he Stanford football team isn’t one particularly made up of stars. Sure, Andrew Luck might be the biggest college football star in the country, but that’s about where the list of commonly known Stanford players ends. After Shayne Skov’s recent injury, I’d say almost the entire defense is a virtual “unknown”. That being the case, I decided to take a look at some players on Stanford’s roster that have performed well but aren’t getting full recognition for their level of play.
It’s difficult to understand how a running back who ran for more than 1,000 yards last season (and is easily on pace to do so this season) as part of one of the country’s best teams isn’t known as an integral part of Stanford’s success, but that seems to be the case. As a sophomore last season, Taylor seized a starting running back job that was up for grabs and consistently provided the reliable running skills that Stanford’s pro style offense is dependent on. This year, it was immediately apparent that he had likely added some muscle to his small frame. That added weight has only improved his skills instead of slowing him down (as it often can with “speed-burst” running backs). After five games, Taylor has rushed for 401 yards and 4 touchdowns on only 71 carries for a terrific 5.6 YPC.
Stanford’s tight end corps is usually the second thing that comes to mind when one thinks about the Stanford’s offense. It’s a three-deep group that’s likely the best group in the country. Coby Fleener has received praise lately for his touchdown-catching efforts as Stanford’s starting TE, and rightly so, but attention must also be payed to Ertz. His ability to catch short passes in the flat off of the play-action and head up field for extra yardage is essential to the flow of the offense (and has led to three Ertz touchdowns this season). Considering how reliant on tight ends Stanford stands to be this season, the offense would be lacking without the combination of his play and that of Levine Toilolo.
Coming into the season, Chase Thomas was Stanford’s second-best and most important defensive player. With Shayne Skov now hurt, he assumes the primary role. He’s lived up to his newfound billing. After only five games, Thomas has recorded five sacks for 45 yards. Stanford’s secondary is certainly suspect on occasion, so Thomas’s (and others including Max Bergen and Ben Gardner) ability to consistently provide a rush (and be equally effective on run defense) keeps the secondary from generally facing accurate throws, which is key to preserving the unit’s momentum.
David Green is Stanford’s punter, and thus bound to be unknown by most fans. But that doesn’t make him less worthy of being recognized for the solid effort he’s displayed this season. Punting is far from an expected commodity for most college football teams, but Green has provided a 42.0-yard average per punt (a high rate, comparably) and done well in situational punting (though the need hasn’t often arisen, given the competition Stanford has faced thus far into the season).
(Source image for headline art courtesy of E.A. Sanabria on Flickr)