1. What impressed you the most about Stanford's victory over Oregon State?
Stanford's defense was absolutely spectacular. Statistically, Oregon State featured the nation's most explosive offensive coming in -- and that's a scary thought, even if they hadn't faced a great schedule leading up to the match-up. The Cardinal's offense didn't do its defense any favors, leaving it on the field for over 38 minutes, so that performance while overcoming a hobbled defensive line sure was something. Stanford held the Beavers to 4.7 yards per play. Their pass rush was ferocious, the secondary was sound, and they flowed to the football better even better than I saw them flow to the football down the stretch of 2012.
2. What are the biggest concerns to hold from Stanford's win over the Beavers? What do the Cardinal have to worry about before facing Oregon?
A week after butchering UCLA on the line of scrimmage, Stanford's offense (273 total yards against a mediocre Beavers' D) was very shaky. The Cardinal simply must put Kevin Hogan in a better position to succeed, and that begins with pounding the football behind an excellent run-blocking offensive line. Hogan is not Peyton Manning, so he'll be much more effective delivering out of play-action to talented receivers than throwing out of the shotgun on second and short. David Shaw has acknowledged that the Cardinal's play calling needs improvement, so that's a step in the right direction. The Cardinal has plenty of talent to move the ball if they form the backbone of their offense around a productive running game. Tyler Gaffney needs to carry the ball 30-plus times against Oregon to right the offensive ship, in my opinion.
3. What are Stanford's goals for the season regarding recruiting? How many players are they looking to land? Who are their biggest targets?
Since the last recruiting cycle featured fewer scholarship openings (Stanford only signed 12 players), this 2014 effort is an especially critical one for the Cardinal. My sources indicate that Stanford is potentially looking to land as many as 23 players this season. Obviously, a class that large must cover a broad range of positions. Quarterback Keller Chryst is a key pledge, while Stanford has worked hard to grab physical cornerbacks and linebackers that fit their system. The biggest remaining target is probably defensive lineman Solomon Thomas, though the Cardinal are certainly gunning for more elite talent on the offensive line and at wide receiver.
4. Based on who's graduating, what are the biggest needs for the Cardinal going forward?
It's really tough to tell at this point, because there are key players who will have options to come back for a fifth season in 2014. Oregon is next on the schedule, so all focus is on this 2013 season for Stanford. The defensive front seven will inevitably take graduation hits, but that's far off at this point, so it's tough to speculate exactly much Stanford will have to replace.
5. Who are the top recruits with the best chance of becoming a Cardinal?
As I said earlier, Chryst is already committed. He's one of the top-ranked quarterbacks in the country. Let's see if DE Solomon Thomas pulls the trigger next.