2009 overall record: 8-5
2009 conference record: 6-3 (tied for second)
Offense: 8, Defense: 7, punter/kicker: 2
Key losses: RB Toby Gerhart, TE Jim Dray, DT Ekom Udofia, FS Bo McNally
2009 statistical leaders (*returning starter)
Rushing: Toby Gerhart (1,871)
Passing: Andrew Luck* (2,575)
Receiving: Ryan Whalen* (926)
Tackles: Bo McNally (83)
Sacks: Thomas Keiser* (9)
Interceptions: Bo McNally, Delano Howell*, Richard Sherman* (2)
1. Luck is ready to lead: Coach Jim Harbaugh doesn't beat around the bush. He'll tell you straight up that he thinks Andrew Luck is the best quarterback in the nation. His performance this spring suggested that's not just a coach pumping up his player. Recall that Harbaugh called Toby Gerhart the best running back in the Pac-10 last preseason and ended up being right.
2. The front seven will be tough: The Cardinal adopted a new 3-4 look this spring, but the biggest reason to be hopeful on defense is a combination of experienced veterans and maturing youngsters. Players such as linebackers Shayne Skov, Thomas Keiser and Chase Thomas were forced into action early in their careers. Now they -- particularly Skov -- are ready to break through.
3. Is this the best offensive line in the Pac-10? While things are unresolved at right tackle, where Derek Hall and James McGillicuddy are battling to replace Chris Marinelli, there are four returning starters from a crew that was often dominant in 2009. Sophomore guard David DeCastro, sophomore tackle Jonathan Martin and senior guard Andrew Phillips each earned honorable mention All-Pac-10 recognition, while senior center Chase Beeler was second-team All-Conference.
1. Who replaces Gerhart? It's likely going to be a "backfield by committee" approach. Jeremy Stewart, Tyler Gaffney and Stepfan Taylor are the candidates, but it's interesting that Alex Debniak, a linebacker who dabbles at running back, and freshman Usua Amanam, raised more than a few eyebrows during the spring game when given the ball.
2. Secondary issues: While three or four starters are back in the secondary, that's not necessarily a good thing. Stanford must be more athletic in the back-half if it wants to challenge for the conference title. New defensive backs coach Derek Mason figures to mix-and-match without regard to seniority. Michael Thomas' move from corner to safety was the most noteworthy spring development.
3. Can Stanford sustain success? Harbaugh made a big deal about Stanford becoming a physical, blue collar team. And it worked. Now that the Cardinal is clearly in the mix, it will be interesting to see if they can maintain that mentality. It's worthy of note that Stanford hasn't posted back-to-back winning seasons since 1995-96.