February 24, 2009

Stanford enters spring with many questions

Tavita Pritchard will have to work to keep his starting quarterback spot.
Coach: Jim Harbaugh
Last season: 5-7, 4-5 Pac-10
Spring dates: Feb. 24-April 13.
Offense (7): WR Doug Baldwin, G Chase Beeler, TB Toby Gerhart, FB Owen Marecic, T/G Chris Marinelli, G Andrew Phillips, QB Tavita Pritchard.
Defense (6): CB Kris Evans, E Erik Lorig, SS Bo McNally, LB Clinton Snyder, NT Ekom Udofia, FS Sean Wiser.
Special teams (1): P David Green.
Positions of strength

Three starters and the top five reserves from the offensive line return, but there will be a new line coach Tim Drevno after Chris Dalman resigned to spend more time with his family. The top four defensive tackles return, headed by Ekom Udofia. The top five linebackers return as well, and coaches are expecting to become better against the run.

Help is needed

Running back was a position of strength a year ago. Stanford's running game produced 2,395 yards, the second-highest total in school history. But Toby Gerhart, who rushed for 1,136 yards in '08, is playing baseball for the Cardinal this spring and may be lost to pro baseball if he's drafted high enough in June. The passing attack was weak last season, producing just 152.2 yards per game and 11 TDs. Quarterback Tavita Pritchard likely will have to hold off Alex Loukas and redshirt freshman Andrew Luck to keep his starting job. Three starters return in the secondary, but the unit didn't play all that well last season and a new starting cornerback needs to emerge.

Keep an eye on

OT Matt Kopa: An adequate replacement is needed for All-Pac-10 left tackle Ben Muth, and Kopa gets the first chance at the job. Kopa was a part-time starter on the right side last season.

WR Chris Owusu: Stanford desperately needs a deep threat, and the hope is that Owusu, a sophomore, will emerge. He had only five catches as a freshman, but one went for 41 yards.

RB Jeremy Stewart: With Gerhart playing baseball this spring, Stewart, a junior, will get the bulk of the work at running back. Stewart has good speed but played sparingly as the third-teamer last fall. At the least, he hopes his spring performance can be a springboard to the No. 2 role this fall.

His time is now

Junior Chike Amajoyi has played well on special teams and as a backup, but he's needed to take over for Pat Maynor at weakside linebacker. Maynor was second on the team in tackles last season.

The buzz

Who's going to emerge as the starting quarterback? An interesting competition is brewing. Pritchard was inconsistent in '08 and threw more interceptions (13) than touchdown passes (10). Loukas, a senior, relieved Pritchard at times late last season, but the real competition likely comes from Luck, a former four-star prospect whose dad, Oliver, was an NFL quarterback. Stanford finished 5-7 last season, and a better passing game might have enabled Stanford to become bowl eligible.

Olin Buchanan is the senior college football writer for Rivals.com. He can be reached at olin@rivals.com.

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