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August 19, 2012

Stanford football preseason roundtable

Stanford football has almost arrived. The Cardinal kick off the 2012 season on Friday, August 31 when they host San Jose State.

Cardinal Sports Report decided to turn to a few Cardinal insiders to get some additional perspective on the challenges and opportunities that the team faces.

Part One: 2012 Roundtable

What have you been up to since leaving Stanford?

Bo McNally: I married my high school sweetheart summer of 2010, then coached one season as a graduate assistant at Syracuse University before moving back to Palo Alto and joining former Stanford linebacker David Bergeron's real estate firm T3 Advisors.

Andrew Phillips: Since leaving Stanford I had been at the University of Virginia, where I was in graduate school at the McIntire School of Commerce. I recently graduated from the program after spending a little over a month traveling in China through McIntire's Global Immersion Experience. I feel that I gained an enormous perspective on the unique challenges and opportunities that come with doing business in China, and I now look forward to traveling to Asia again in the near future. Soon after returning from Asia I got married and my wife and I have settled in Burlingame. I'll soon start work at Wildfire Interactive while my wife will be working at Stanford Hospital as a nurse. It's been a crazy couple of months to say the least.

Todd Husak: I graduated in 2000 and then played in the NFL until 2004 (Redskins, Jets, Broncos, and Browns). I returned to Stanford to earn my MA from the School of Education and was the graduate assistant/tight ends coach under Walt Harris in 2005. After graduating in 2006, I entered the commercial real estate industry and started working for CBRE in San Jose. In 2011 I relocated to Palo Alto where I manage the CBRE office and represent technology companies with their real estate needs. I have been the color commentator for the football team since 2009 and currently work with fellow alums Dave Flemming and John Platz calling the games.

What's your favorite football memory from The Farm?

McNally: Beating USC at the Coliseum in 2009, my senior year. The upset in 2007 was obviously special, but coming to their stadium in 2009 and beating them straight-up established that we had legitimately turned the corner and were a Pac-10 (Pac-12) contender.

Phillips: Wow, so many to choose from here. The famous "upset" game against USC was a tremendous day for Stanford football, but also for me personally. I was a backup guard at the time and ended up playing the 4th quarter after Mikal Brewer got rolled up on. Seeing that ball fly into Mark's hands, quieting the coliseum, and returning to campus to a huge celebration are all still fresh in my memory.

Right with that is the Orange Bowl. As a kid you dream of playing a big opponent on the biggest stage, and it was an incredible end to a storybook season. Obviously the game had special significance to me because my father had died that August, but it was also a chance to celebrate the transformation that we had undergone as a football family. Going from 1-11 to 12-1 with a BCS bowl win was a storybook ending, and I'll always remember that evening in a very special light.

Husak: Beating Cal in 1999 for the fourth straight year which clinched the Pac-10 championship and a spot in the 2000 Rose Bowl.

How closely have you followed the team since your departure? How closely do you plan to follow the 2012 season? Will you be able to watch any games on TV or in person?

McNally: (I've followed the team) religiously. (I plan to follow the team in 2012) religiously. I've got my season tickets in the Stanford Football alumni section, and will certainly watch every away game on TV.

Phillips: I was lucky enough to make it back for a couple of games while I was job hunting last fall. This season I'll have a lot of Hoosier and UVA games to get to this year as my brothers move through their seasons, but we'll make it to as many games as we can for sure.

(Todd Husak will team with Stanford alum Dave Flemming to broadcast Stanford football games on KNBR 1050.)

What's your prediction for this upcoming season and why?

McNally: Minimum of 8 wins, but I think it will be more like 10. It's always tough replacing a guy like Luck, but the Stanford program is much bigger than one player. Our defensive front is nasty, and I mean really nasty. Certainly the best in the conference, and maybe the best in the country. Our secondary is the most athletic it has been in recent memory. Our offense will be physical and run the ball well, and I'm confident that whomever ends up playing QB will run the offense very well. They did have the benefit of learning from Np. 12, after all.

Phillips: My prediction is a tough, physical team that runs the ball well and hits the snot out of people on defense. I'll leave it to the guys to determine their record, but I know they've put enough work in this summer and spring to expect to win every game. I'm excited to watch it go down.

Husak: The defense will be great again, but I don't see them putting up the dominant numbers they did in 2011. The reason for that is the offense will not be as good on third downs, time of possession, and won't put the pressure on the opposition to score on every possession. Also, the conference should be much better offensively top to bottom than in years past. If the offense and special teams can be in the top four in conference, this team should put up double digit wins for the third straight year, but it is going to be critical that the QB limits turnovers and is efficient on third downs. I think 9-3 regular season with a bowl win to get to 10 wins on the season.

What will the x-factor be in determining Stanford's success in 2012?

McNally: How well the O-line and D-line play. Any successful team's foundation is built on the big guys.

Phillips: I'm very excited to watch the young guys from when I was a senior take control of this team. It's been a pleasure and an honor to know them as teammates and watch them grow from unsure freshmen to competent leaders. To stick within the group I know best, I think this will be the year of Sam Schwartzstein's welcome to the upper ranks of Pac-12 linemen. Even as a young guy he always impressed the entire room with the depth and breadth of his understanding of the plays and schemes we were running. I was one of many guys who at one point or another would consult Sam for help with our game tests. It truly is his room now, and I'm excited to see another group of tunnel workers smash some people with his leadership.

Husak: The QB play will be important with how successful this team will be in 2012. With very good QB performances, this team is talented enough to win the conference. With below average QB play, I think the team can still win six or seven games, but it will certainly put more pressure on the defense. Special teams will also be more important this season because the offense has more youth and inexperience which should lead to more punts and less points. Field position will be critical, and improved special teams are a must in order to win that battle.

Stanford's starting quarterback for the Aug. 31 opener against San Jose State will be...

McNally: Nottingham… From what I understand it is a very tight race, so I think his extra year of eligibility gives him a little bit of an edge.

Phillips: Whoever Pep and Coach Shaw determine is the guy. I'm extremely confident in all the QBs we have.

Husak: Whoever plays better in camp? Too easy. I would guess Nunes wins the starting job but will feel pressure to play well because of how talented Nottingham is. Also, don't count out newcomer Kevin Hogan who has progressed well in the summer workouts. He is quietly emerging as a dark horse if the top two falter in practice. If Nunes can minimize the mistakes, hit the open throws, play well on 3rd down, and can make one or two connections on the deep ball (not his specialty), he should have no problem fending off the younger, and actually more experienced, Nottingham. Those qualities I mention basically equate to "good QB play", but Nunes hasn't yet shown the ability to do that consistently. That will be the key for him.

About the panelists

Bo McNally: McNally was a multi-year starter at safety for the Cardinal from 2007-2009. He was among the team's leading tacklers each of those seasons and recorded a memorable interception during the 2009 Sun Bowl.








Andrew Phillips: Phillips was the left guard on one of the best Stanford football teams of all time, the 2010 Orange Bowl squad. Phillips was a key cog in the imposing "Tunnel Workers Union" offensive line, and an essential player on Stanford's record-breaking offenses of 2009 and 2010.







Todd Husak: A sixth round pick of the Washington Redskins, Husak was a two-year starter for the Cardinal. As a senior Husak led Stanford to a Pac-10 title and trip to the Rose Bowl.








Stay tuned for Part Two of our preseason Stanford roundtable with Husak, Phillips and McNally. It will focus on more position-specific issues pertaining to the 2012 Cardinal.

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