The Stanford football defense has a nice look to it this season. The Cardinal are lead by some solid returning talent while having to fill a few important holes vacated by departed seniors. With the first depth charts expected out on Tuesday, here is a look at how I see the playing time breaking down on the defensive side of the ball. With so many rotations on defense, I’ll attack this one by groupings rather then individual positions.
DEFENSIVE LINE: MATT MASIFILO, TERRENCE STEPHENS, BEN GARDNER
Masifilo is the only sure thing on the defensive line. The senior returns for his second year in the starting lineup and a veteran among a very youthful defensive line. Stephens is the heir apparent at nose guard and Gardner showed flashes of pass rush last year. There is a lot of depth on the line. Josh Mauro, David Parry and Henry Anderson are the next three in line. It does not appear there is much drop off from the first string to the second so expect plenty of playing time from all six players. Eddie Plantaric will also work his way into the playing rotation as well.
OUTSIDE LINEBACKER: CHASE THOMAS, TRENT MURPHY
Thomas does not need much description. He has the potential to be one of the best in the country this year. The other OLB position is much more up in the air. Murphy will start but look for him to get pushed all season long by Blake Lueders. Lueders has really been working on his pass rush and could certainly see plenty of action on third downs. Alex Debniak has been battling a hamstring injury but when healthy he will also provide depth on the outside.
INSIDE LINEBACKER: SHAYNE SKOV, MAX BERGEN
Skov, like Thomas, does not need much description. Another top player, he is ready to dominate this season. Bergen will win the inside linebacker job on experience as much as anything. This is not to knock his talent in any way, but he is getting pressure from behind him and we could easily see a number of packages that would feature rotating inside linebackers next to Skov. AJ Tarpley seems to be the next in line, Joe Hemscoot has been battling an injury but he is ready for playing time when healthy. Then of course there is all-everything freshman James Vaughters. He will clearly see some time at inside linebacker and may move outside for some situational plays. The middle linebacking core at Stanford is deep.
CORNERBACK: JOHNSON BADEMOSI, BARRY BROWNING
Browning was a surprise last year as a true freshman. If he continues to improve, he could turn into a great one. Bademosi has shown flashes the last couple of years. If either of them falters, true freshman Wayne Lyons is there and clearly destined to start sooner or later. Terrence Brown and Usua Amanam seem to be battling to be the fourth corner although another true freshman Ronnie Harris has impressed the coaches.
SAFETY: DELANO HOWELL, MICHAEL THOMAS
Is this the best safety duo in the country? This is the perfect combo. Howell is the big hitter at strong safety. Thomas brings speed and smarts to the free safety position. Sophomore Devon Carrington looks like the third safety now. Myles Muagututia has also climbed up the depth chart the last couple of years and will be seen on game day.