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February 26, 2014

New coordinator, similar defense

After spending the last seven seasons as a position coach, Lance Anderson took over the reins to Stanford's defense last month following the departure of Derek Mason. But don't expect the Cardinal's new defense to undergo any defensive changes now that Anderson is in charge.

"I think it's going to be similar," Anderson said. "Since Vic Fangio was here and we installed this defensive package in 2010, it's stayed roughly the same. Every year there are a few new wrinkles, a few developments. I think each coordinator has some of their own preference sand things they like. I'm sure that will happen as well. But overall, the scheme and the package is going to stay really similar."

Stanford's defensive personnel, however, will be different than it was in 2013. Five of Stanford's 11 opening-game starters from last year's squad are gone. And several other potential contributors have switched positions: Luke Kaumatule and Blake Lueders moved to defensive end (from tight end and outside linebacker, respectively), last season. Dallas Lloyd moved from quarterback to safety during Stanford's pre-Rose Bowl practices. Kodi Whitfield moved from receiver to safety after the 2013 season concluded.

Most recently, Joe Hemschoot moved back from outside linebacker to inside linebacker. Hemschoot was moved from inside linebacker to outside linebacker in the middle of the 2013 season; the decision to move him back inside was made late last week.

"As a defensive staff as we've been in meetings the last couple of weeks watching a lot of cut-ups from last year, looking at our depth," Anderson said. "We saw (Joe) do a lot of good things on film, whether he was inside at the beginning of the year, playing nickel, playing outside. We thought, 'Hey, where could we best get this guy on the field first?' So we thought that would be the place to start him. We hope to keep him there. We think there's some depth there as well. He's played a lot of football and I think we can get him on the field first and most at that position right now."

Hemschoot's move serves another purpose: it will free up reps for Stanford's pair of touted freshman outside linebackers, Mike Tyler and Peter Kalambayi.

"That's part of it as well," Anderson said. "(James) Vaughters and Kevin Anderson have played a lot football so we feel pretty good about them (though) they still have places they need to improve. We thought too by moving Joe (to inside linebacker) it's going to give us an opportunity to really look at Pete and look at Mike and really get them quality reps and lots of reps because they've shown enough stuff in the young guy scrimmages and the scout team stuff that we think they've got a chance to be good. Now we really need to see it. So the jury is still out on those guys but we think they have potential."

The same could be said for some of Stanford's younger defensive linemen. While a trio of fifth-year seniors - Henry Anderson, Blake Lueders and David Parry - are expected to start, several spots in the defensive line rotation remain open. Lance Anderson said it's too early to know whether any of the younger linemen will separate from the group.

"It's too hard to say right now," Anderson said. "Still even after the bowl practice there were still a lot of question marks. Guys showed glimpses, but that's what has to be answered this spring. And we're not going to know that until we get further into the spring. But we have high expectations for Luke Kaumatule, Aziz Shittu, Nate Lohn, Jordan Watkins, those guys have got to come to a point where they really take a step forward. Now is that time. They're also going to have every opportunity. And there are other defensive linemen as well, those are just a few of the guys right there, but this is their time to really show what they can do. We need them to step up."

Stanford will also need for someone to emerge at free safety. The two recent offensive converts - Whitfield and Lloyd - will have every opportunity to do so.

"I think athletically they are both really what we're looking for," Anderson said. "We saw a little bit of Dallas during the bowl practices there. Again it's too early to say too much there but I think athletically they are exactly what we're looking for. So far in meetings they've been eager learners they're working hard to comprehend the scheme. I expect big things from both of them this spring. We need those guys just like the other guys we mentioned and those are two guys that could really step up and help us."

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