Stanford kicks off its season in Sydney, Australia, on Aug. 26 vs. Rice, but fans can catch a glimpse of the Cardinal this week at Pac-12 Media Days.
David Shaw takes the stage next Thursday as he looks to get Stanford back to the top of the conference. He’ll be joined in Hollywood by RB Bryce Love and DT Harrison Phillips.
Here are Stanford’s biggest story lines and questions heading into Pac-12 Media Days:
Will Bryce Love make people forget about Christian McCaffrey?
We won’t go that far. Bryce Love won’t break any NCAA yardage records and probably won’t be a Heisman Trophy finalist. Still, he’ll be an explosive option for the Cardinal, and as some in the industry have said, may be even more explosive than McCaffrey. His numbers speak for themselves. In limited action last season, he rushed for 779 yards on only 112 totes, good for 7.0 yards per carry, good for 15th in the country with players with 100 attempts or more. The offensive line is still stellar and Stanford will run a lot. Love may end up being the Pac-12’s leading rusher in 2017.
The offensive line has potential to dominate
Four starters return to a line that helped the Cardinal rush for more than 2,700 yards as a team. The veteran group wants to regain its place among the best lines in the country. Add in two 5-star linemen in Foster Sarell (No. 5 overall per the 247Sports composite rankings) and Walker Little (No. 10 overall), and this unit could be very good for a long time.
Quenton Meeks’ case to be the nation’s best corner
He doesn’t have the production of Kansas State’s D.J. Reed or the name recognition of Florida State’s Tarvarus McFadden or the swag of Southern Cal’s Iman “Biggie” Marshall, but when it comes to locking down your team’s best wideout, few do it better than Quenton Meeks. The 6-foot-2 junior is big and physical and rarely gets tested. When he does, he always makes a play on the ball, as evidenced by his 5 career INTs. When he does pick it off, he’s a threat to take it the other way, as he did in the 2016 Rose Bowl.
How much faith does Stanford really have in David Shaw?
This sounds utterly silly on the surface. Shaw is an excellent coach with multiple 10-win seasons, three Rose Bowl appearances and three conference titles on his resume. But at Stanford, athletic titles are not the exception, they are the norm. With the rise of Washington as an emerging national powerhouse, and the suspected turnaround at Oregon, it will become increasingly difficult to win the North Division every year. You have to wonder if another year of being “very good” but not great, and never getting over the hump to compete for national titles will become stale with administrators and boosters, especially considering Shaw’s hefty $4 million per season price tag. Just something to chew on.
Solving the QB conundrum
This is the biggest question surrounding the team heading into fall camp. Who plays the most important position for the Cardinal? Keller Chryst was unspectacular in his starts last season and he’s returning from a right knee injury suffered in the team’s bowl game (maybe Christian McCaffrey was onto something in missing the contest). It’s still not certain if he’ll be ready for the opener. Other options are senior Ryan Burns, but he was worse than the mediocre Chryst last season, throwing 7 INTs and only 5 TDs in his seven starts last year. Sophomore K.J. Costello, a 4-star recruit and the No. 3 pro-style QB in the Class of 2016, is also an option, but he’s yet to throw a pass in college.