Stanford mailbag

Mike in Tucson, Ariz. writes: A little generous with your grades, weren’t you, Kevin? Especially the secondary. I don’t think they deserved a passing grade. They gave up too many yards and missed too many tackles. And I thought you were too kind on the coaching staff also. I know you are a David Shaw honk – you’ve said so many times. But that shouldn’t get in the way of you being objective.

Kevin Gemmell: Really Mike? I would hate for you to be my teacher. Top 30 in passing touchdowns allowed; held five of the top 20 wide receivers in the country below their game average; and were solid in the red zone and fantastic on third down. My initial thought was to give them a B-, but the lack of interceptions and some of the missed tackles brought the grade down into the C range. When you really look at what the secondary accomplished, I thought it was a very fair grade. With the rest of the grades, it’s hard to find a ton of fault in an 11-1 team going to a BCS bowl game. As for being a Shaw honk – guilty as charged. So are all of the other coaches in the Pac-12 who voted him coach of the year. I like the man, his offensive philosophies and his approach to the game. He stands up for his guys when he has to, but doesn’t go coo coo bananas at every bad call or bad play like some other coaches. I get that people think there should be a love-hate relationship between the media and the coaches they cover. But if the guy is good, he’s good. No way around it. If that makes me a honk, I’ll sleep just fine at night.

Alex in San Jose writes: What do you see as the biggest recruiting needs?

Kevin Gemmell: If you follow the team closely (and since you’re asking a recruiting question, I assume you do), then you know Stanford has a different recruiting approach than other schools. But good teams go after running backs – lots of them. Why? Because the running back is typically the best athlete on a high school team. That doesn’t mean they will be a running back in college. Running backs can be turned into defensive backs, linebackers, safeties, fullbacks, wide receivers, even defensive linemen in some cases. You can swing and miss on a running back and find another position for him. Recruiting offensive linemen is trickier. If you miss on an offensive lineman, there really aren’t any other positions for them off of either line. The Cardinal have done well with offensive linemen the last few years. So if they keep making good decisions on the line and going after well-rounded athletes, they should be fine. And we know they like to target tight ends. As they’ve shown, you can never have too many of those.

Tom in San Francisco writes: Of all the players leaving/graduating, who will Stanford miss the most besides Andrew Luck?

Kevin Gemmell: Good question. And I can’t give you a straight forward answer. You could say Coby Fleener – because of the unbelievable matchup problems he creates. You could say Jonathan Martin, because great left tackles are hard to come by. You could say David DeCastro because the guy is the best run blocker in the country. You could say Chase Thomas for the pressure he brings. You could say Michael Thomas and Delano Howell — an outstanding safety tandem, or Matt Masifilo and the veteran leadership he brought to the defensive line. The truth is, that whole class and their mental approach — the can-do, winning attitude — that helped change the culture of the football program will be missed the most. It’s up to the returning players and incoming class to adopt that attitude and carry on the legacy.