With the start of fall camp just days away, Cardinal Sports Report will examine five of the pressing questions facing the 2012 Stanford football team. The third feature in our series examines Stanford's depth concerns at safety.
No. 5 - Wide Receiver Depth
For several seasons, Michael Thomas and Delano Howell patrolled the secondary for Stanford and provided invaluable leadership on the defensive side of the ball. Now the duo is off to the NFL, and Stanford will have to call upon a stable of inexperienced safeties to fill the void.
Making matters even worse, safety Kyle Olugbode, who had a very impressive spring, will miss the first part of the season with a hand/wrist injury.
As such, given Myles Muagututia's switch to linebacker, the only safeties on Stanford's roster with experience at the position are Ed Reynolds, Devon Carrington and Jordan Richards.
Incoming freshmen Zach Hoffpauir and Drew Madhu will also be in the mix for playing time this fall, but uncertainty abounds at the position.
"Those guys (Carrington, Reynolds and Richards) played a lot, but now the pressure is on them not to be guys that come in and play a little but who can be the mainstays in the backfield for us," Stanford coach David Shaw said. "We have two freshmen coming in that we feel great about as well, but once again it's all about competition, it's all about guys that make plays. I told them in spring, I'll say the same thing when we start this weekend - the guys that play safety for us are the guys that tackle the best. It'd be great if they can make all the calls and do all the other things we need them to do, but the guys that make the tackles are the guys that play."
The guess here is that barring a position switch (i.e. a Wayne Lyons, Alex Carter, or Harold Bernard moving from cornerback to safety), two of the Carrington, Richards, Reynolds trio will start for the Cardinal in the opener against San Jose State.
If Derek Mason and the rest of Stanford's defensive braintrust determine that some combination of Hoffpauir, Madhu, Carrington, Reynolds, and Richards won't get the job done, we do feel that Carter, Lyons, and Bernard are the most likely candidates to move to safety.
In any event, fall camp will provide a critical opportunity for Stanford to size up its safety outlook, for both 2012 and beyond.