Pac-12: Stanford Cardinal
Arizona: DT Marcus Griffin (Bellevue, Wash./Bellevue)
6-2, 299 pounds
The Wildcats jumped into the process late for Griffin but made enough of an impression that the big lineman took an official visit to Tucson last weekend. Griffin will announce on signing day from a group that consists of Arizona, Cal, Mississippi State and Washington State. While the Wildcats have a full class at this point, it looks as though they'd like to add one more big body along the defensive line and Griffin is one of the top defensive tackles in the region, regardless of commitment status.
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You can review our 2013 preseason Top 25 here.
No. 13: Tyler Gaffney, RB, Stanford
2013 numbers: Gaffney carried 330 times for 1,709 yards and 21 touchdowns and caught 15 passes for 86 yards and another score.
Making the case for Gaffney: Gaffney's decision to leave Stanford after his junior season to pursue professional baseball appeared to be the right decision after he hit .297 with a .483 on-base percentage in the New York-Penn League. His decision to return for one more football season looks even better. Gaffney used his final year of eligibility to finish eighth in the country in rushing (1,709 yards) and third in carries (330) -- numbers he wouldn't have sniffed in 2012 because he'd have been backing up the school's all-time leading rusher, Stepfan Taylor. The plan going into the season was that he'd split time with Anthony Wilkerson and others, but it became apparent early that wouldn't be the case as Gaffney clearly separated himself from the pack. Now Gaffney again finds himself at a crossroads: baseball or football? Stanford coach David Shaw has made it clear he believes Gaffney is an NFL-caliber back and the Pittsburgh Pirates have left the door open for his return to the organization. He'll continue to pursue both sports until it's obvious which is the better path.
- No. 14: Taylor Kelly, QB, Arizona State
- No. 15: Ifo Ekpre-Olomu, CB, Oregon
- No. 16: Deone Bucannon, S, Washington State
- No. 17: Paul Richardson, WR, Colorado
- No. 18: Shayne Skov, LB, Stanford
- No. 19: Scott Crichton, DE, Oregon State
- No. 20: Trevor Reilly, DE/OLB, Utah
- No. 21: Sean Mannion, QB, Oregon State
- No. 22: Austin Seferian-Jenkins, TE, Washington
- No. 23: Hroniss Grasu, C, Oregon
- No. 24: Josh Huff, WR, Oregon
- No. 25: Myles Jack, LB/RB, UCLA
If there is anything Shaw has shown in his previous hires, it's that he likes to promote from within and strives to have continuity within the program. Choosing Anderson to replace Derek Mason, who left last week to become the head coach at Vanderbilt, fits the mold established with his initial coordinator hires of Pep Hamilton and Mason and last year's promotion of Mike Bloomgren.
The only coordinator hire that came from outside the program in Shaw's tenure was when he named current Raiders defensive coordinator Jason Tarver the co-coordinator with Mason in 2011. Tarver was at Stanford for just that season, in which Mason still served as the play caller.
Shaw and Anderson are the only coaches who remain from Jim Harbaugh's initial staff at Stanford in 2007. Both made the jump with Harbaugh from the University of San Diego.
In all likelihood, this move was at least a year in the making. Anderson reportedly turned down the chance to become the defensive coordinator at South Florida a year ago under Willie Taggart, another former Harbaugh staff member, to remain at Stanford. It was clear then that Mason would land a head-coaching gig sooner rather than later, which makes it reasonable to assume Shaw and Anderson discussed the possibility that he'd be the eventual replacement.
That's roughly how it played out when Bloomgren was elevated from offensive line coach/run game coordinator when Hamilton took the offensive coordinator job with the Colts. In fact, Shaw and Bloomgren discussed the potential for that to eventually happen before he hired him in 2011.
With Anderson's promotion official, Stanford still has three spots to fill on its staff.
In addition to Mason, Shaw needs to replace Mike Sanford, who left to become Boise State's offensive coordinator, and inside linebackers coach David Kotulski, who will serve as Mason's defensive coordinator at Vanderbilt.
Tavita Pritchard shifted from running backs coach to quarterbacks coach immediately after Sanford left, which means the Cardinal is currently without coaches for its running backs, inside linebackers, defensive backs and does not have an official recruiting coordinator.
No. 18: Shayne Skov, LB, Stanford
2013 numbers: Skov recorded 109 tackles -- 7.8 per game -- this season, with 13 coming for a loss. He also had 5.5 sacks, 10 QB hurries, four pass breakups, three forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries.
Preseason ranking: No. 16
Making the case for Skov: Skov was the highly productive and fiery emotional leader of the Pac-12's best defense. A four-year starter, he earned first-team All-Pac-12 honors and was a second-team FWAA and Sports Illustrated All-American and was a third-team All-American for the AP, CBS Sports and Athlon Sports. His value, however, was about more than what he did on the field. It was clear that he was the most vocal of Stanford's senior leaders. His pregame speeches were widely celebrated by his teammates. It's become a cliché to call a player the "heart and soul" of his team, but that is an appropriate term for Skov. He was a big reason, perhaps the biggest reason, why the Cardinal defense led the Pac-12 in scoring (19.0 ppg) and rushing defense (89.4), numbers that ranked 10th and third in the nation. Skov is a physical and instinctive player who figures to have a long career at the next level.
No. 19: Scott Crichton, DE, Oregon State
No. 20: Trevor Reilly, DE/OLB, Utah
No. 21: Sean Mannion, QB, Oregon State
No. 22: Austin Seferian-Jenkins, TE, Washington
No. 23: Hroniss Grasu, C, Oregon
No. 24: Josh Huff, WR, Oregon
No. 25: Myles Jack, LB/RB, UCLA
With just two weeks until signing day, this week's updated class rankings illustrate just how close the gap is between the top teams in the Pac-12. Arizona State again checks in at No. 1 in the conference and now sits at No. 17 in the nation. Behind the Sun Devils, five more Pac-12 teams are within 10 places, as Arizona is No. 20, USC is No. 22, Stanford is No. 23, Oregon is No. 24 and UCLA rounds out the Pac-12 entrants at No. 27.
Trending up: Stanford
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Up next: 30 for No. 7
Who and against whom: Stanford wide receiver Ty Montgomery blew up in the Big Game against Cal as the Cardinal wrapped up the Pac-12 North Division with a 63-13 stomping of their rival.
The numbers: Montgomery hauled in five receptions -- four of them for touchdowns -- to finish with 160 yards receiving and a whopping 32 yards per catch. He actually opened the scoring a 31-yard touchdown run to give him five touchdowns in the game -- the highest scoring total for any player (30 points) in the Pac-12 this season.
A closer look: With the Cardinal looking to bounce back from their 20-17 loss to USC, they leaned on Montgomery, who got things rolling 60 seconds into the game with a touchdown run. The Bears answered to tie it at 7-7, but then Montgomery and quarterback Kevin Hogan opened the flood gates. The duo would go on to connect for four touchdown passes in the first half, including tosses of 50, 12, 72 and 9 yards. Montgomery scored the first four times he touched the football and matched a school record with five touchdowns in a game. Hogan also set career highs in the game with 329 passing yards and five touchdown passes.
Here's the complete list of Pac-12 players who entered the NFL draft despite remaining eligibility.
Ka'Deem Carey, RB, Arizona
Carl Bradford, LB, Arizona State
Brendan Bigelow, RB, California
Richard Rodgers, TE, California
Khairi Fortt, LB, California
Kameron Jackson, CB, California
Viliami Moala, DT, California
Paul Richardson, WR, Colorado
De'Anthony Thomas, RB/WR, Oregon
Colt Lyerla, TE, Oregon (was kicked off the team in October)
Terrance Mitchell, CB, Oregon
Brandin Cooks, WR, Oregon State
Scott Crichton, DE, Oregon State
David Yankey, OG, Stanford
Cameron Fleming, OT, Stanford
Ed Reynolds, S, Stanford
Xavier Su'a-Filo, OG, UCLA
Dion Bailey, LB, USC
Marqise Lee, WR, USC
George Uko, DT, USC
Marcus Martin, C, USC
Xavier Grimble, TE, USC
Jake Murphy, TE, Utah
Bishop Sankey, RB, Washington
Austin Seferian-Jenkins, TE, Washington
Trending up: UCLA
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After winning its second straight Pac-12 title and advancing to a third consecutive Rose Bowl, there was still a large faction of the fan base that thought the Cardinal underachieved.
While they probably should have beaten Utah and USC, under no scenario should a conference title and a Rose Bowl berth ever be looked upon as anything but successful on the Farm.
Stanford ended the BCS era as the only team to appear in BCS bowls the last four seasons.
You can read our graded review of Stanford here.
Offensive MVP: RB Tyler Gaffney. Gaffney finished the season seventh nationally with 1,709 yards rushing after a one-year hiatus to pursue professional baseball. He was given the program's Irving S. Zeimer Memorial Award as the team MVP. Gaffney's rushing total was the second-highest in school history, behind Toby Gerhart's 1,871 in 2009.
Defensive MVP: LB Trent Murphy. An ESPN.com first-team All-American, Murphy led the nation in sacks (15) and tackles-for-loss yardage (147). The outside linebacker was twice named Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Week and led a defense that finished the season ranked 10th nationally in scoring.
Best moment: Beating then-No. 3 Oregon 26-20 on Nov. 7. A case can be made for its win over Arizona State in the Pac-12 championship, but without the Thursday night win against Oregon, a Pac-12 title wouldn't have been possible. Beating the Ducks also carried more national significance and ended with the student body rushing the field at Stanford Stadium.
Worst moment: Losing 27-21 at Utah on Oct. 12. The Utes finished conference play 2-7 and 5-7 overall and joined Colorado and Cal as the only Pac-12 teams not to play in a bowl. The previous occasion the Cardinal lost to a team that finished with a losing record was in 2009, when they lost at Wake Forest (the Demon Deacons finished 5-7).
Like guard David Yankey, who made himself eligible yesterday, Fleming broke into the starting lineup as a redshirt freshman in 2011 to block for quarterback Andrew Luck. An Aeronautics and Astronautics major, Fleming was a fixture at right tackle the last three seasons and was named second-team All-Pac-12 this year.
With Fleming's departure, Stanford will have just one starter back on the offensive line next season -- rising junior left tackle Andrus Peat, who is considered a potential high first-round pick in the 2015 draft.
While replacing that many players would usually seem like a tall task, the situation at Stanford could be different.
Kyle Murphy, a highly-recruited player from the Class of 2012, figures to have a leg up over Brendon Austin to replace Fleming. In fact, all five projected starters on the line are from the same class.
After the Cardinal inked seven offensive linemen that year, coach David Shaw made a bold prediction on national signing day.
"This could be one of the best offensive line classes in modern football history," he said.
How's that for high expectations?
Of course, there's still a lot of time between now and the season opener against U.C. Davis on Aug. 30, but there's a good chance the line, from left to right, will look like this: LT Peat, LG Joshua Garnett, C Graham Shuler, RG Johnny Caspers, RT Murphy.
Fleming's announcement comes just hours after teammate Ed Reynolds also announced he would leave early for the NFL.
Bobby in Phoenix writes: Mark May said the following yesterday: "I heard through the grapevine, not publicly, but privately, Todd Graham was lobbying like heck to get the Texas job," May told Burns and Gambo on Arizona Sports now on 98.7 FM Tuesday. "Chew on that one, Arizona State Sun Devils fans." I heard it from not one, but two of our reporters at ESPN, that he was lobbying to get that job. It was another one of his 'dream jobs.' Any comments? My thought would be that if not one, but TWO ESPN reporters knew about this they would... umm.... report it? When will his Pitt bias stop seeping through everything he says and Todd Graham and ASU?
Kevin Gemmell: I didn’t hear May’s comments or the interview, so I can only go off of what you said. But there is certainly a gut reaction when the rest of the country hears the name Todd Graham, they instantly think villain.
You know what’s funny is when Brady Hoke left San Diego State after two seasons, he did the exact same thing -- he sent a text blast to the players and that was that. He got on a plane and never returned to San Diego. He was lauded as a hero and treated like Caesar returning from Germania when he got to Ann Arbor. No one cared about how he left SDSU.
But this one stuck with Graham and probably will stick with him for a long time. It’s fascinating how perception and public opinion shapes who we celebrate and who we demonize.
I got to spend a lot of time with Graham this season -- including four days behind the scenes. I was given complete access to everything -- player meetings, coaches meetings, I sat with Graham, offensive coordinator Mike Norvell and the quarterbacks at the team dinner and was with the coaches for their final huddle 10 minutes before kickoff of the Wisconsin game. (I even went out the Tillman Tunnel with the team, and I can tell you that was one of the greatest moments of my career). In my time with Graham, I learned he’s the exact same guy behind closed doors as he is in front of a microphone. I really doubt he’s going to put on a four-day show -- and maintain it -- for little ole’ me. If he did, give him the Academy Award.
Is it possible he could jump ship sometime soon? Of course. The guy can coach. That’s why he keeps getting hired. And he hires great coaches to coach alongside him (Gus Malzahn, Chad Morris, Mike Norvell, etc.).
He’s always going to have the Pitt stigma that follows him. Maybe it’s deserved. Maybe it’s time to let it go. Either way, I like his style. I like his schemes. And l like his accountability. After the Holiday Bowl, he put it all on himself. That’s what a coach is supposed to do.
I’ve been lied to plenty by coaches. That comes with asking questions they don’t want to answer. But I’ve also had coaches be totally honest and stand by their word. My gut tells me Graham likes the spot he’s in and he likes the support he’s getting from the administration.
Wayne in Mesa, Ariz. writes: Why was the Pac-12 Championship Game for 2014 moved back to a Friday night? I can understand TV ratings a bit, although the 2013 game had a great Saturday evening time slot. As for attendance, the Saturday date allows for better attendance and more time for the buzz to build up -- as the incredible atmosphere in and around Sun Devil Stadium this past fall would attest!
Kevin Gemmell: Go to your living room. On your coffee table, you’ll probably see a black, rectangular object with many different buttons. Push the one that says “power” and a talking picture box will come to life, projecting real life sounds and images.
Do not be scared or attempt to interact with these moving pictures. They can’t see or hear you.
FOX has the Pac-12 championship game this year, as well as the Big Ten title game the next day. So, yes, it’s TV driven.
I think there is something to be said about being the first game of championship weekend. You get the national audience (at least those who choose to stay up) all to yourself. But from a fan perspective -- especially those attending the game -- it can be a hassle. You have to deal with work and traffic and chances are it won’t be a full stadium -- which never bodes well for the conference.
John in New York writes: USC-UCLA, Stanford-USC, Oregon-Washington, Oregon-Oregon State, Arizona-Arizona State. I'd be really interested to know how you'd rank these particular rivalries, from top to bottom?
Kevin Gemmell: Ranking rivalry games is a fairly futile exercise, because rivalries will always mean more to the folks who have a vested interest in the outcome. Try convincing an Arizona fan that the Apple Cup is more important than the Territorial Cup.
Case in point, I grew up in the Bay Area under the umbrella of the Cal-Stanford rivalry. And though I didn’t attend either school, I consider it one of the greatest rivalries there is because that’s what my personal experience is. Just as I think Will Clark is the greatest baseball player ever and it’s a shame that he’s not in the Hall of Fame.
But I also understand, given the way the Stanford-USC rivalry has played out over the last half decade, that game certainly qualifies as a rivalry. Same for Oregon-Washington and the budding UCLA-Arizona State rivalry.
I know folks are trying to make a rivalry out of the Utah-Colorado matchup. That makes sense, considering both joined the league at the same time. But rivalries aren’t artificially created. They just happen. Colorado fans will always have a bitterness for Nebraska, just as Utah fans will always consider BYU their rival.
The only reason to rank rivalries is to stir the pot and drum up some artificial controversy to give folks a reason to troll and flame.
Which is why Arizona-Arizona State is the best rivalry of all time and always will be. Discuss.
Michigan Trojan in Ann Arbor, Mich. writes: Kevin and Ted … Though I hope they get drafted and have successful NFL careers, I am a little puzzled by the early exits of Xavier Grimble, Dion Bailey, George Uko, and especially Marcus Martin (and possibly Hayes Pullard and Josh Shaw) at USC. Marqise Lee is a sure-fire 1st round pick so I cannot argue with his leaving. But the others, especially guys like Grimble and Martin, were poised to have big years, with lots of exposure that could have made them locks in the second or third round, or possibly surprise first round picks. I know some of them were redshirts, and will technically have their degree in May, but if the NFL is their first stop in terms of profession, why not maximize your potential? Most of these guys will be fourth-round picks at best, and probably have to fight to make a practice squad if they go undrafted. Do you think some of this has to do with what Sarkisian is trying to do at USC, in terms of revamping the defense, and bringing in different position coaches? I also have heard that guys were impressed by the somewhat unexpected success of early-entry guys like undrafted Nickell Robey at the next level. The exodus probably sets SC football back a few wins next year, but again, as individuals, I hope they succeed beyond expectations at the next level.
Kevin Gemmell: It’s obviously different for every guy, so there is no one magic bullet answer. Sometimes it has to do with money. Sometimes it has to do with a coaching change. And sometimes guys simply don’t want to be in school anymore.
I do think USC players are a special exception. The college experience probably hasn’t been a great one for them when you look at the ups and downs of the program the last few years. Most of these guys came in when the sanctions were announced or right in the middle of them. They had bowl bans. They had a disastrous 2012. They saw three different head coaches in 2013.
Can you really blame some of them for wanting to get out and make a little money?
Robey is a fine example of a guy who went undrafted, but had a huge year for the Bills. If I’m his friend and former teammate, that gives both hope and false hope. There’s the thought that if I don’t get drafted, I can still do what Robey did. But for every Robey, there are dozens of other guys who find themselves either on practice squads or boning up on their “ehs?” in the Canadian League. And yes, there is at least one player from a Pac-12 school on every CFL roster, except Montreal (I checked).
I do think a new coaching staff probably had something to do with it as well as the fact that Clancy Pendergast isn’t coming back. For those defensive guys, it would be their third coordinator in the last two years. That’s frustrating. So, and I’m just speculating here, in their eyes if they have to adjust to a new coaching staff, they might as well get paid in the process.
Ryan in Palo Alto, Calif. writes: More math: You wrote: "So the likelihood of the Pac-12 winning all nine games -- even though it was favored in all nine -- seemed highly unlikely. "Actually probability alone (and not underdog motivation or favorite complacency) makes your statement true. Assume for sake of argument, the Vegas line said each Pac-12 team had an 80 percent chance to win. (Of course, different lines for each team and I have no idea what line corresponds to an 80 percent win chance, but useful thought experiment). The chances of all nine teams winning still comes out to only about 13.4 percent.
Kevin Gemmell: This is why Pac-12 blog readers are the life of all social gatherings.
A two-year starter for the Cardinal, Reynolds was twice named first-team All-Pac-12 and ranked third on the team with 87 tackles this year.
“After much thought and discussion with my family and mentors, I have decided to enter the NFL sraft,” Reynolds said in a statement. “I would to thank the Stanford football family for putting me in this position and preparing me for the next level. A very special thanks to our coaching staff, support staff and my teammates for making the memories of these past four years last a lifetime."
He's the second Stanford player in two days to declare for the NFL draft, joining guard David Yankey. Right tackle Cam Fleming has yet to announce whether he'll return for his final year on the Farm. The deadline to declare is Wednesday.
Reynolds is among the top free safeties in the country and is ESPN.com's eighth-ranked safety overall. He was a key member of two Pac-12 championship teams and a pair of defenses that both ranked No. 10 in the country in scoring.
Without Reynolds, the Cardinal will have to break in a relatively inexperienced player to play next to strong safety Jordan Richards next year. His immediate backup this season, Devon Carrington, is out of eligibility and Kyle Olugbode and Zach Hoffpauir, the most experienced replacement candidates, have both worked primarily at strong safety.
Despite the loss of Reynolds, Stanford's secondary still figures to be a strength of its team next year with the return of starting corners Alex Carter, Wayne Lyons and Richards. The Cardinal will also need to fill holes at defensive end, two linebacker spots and nickleback due with the losses of Ben Gardner, Trent Murphy, Shayne Skov and Usua Amanam to graduation.
Reynolds replaced current Miami Dolphins safety Michael Thomas in the starting lineup in 2012 and finished the season with six interceptions -- the most by a Stanford player since 1973. His 301 interception yards that year led the nation and fell 1 shy of the FBS single-season record.
There were a several shifts for Pac-12 commits and targets in the newly updated ESPN 300. While it's difficult to make big jumps for players toward the top of the list, Oregon, UCLA and USC target John Smith (Long Beach, Calif./Poly) made a considerable move up 14 spots to No. 24 overall, while Arizona State and Stanford target Casey Tucker (Chandler, Ariz./Hamilton) slid up seven spots and into the top 40 at No. 39 overall. But there were several others with Pac-12 ties who saw their stock rise even more:
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Best coach: Arizona State's Todd Graham was voted as the league’s coach of the year by his peers. And it’s hard to argue with that, given the fact that the Sun Devils had the best league record and won their division. But you can’t discount the job of the L.A. coaches (interim or otherwise). Ed Orgeron did a phenomenal job in relief at USC before Steve Sarkisian was hired, and Jim Mora shepherded his team through a difficult time early.
Best player, offense: Ka’Deem Carey was named the Pac-12 offensive player of the year. And the Pac-12 blog agrees. Certainly, cases can be made for Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota, who was on the Heisman Trophy track before being derailed by a knee injury. And there is the debate between Carey and Washington running back Bishop Sankey, which will rage until the end of days.
Best player, defense: The coaches went with Arizona State defensive tackle Will Sutton. And there’s nothing wrong with that selection. But cases certainly can be made for outside linebackers Trent Murphy (Stanford) and Anthony Barr (UCLA).
Best moment: Lots of them. Shocking upsets (see below) and stellar individual performances dusted the landscape of the 2013 Pac-12 season. But in terms of moments that were seared into our memories, it’s tough not to think about UCLA’s come-from-behind win at Nebraska way back on Sept. 14, following the death of Nick Pasquale. Specifically, Anthony Jefferson recovering a red zone fumble and then sprinting off the field to give the ball to Mora, followed by a big hug. It was as authentic and genuine a moment as you’ll find in sports.
Best workhorse performance: It’s a tie between Stanford’s Tyler Gaffney and Carey -- both of whom put in the work in their teams’ victories over Oregon. Carey rushed for 206 yards and four touchdowns on 48 carries; Gaffney carried 45 times for 157 yards and a touchdown.
Best play: One of the most subjective categories, for sure, but Kodi Whitfield’s one-handed touchdown catch against UCLA was nothing short of spectacular. He elevated between two Bruins defenders and backhanded the ball out of the air for a 30-yard touchdown. Something about UCLA-Stanford brings out the one-handed catches. Recall in 2011, Andrew Luck hauled in a one-handed catch against the Bruins, and a few plays later, Coby Fleener snagged a one-handed dart from Luck for a touchdown.
Best performance, offense: Again, wildly subjective. Take your pick from Ty Montgomery’s five-touchdown day against Cal, Marion Grice’s four touchdowns against USC or Wisconsin, or Myles Jack’s four touchdowns against Washington. Brandin Cooks had a pretty nice day against Cal with his 232 receiving yards. There were games with seven touchdown tosses from Mariota and Taylor Kelly. Connor Halliday’s losing effort against Colorado State was spectacular. In terms of impact, it’s hard not to go back to Carey’s effort against Oregon.
Best performance, defense: As in every other category here, plenty to go around. But think way back to Washington State’s win over USC. Damante Horton had a 70-yard interception return that tied the game at 7-7 in the second quarter. Then, after Andrew Furney’s 41-yard field goal put the Cougars ahead 10-7 with 3:15 left in the game, Horton picked off Max Wittek, which allowed WSU to run out the clock.