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UCLA Football Preview: Stanford Coaching Staff Remains Remarkably Stable
Ever since David Shaw became the Bradford M. Freeman Director of Football, he has maintain remarkable stability on the Stanford coaching staff. Now, that’s not necessarily the key to Stanford’s success, but it cannot be overlooked.
Usually, when a team is as successful as Stanford has been under Shaw, the offensive and defensive coordinators get hired as head coaches at other schools.
But, somehow, Shaw has had Lance Anderson as the Willie Shaw Director of Defense since the 2014 season. The Cardinal have played in three Rose Bowls and won three Pac-12 titles since Anderson became the defensive coordinator.
Meanwhile, Tavita Pritchard is back for his third season as the Andrew Luck Director of Offense, his seventh season as the Kevin M. Hogan Quarterbacks Coach and his eleventh season on the Stanford staff.
Unlike past years when there were absolutely no new coaches on staff, the Cardinal actually have one coach this year who is new. That is inside linebackers coach Eric Sanders. Sanders joined the Cardinal after spending last season as a defensive assistant for the New York Jets. Before the Jets, he spent three seasons with the Cleveland Browns. Sanders did, in fact, have a Stanford connection before this season. He was a defensive assistant for the Cardinal back in 2015.
Let’s look at the Cardinal special teams.
Redshirt senior Jet Toner returns as the Cardinal placekicker. So far this season, Toner is 7 of 11 (63.64%) on field goal attempts. He has had one miss shorter than 30 yards, one shorter than 40, and two longer than 40. So, his misses have been evenly distributed. His long this season is 48 yards.
Given David Shaw’s conservative nature, don’t be surprised to see Toner attempt field goals instead of going for it on fourth down.
Toner has also handled all but one of Stanford’s kickoffs and almost half of Toner’s kickoffs have gone for a touchback. Freshman Joshua Karty kicked off the other time.
Punt duties will go to freshman Ryan Sanborn. Sanborn’s long this season has been 52 yards. He has had eight punts land inside the 20 while six have had no return due to a fair catch.
On the flip side, junior wide receiver Michael Wilson returns punts for the Cardinal. So far, he hasn’t been able to do much. His season long return is just eight yards.
Look for sophomore Nathaniel Peat to take most of the kickoff returns. Peat has handled 15 of the 20 kickoffs that the Cardinal has received. While he hasn’t broken loose yet, his season long is 43 yards. So, he has the potential for a big gain on the return. That could pose a problem for UCLA if the kickoff team fails to focus on tackling him. Connor Wedington and Casey Filkins have each returned kicks as well, but Peat has the longest return of the season.
Hopefully, the Bruins will be able to stop the Cardinal return men.