4. WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT THE STANFORD DEFENSE
– Just five starters and three of the top seven tacklers are back from a defense that wasn’t anything special. The Cardinal allowed 410 yards per game, but the pass rush was terrific and everything tightened up when it had to – for the most part. There were issues in losses to Utah and Washington State and the win over UCLA, but the D allowed 17 points or fewer seven times. There are issues to deal with, starting with …
– The pass defense has to be a whole lot better. Again, the pressure on the quarterback was there, and the defensive back talent was in place, but the Cardinal allowed 264 yards per game and now needs a few new parts.
Senior Malik Antoine is back at one safety spot after coming up with 53 tackles in an okay year, and 6-1, 189-pound junior corner Paulson Adebo led the team with four interceptions and finished third on the team with 64 stops. The safety situation around Antoine will be the biggest question mark in fall camp, but there’s plenty to like at corner with a deep group of prospects to rotate in, and with 6-2 senior Obi Eboh a decent veteran to push for one spot.
– Linebacker is a bit of an issue, too, but Stanford is always strong at filling the gaps in a hurry. All four starters from the end of last season are done – including top tacklers Bobby Okereke and Sean Barton, and all-around playmaker Joey Alfieri – but senior Jordan Fox is fine at one outside spot coming off a 61-tackle season. Casey Toohill only saw time in seven games, but when he’s right, he’s a disruptive force who’ll make big things happen on the other side. The inside is a bigger concern.
The safety situation will be No. 1A defensive aspect to watch in fall camp, with the linebackers on the inside being in the top spot. It’s going to be an open audition for the two gigs with little to no appreciable experience to count on right away.
– The front three should join cornerback as the strength of the D early on. All three starters are back from a good-sized group, starting with 293-pound senior Michael Williams on the nose, 271-pound senior Jovan Swann at one end, and 316-pound junior Dalyn Wade-Perry able to work inside or out. There’s enough depth to form a good rotation, and as long as this group is holding up against the run, the outside linebackers will take care of most of the plays behind the line.