Taking a stock of who is coming back and who is leaving The Farm
Stanford got important good news when junior quarterback KJ Costello made his decision public to stay on The Farm for next season. While Costello postponed his NFL dreams for a year, several other Cardinal are leaving the program with eligibility remaining.
Cardinal Sports Report breaks down the impact of the roster moves.
Costello will lead next wave on offense
Costello considered going to the NFL before ultimately deciding that another year on The Farm was in his best interest.
Having Costello back for next season is critical to the team's chances to do more than survive a brutal schedule. All three non-conference opponents are projected to be in the top-25 (Notre Dame, Northwestern and UCF). Costello's physical skill and understanding of the offense will determine much of that unit's success next season. Although, whether the staff decides to unleash the passing offense from the outset of the season will play a major role as well. Costello's leadership skills will also be counted on. Costello will need to bring along a unit that will need to settle several competitions next season.
Who replaces Bryce Love at running back? How will the thin red line up front shake out? Can Colby Parkinson take on more at tight end and will the supporting cast at that position do enough? And are the talented but young receivers able to step into the roles vacated by Trent Irwin and JJ Arcega-Whiteside?
It's a lot for a captain to help manage, but that will be part of Costello's charge next season.
NFL draft entrants
It should be the goal of every program to develop players to the point that they can leave "early" to play professionally.
In JJ Arcega-Whiteside's case he spent four years on The Farm but played three seasons. Arcega-Whiteside was one of the best receivers in the country this season and he was one of Costello's cheat codes for an almost automatic completion or to get a pass interference call. The other receiving option who fit that description was tight end Kaden Smith. The Mackey Award finalist has the potential to be the next great former Cardinal to excel at the position in the NFL.
Nate Herbig was Stanford's best overall offensive lineman in 2018 and the Hawaii native started games as a true freshman, which is not a common feat at Stanford.
It won't be easy to replace any of those three players, but there are different levels of difficulty.
The offensive line pipeline is in the weakest shape of the three position groups to replace someone of Herbig's quality. Dylan Powell started in place of Herbig in the final weeks of the season and the bowl game. He performed well overall. Tackles Foster Sarell and Devery Hamilton will compete in the offseason to start at right tackle. Whoever loses that competition probably starts at the other guard position.
None of the remaining receivers or tight ends can fairly be expected to do next season what Arcega-Whiteside and Smith did last year. But there is obvious talent waiting in the wings.
Michael Wilson, Osiris. St. Brown and Simi Fehoko have the ability to be a talented, versatile receiver corps. The wild card is Connor Wedington. He can be a productive member of that group or may move to running back.
Parkinson will have sole possession of the limelight at tight end. The 6-7 athlete showed flashes this season but will need to get stronger and develop more consistency this offseason. Tucker Fisk and Scooter Harrington have their roles as blockers and occasional receiving targets. Incoming freshman Bradley Archer is a skilled pass catcher and history suggests there will be an opportunity for him to grab some snaps in a niche role.
Sean Barton, Dylan Jackson, Frank Buncom and Nick Wilson have each announced their retirement from football. Brian Chaffin, Reagan Williams and Ben Edwards have yet to make their decisions public, but at this time Cardinal Sports Report does not expect them to play at Stanford next season. Whether that's due to retirement or transfer will be announced by each student-athlete.
Barton, Jackson, Buncom and Wilson made the decision to move on to another chapter even though they can physically keep playing. Barton, Jackson and Buncom were starters last season. Wilson's role as the "Ogre" was reduced this season and he didn't get snaps at either guard spot when Stanford was struggling with health and quality of play at those positions.
Barton's loss hits the depth chart hardest. None of the remaining inside linebackers have any starting experience and Andrew Pryts' time on the field is limited. But Barton suffered a horrible knee injury last year; and after a season without much rest he was looking at a repeat next season.
Stanford will turn to freshmen linebackers Ricky Miezan and Jacob Mangum-Farrar to take over next season. Incoming freshman Tristan Sinclair may also be called upon. Levani Damuni will probably have too much rust to knock off after a two-year LDS mission.
Malik Antoine will be the only safety on the roster with significant playing experience. It was a tough season at times for Antoine adjusting to angles to make tackles in the open field. Kendall Williamson will probably be part of the safety competition after playing cornerback and nickel this season. Stuart Head and former walk-on Noah Williams will also be in the mix.
Incoming freshmen Nicolas Toomer, Jonathan McGill and Salim Turner-Muhammad could compete for playing time.
Jackson's loss is probably the one Stanford is best prepared to deal with because of the recent influx of recruits. Every defensive linemen who played in the Sun Bowl will be on the team next season.
Many eyes will be on the development of Dalyn Wade-Perry, Thomas Booker and Andres Fox. Each of them flashed their potential this season. Booker and Fox were true freshmen.
Alan Alda wouldn't find the MASH unit that is Stanford's offensive line very funny. Without Chaffin and Wilson it's doubtful Stanford will be able to hold spring practices with full team sessions.