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Six years ago, teams like Stanford, Rice and Vanderbilt had problems getting top notch talent. The schools have such high academic standards, it was difficult to find players that were both good football players and could also qualify academically. Then, in 2007 Stanford hired John Harbaugh as the head coach and he brought with him a relative unknown coach named David Shaw to run the offense. Since that time the school has upgraded their football program and recruited standout players like Toby Gearhart and Andrew Luck, who were considered for the Heisman Trophy and now play in the NFL. Harbaugh got the players to buy into a tough, hard-nosed philosophy and the program slowly began to get better. Last year, Harbaugh left to coach in the NFL, but Shaw took over for him and has continued the tradition of playing hard and giving 110% on every play. Even when Luck was the quarterback, the signature of this team was its tough offensive line and the inside running game. They like to use multiple tight ends and pound the ball between the tackles, and then use play action fakes to get receivers open.
The Stanford Cardinal came into this game as underdogs even though they were playing at home. USC has stars at almost every position and their offensive attack looked to be unstoppable. Stanford QB Josh Nunes was starting only the third game of his career and his first PAC-12 game. Before the game the Trojans looked loose and comfortable. Looking back, you wonder if maybe they weren’t too loose.
In week two, USC lost starting center Khaled Holmes, who I have ranked as #2 in my preseason rankings of draft eligible centers. This loss seemed to have a big effect on the Trojans. Stanford attacked the middle of the USC line all night and kept Barkley off balance. Without Holmes’ presence, the Trojans were unable to protect Barkley and he had to get rid of the ball quickly. The swarming Cardinal defense sacked Barkley 5 times and was in his face for the entire game.
Late in the game, with score tied at 14, the Stanford offensive line began to take over the game and the Cardinal running game dominated the USC defense. With 4:22 left in the game, Nunes completed a 37 yard touchdown to tight end Zach Ertz to take the lead and they held on to win 21-14.
Here are my thoughts on the draft eligible players that played in the game. I will start with the winning team.
Josh Nunes – QB- Jr: Josh Nunes was starting only his third collegiate game. He looked nervous early. The Cardinal offense was called for a delay of game on their first play. When Nunes was forced to pass his throws usually sailed high. He began to get more comfortable in the 3rd quarter. Nunes began to connect with his tight ends to move the chains. Nunes did a good job with his ball handling and threw the ball well off of bootleg action. He showed his grittiness on the winning TD drive by getting a first down with his legs. The 37 yard completion that he completed to Ertz to win the game was a nice pass that was put in the right spot. Nunes has some work to do though. He still needs to work on being consistent with his ball location and on his footwork in the pocket. Nunes was 15 of 32 for 215 yards with 2 TD and 2 INT. He also carried the ball 3 times for 33 yards.
Stepfan Taylor-RB-Sr: Stepfan Taylor may be one of the most underrated running backs in the country. He is coming off consecutive 1,000 yard seasons and has more than 3,000 career rushing yards. He is the #6 active rusher in the country, but you hardly ever hear anything about him. Taylor is a 215 lb. back that can pound it between the tackles, but is also able to bounce it outside. He has very nice feet and is able to find small creases to gain yardage. He has great balance, reads blocks well and has the ability to make the first tackler miss. He also runs the wildcat offense at times. Taylor is a good receiver and is exceptional on screen passes. He had a 59 yard rushing touchdown and a 23 yard touchdown off of a screen pass. Taylor carried the ball 27 times for 159 yards and 1 TD and he also caught 5 passes for 60 yards and 1 TD.
Ryan Hewitt-FB-Sr: Hewitt is an H-Back that lines up all over the field. He is a good short yardage runner and he also catches the ball well. Hewitt had 2 carries for 6 yards and 1 catch for 11 yards.
Zach Ertz-TE-Jr: Zach Ertz had an outstanding game. He was Stanford’s leading receiver with 3 catches for 71 yards and caught a 37 yarder for the game winning score. He has good hands and does a good job getting open. Once he makes the catch, he turns it up field quickly. He is a versatile player that can line up all over the field. Ertz is a high effort player with a nose for the end zone.
Levine Toilolo-TE-Jr: Levine Toilolo is built like a power forward. He is 6-8” and 265 pounds. Toilolo is a beast over the middle and he uses his size to box out defenders when the ball is thrown high. He has soft hands and has the speed to run down the seam of the defense. He had 3 catches for 47 yards.
Kevin Danser-G-Jr: Danser was part of an offense line that wore down the Trojan defense late in the game. He is mobile, can get to the second and third level and does a good job trap blocking.
Ben Gardner-DE-Jr: Ben Gardner had a very good night, making lots of big plays. He does a good job containing outside rushing plays and turning them inside. He gets off blocks well. Gardner had 5 tackles, 2 tackles for loss and a sack.
Josh Mauro-DE-Sr: Mauro showed a good ability to get off blocks and make plays. In limited action, Mauro had 1 tackle, 1 tackle for loss, 1 sack and 1 fumble recovery.
David Parry-NT-Jr: Parry is a backup defensive lineman. He had a good night with 3 tackles, 1 tackle for loss and had a sack/strip on Matt Barkley.
Chase Thomas-OLB-Sr: Chase Thomas is the star of the Cardinal defense and could be a first round draft choice in 2013. He is a player that lines up everywhere, trying to create mismatches. Thomas has the speed to cover a running back out of the backfield, but also has the ability to pressure the quarterback. He had 5 tackles, 1 tackle for loss and his lone sack put USC in a 4th and 40 situation to end the game. His only mistake was a roughing the passer call.
A.J. Tarpley-ILB-Jr: A.J. Tarpley is a playmaker. In last year’s game against USC, he recovered a fumble in the end zone in the 3rd overtime to preserve the victory. This year, he had 2 tackles, 1 tackle for loss and forced a fumble.
Trent Murphy-OLB-Jr: Trent Murphy is a much underrated player. He made plays the entire night and created havoc for the Trojans. Murphy had 3 tackles, 1 tackle for loss, 1 QB hurry and a sack in the last minute of the game. He also got called for a late hit penalty.
Shayne Skov-ILB-Sr: Skov missed most of 2011 with an ACL injury. This was only his second game back and he had 4 tackles and ½ tackle for loss. I have him as in my preseason listings as the #5 rated inside linebacker available for the draft.
Terrence Brown-CB-Jr: Terrence Brown had a tough night early, but didn’t back down and ended up making plays for the Cardinal. He was called for 2 pass interference penalties early in the game, one of which gave the Trojans the ball in the red zone. On both plays he had good position, but did not trust himself and made contact with the receiver while the ball was in the air. Brown did a good job blocking those two plays out of his head and ended up with 6 tackles and 2 passes broken up. He also had a tackle for loss on a screen pass and an interception.
Matt Barkley – QB – Sr: Matt Barkley did not look like a Heisman hopeful. The Cardinal defense kept him off balance all night and exploited the absence of Khaled Holmes by attacking the middle of the Trojan line. Barkley had defenders in his face all night and was forced to throw more quickly than he wanted. He will finish his career having never beaten Stanford. Since Holmes was out, Barkley had additional responsibilities, making the line calls on every play. His timing seemed to be off all night on his throws. He only completed 20 of 41 throws for 254 yards with no TD and 2 INT.
Curtis McNeal-RB-Sr: The Trojans were unable to get the running game going against a very tough Stanford defense. McNeal was able to get a few yards and showed the ability to bounce off tackles, but he only rushed for 37 yards on 7 carries.
Silas Redd-RB-Jr: I expected to see more from Silas Redd. After rushing for more than 1,200 yards on an average Penn State team last year, he was joining the Dream Team at USC. He was mostly used in short yardage situations, gaining only 17 yards on 13 carries. He missed some time with an arm injury and that may have limited his playing time in the 2nd half. One thing he needs to work on is his pass protection since he gave up a sack while trying to pass block.
Robert Woods-WR-Jr: Robert Woods is a very good route runner, possibly the best in the country. He is very smooth out of his breaks and has very good vertical speed. Once he gets the ball in his hands, he can make things happen. He is regarded as the best receiver available for the 2013 draft and should he declare, he is likely to be a top 10 pick. His numbers declined in the 2nd half, mostly because Barkley had to get rid of the ball so quickly. He only had 4 catches for 38 yards, but one of them was a conversion of a 4th and 19 situation where he took a short pass and then ran past the defense to get the first down.
Randall Telfer-TE-RS Soph: Telfer is a versatile player that can line up all over the field. He does a good job finding openings in the zone and presenting his numbers to the QB. Telfer had 4 catches for 20 yards, including one that converted a 4th down situation.
Morgan Breslin-DE-Jr: Breslin does a good job reading his keys and staying at home. He had 3 tackles and 1 tackle for a loss of 11 yards on a reverse.
Dion Bailey-OLB-RS Soph: Bailey is a former safety that was moved to linebacker. He is very fast and physical. He has the ability to cover tight ends in space and also to rush the passer. He can run through or around blocks. Bailey had 9 tackles, 1 tackle for loss, 1 pass break up and 1 interception. Bailey weighs 210 lbs so he will either need to put on weight to play linebacker or he could be moved to safety. Either way, he should be a player that NFL teams will be interested in.
Hayes Pullard-ILB-RS Soph: Pullard is a very quick pass rusher. He can move to the outside on passing downs. He is very athletic. Pullard had 7 tackles.
Nickell Robey-CB-Jr: Robey is the Trojan’s best defensive back. He also returns punts. Robey does well on man coverage and gets good inside position. He had 5 tackles. He was also called for a pass interference penalty in the end zone.
Torin Harris-CB-Jr: Harris plays good tight man coverage. He had 4 tackles and 1 pass breakup.
T.J. McDonald-FS-Jr: McDonald is my top rated safety for the 2013 NFL draft. He is the leader of the Trojan defense. McDonald is able to play in the box or in deep coverage. He can cover a tight end one on one. McDonald is a big hitter and a good blitzer. He had 9 tackles, 1 QB hurry and blocked a field goal.
Jawanza Starling-SS-Sr: Starling had 1 tackle and an interception that he returned 34 yards.
by Dwayne Wilton DraftManiacs.com