Stanford Preview 2016: Cardinal Reloading

The Stanford football outlook for 2016 season. Coming off a special season, the Cardinal have plenty of work to do to reload.

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Stanford is working extra hard this offseason to remain atop the Pac-12 mountain.

Stanford, fresh off its third league crown in the last four years, is the university everyone else in the Pac-12 is chasing. And with Heisman runner-up Christian McCaffrey and head coach David Shaw remaining on The Farm in 2016, there’s reason to believe that the trend will continue this fall.

Still, Stanford will have its work cut out for it to remain ahead of the likes of Oregon, and USC and UCLA of the South Division.

Sure, it’s the embryonic stages of the comparison, but the Cardinal over the past seven seasons has become the Duke hoops of college football. Prestigious academic institution. A head coach worthy of emulation. And a steady flow of elite, well-rounded recruits from different time zones. And like the Blue Devils, Stanford must perennially replace pro-bound student-athletes.

The big hole on offense is behind center, where Kevin Hogan leaves behind a legacy of longevity and a whole lot of wins over ranked teams. In his wake will either be Ryan Burns or Keller Chryst, neither of whom has played any meaningful snaps at this level. The team will also be breaking in three new linemen, including a left side that used to be occupied by all-stars Joshua Garnett and Kyle Murphy.

McCaffrey’s role will be even larger than it was in 2015, though understudy Bryce Love is so special that the two may occasionally be on the field at the same time.

The defense has a familiar storyline. Numerous graduations, a need for the next man in to step up … and minimal changes in the results. Wash, rinse, repeat.

Stanford’s defense is the unit folks can set their watches to. The Cardinal is again brimming with talent, physicality and expectations. While there are fewer certainties than in the past, this group is extremely well-coached and flush in players poised to become household names. You may not know Solomon Thomas or Peter Kalambayi or Kevin Palma or Quenton Meeks today, but there’s a very good chance you will by Halloween.

Stanford’s lineup will be littered with first-time starters in 2016. Big whoop. The Cardinal has been here before, and it not only lived to tell about it but also thrived in the face of the adversity. While there’s heavy lifting to be done between now and the Kansas State visit, Stanford believes it has the blueprint and the personnel to fend off a growing number of Pac-12 challengers.