Stanford football 2013 preview: Cardinal offensive line ready to mash again

USA TODAY Sports

The Stanford Cardinal get ready to defend their Pac-12 championship, and we do a three-part Q&A with David Lombardi of The Bootleg!

1. Where would you rank Kevin Hogan among Pac-12 quarterbacks?

That's an excellent question, simply because we have seen so relatively little of Kevin Hogan. Remember, he came on as the starter past the halfway point of last season and beat a string of excellent opposition, so he's still undefeated (Stanford's defense, of course, helped that immensely). 

I created a stat table to illustrate how Hogan compared to other recent Cardinal quarterbacks, and the numbers are eye-opening: His completion percentage (71.7), red zone scoring efficiency (89%), and red zone touchdown efficiency (73%) all surpassed Andrew Luck's redshirt freshman year figures. Granted, Hogan's average yards per attempt (5.56) were considerably lower than Luck's, but that was expected since Stanford definitely curtailed aggressive offensive options as No. 8 adapted to the college game. David Shaw has said that those handcuffs are now coming off with greater playbook comfort, so one has to believe that Hogan's best days are still in front of him. 

I think he has the dual threat talent to be a top three quarterback in this conference. The rest will be determined by how big of a jump Hogan makes in his second season as starter: If he emulates Luck's progression in 2010, he can be the top guy.

2. Stanford's offensive line is a wrecking ball every year. Who are the beasts up front who will terrorize the Pac-12 this season?

There are a lot of them. Perhaps the best way to describe how talented this Stanford line is involves examining its second string: LT Kyle Murphy (5-star recruit), LG Josh Garnett (5-star recruit), C Conor McFadden (is said to having better playbook knowledge than the Stanford quarterbacks), RG Johnny Caspers (300-plus pounds), and RT Brendon Austin (4-star recruit). Most, if not all, Pac-12 teams would be happy to have this group as their first unit.

Those are just the back-ups. Stanford's starting line will likely be highlighted by its left side. That's where 6-6, 318-pound LT Andrus Peat, the top 2012 recruit in the country, and monstrous senior LG David Yankey line up. We all know that the Cardinal love to run power, and the latter player may be the best pull blocker in the country. Meanwhile, don't sleep on the other side of the line: David Shaw thinks RG Kevin Danser is an all-conference talent, while senior RT Cam Fleming has quietly locked down his side for years now.

3. How's the Stanford running back depth chart stacking up? Is it a 2010-11 type season with a three to four-man platoon?

It is a 2010-type plan. Shaw has spoken of a five-man rotation at running back. He really believes in the depth of his stable at this position. Anthony Wilkerson and Tyler Gaffney are the two top dogs, but the staff has promised that Remound Wright, Ricky Seale, and Barry Sanders will all play. Each guy has his own specialities, so Shaw will mix and match them appropriately.

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