While you were on vacation... Stanford

The seventh of 12 quick updates on offseason Pac-12 goings on.

Stanford in a sentence

  • There's not much a team can do to improve on a 12-1 finish and No. 4 final ranking -- perhaps the best season in program history -- but the return of quarterback Andrew Luck and nice talent throughout the depth chart has folks whispering about possibilities even loftier than the Rose Bowl.

The big issue

  • There are holes to fill on the offensive line, but the chief worries are at receiver and the defensive line.

Quick hit news

  • Luck is back, but coach Jim Harbaugh is gone, and he took key members of his staff with him: defensive coordinator Vic Fangio, associate head coach Greg Roman and offensive line coach Tim Drevno. David Shaw was promoted from offensive coordinator to replace Harbaugh, while Pep Hamilton moved up from receivers coach to offensive coordinator. Derek Mason was promoted from secondary coach to co-defensive coordinator with linebackers coach Jason Tarver (Mason will call plays). Mike Bloomgren is the new run-game coordinator/offensive line coach, while Mike Sanford is the new running backs coach. Ron Crook will coach tight ends and offensive tackles.

  • The Cardinal was ranked sixth in the preseason coaches poll, its highest preseason ranking in program history.

  • Receiver is a key question: The returning wideouts combined for just 49 receptions and four touchdowns. The key player is Chris Owusu, a speedster who missed six game due to injury last season.

  • Stanford is, however, stacked at tight end. It will be interesting to see how the depth sorts itself out. Levine Toilolo won the starting job last preseason but then suffered a season-ending knee injury. Coby Fleener ended up winning second-team All-Pac-10 honors, but some thought that Zach Ertz was the best tight end this spring.

  • The Cardinal's final No. 4 ranking was its highest since 1940, when it finished No. 2 after a 10-0 season.

  • While five starters are gone on defense, the top four tacklers are back: linebacker Shayne Skov, outside linebacker Chase Thomas, free safety Michael Thomas and strong safety Delano Howell.

  • Stanford plays seven home games this season -- including a visit from Oregon on Nov. 12 -- and just four conference games on the road. It does not play Utah or Arizona State. So, yes, this is a favorable schedule.