While the 2012 Pac-12 champion Stanford football team was carried largely by its talented group of proven upperclassmen, the team featured a number of breakout stars as well. Here's a look at five of those players - with comments on how they were viewed as recruits.
Alex Carter - 2012 Stats: 39 tackles (3.0 for loss), 3 forced fumbles
Comment: Carter played the biggest role of any true freshman on the Cardinal roster. He received significant playing time opposite Terrence Brown in the secondary.
As a recruit: "Alex Carter was always going to be a can't miss kid wherever he went because of his versatility. He was one of my favorite prospects in his class because he could be successful at wide receiver, cornerback or safety as well as impact in the return game. He's also a very, very high character kid which is another reason why I thought he'd have a successful career. He was a guy I pushed hard for as a US Army Bowl selection and was one of the top prospects on the east coast last year." - Rivals analyst Mike Farrell
Kevin Hogan - 2012 Stats: 97-133 passing (72.9 %), 9 TD/3 INT ; 44 rushes, 269 yards and 2 TD's
Comment: Replaced Josh Nunes as starting quarterback late in the season. Led the Card to four wins over ranked opponents to conclude the year. Earned all-conference honors despite receiving significant playing time in only five games.
As a recruit: "I was less convinced of his future success for a few reasons. We had him as a top 15 quarterback in the country in 2011 and as a high three star so we knew he had size and upside, but when I saw him he completed 8 of 22 passes for 90 yards and threw four picks and threw off his back foot consistently. He did run for two scores in that game, but his field vision and decision-making was not great which led to his lower ranking. He had a tendency to lock onto his targets and had trouble reading the depth of linebackers. But with all that said, he had size, good agility and he was a smart kid with a solid arm. But I'm still not sold on him as a future star and I am quite surprised at how well he's doing, I expected him to push for the starting job later in his career." -- Farrell
Kelsey Young - 2012 Stats: 13 rushes, 147 yards, 1 TD; 8 receptions, 74 yards.
Comment: Young didn't have a statistical breakout year in 2012, but he did display the type of athleticism and playmaking ability that hasn't been seen on The Farm in some time. His role should expand in 2013.
As a recruit: "Young was one of the most explosive and exciting running backs I had seen that year. He was a threat to break a big run every time he touched the ball and what also made an impression is that he ran hard every time he had the ball in his hands. He would bounce off tacklers, take tacklers on down the field and work for every single yard he could get. He could also catch the ball out of the backfield and was a big-time threat on special teams." - Rivals West Coast analyst Adam Gorney
Jordan Richards - 2012 stats: 62 tackles (5.0 for loss), 15 passes defended, 3 INT
Comment: Teamed with Ed Reynolds to form one of the better safety tandems in the Pac-12. A physical, dependable tackler with excellent ball skills.
As a recruit: "Richards was an asset on both sides of the ball for Folsom. He was good coming out of the backfield catching the ball and Folsom had a middle screen designed for him that could be a big gainer if executed correctly. The thing I remember most about Richards is that he caught every ball thrown in his vicinity." - Gorney
Ed Reynolds - 2012 Stats: 43 tackles, 6 INT (3 TD), 11 Passes Defended
Comment: Was one inch (if that) away from tying the NCAA record for interception returns for touchdown in a single year. Bounced back from a knee injury that forced him to redshirt last year to emerge as one of the nation's best ball-hawking safeties.
As a recruit: "I see myself as a leader on the field, as a smart player who knows the game. I grew up with football," Reynolds told Rivals.com in June, 2009. "I never take false steps and I always make sure that I'm in the play. I think that my game speed is a lot faster than my timed speeds."
Note: Farrell didn't see Reynolds in person like he did Hogan and Carter (Reynolds didn't do many of the national camps/combines.)
A.J. Tarpley - 2012 Stats: 56 tackles (6.5 for loss), 1 INT
Comment: We're cheating a bit by placing Tarpley in the "breakout player" category, but Tarpley played at an extremely high level in 2012. After starting for much of 2011 due in part to the absence of Shayne Skov, Tarpley beat out two very good players - Jarek Lancaster and James Vaughters - to emerge as one of the conference's top inside backers.
As a recruit "I followed AJ very closely through his high school career. AJ was one of the hardest working players that I have covered over the years. I met him when I was covering a training session with Bill Welle and he stood out for his work ethic and skills. He was a sophomore at that time and he was already holding his own with the upper class players he trained with….It was always fun to watch him play and interview him on his accomplishments. He always credited his team and got past the usual soundbites. AJ is a true Minnesota student/athlete and his accomplishments at Stanford have brought attention to Minnesota football and help open doors across the country for many other Student Athletes." -- Michael J. Much: Publisher, Minnesota Preps
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