomas and UCS’s Marqise Lee,
Stanford remains one of the few teams without a truly electrifying threat.
The Cardinal lack even a true No. 1 receiver. Anthony Wilkerson and Tyler Gaffney provide solid options at running back, but neither possesses breakaway abilities.
It wouldn’t hurt to get Barry Sanders Jr., a quick and shifty smaller back who redshirted in 2012, the ball as much as possible, and Ty Montgomery has the potential to become a deep threat for the offense. Either way, Kevin Hogan needs some speed on offense to help get the attention of opposing defenses off of him.
Who Will Replace Chase Thomas and Terrence Brown on Defense?
Chase Thomas tallied 25.5 sacks over the past three seasons, and Terrence Brown was arguably the team’s top corner in 2012. Now that both are gone, the Cardinal need younger players to step in and replace them.
Stanford does appear to be pretty comfortable at cornerback, however, as Alex Carter and Wayne Lyons appear to be next in line to take over. Both have been impressive in their respective young careers, and should greatly improve the Cardinal secondary.
At outside linebacker, James Vaughters appears to be the frontrunner to replace Chase Thomas. The former highly-touted 4-star recruit has a great skill set, and should provide a great option for the Cardinal moving forward.
Overall, even the biggest questions facing the Cardinal seem pretty mild, especially considering the amount of talent returning on both sides of the ball.
If Stanford can get its young playmakers to step up on both sides of the ball, the offense should continue to run smoothly under Hogan, and the defense should remain elite.