Stanford mailbag

Scott in Redwood City, Calif., writes: Stanford's high admissions standards for the footballers is under-appreciated, I don't think you'll dispute. Especially remarkable to me is the fact that Stanford imposes the exact same labor-intensive admissions process (essays, recommendations, etc.) on football players as any other applicant. Comparing any school in D-I to Stanford in regards to academics is laughable, in my opinion. This used to be merely an interesting side-note (and a handy explanation/excuse). But now, with all this program is accomplishing, I find it remarkable that this topic doesn't get more "run." What gives?

Kevin Gemmell: No doubt, the admissions process is brutal. Just ask some of the commits who didn't end up gaining admission and were left scrambling to find a spot days before signing day. I asked head coach David Shaw about that specifically in our post-recruiting day Q&A and he gave, I thought, was a pretty candid answer. But I'm not sure how much more "run" you can give it. Stanford is a great academic institution. It's tough to get into. Now the Cardinal play good football to boot. What more is there to say?

Jorge in San Francisco writes: With the hoopla and depth surrounding next season's crew of Tunnel Workers O-lineman, could Stanford be a better running team than last year? We lose top talent in Moose [Jonathan Martin] and [David] DeCastro, but perhaps we may be able to run 7 or even 8 (!) lineman formations? The RBs are probably improved too. Going out on a limb, we may even match up better with Oregon next year with an increased focus on the running game. On the other hand, the O-line will be young and we lose Andrew Luck's pre-snap run-audibles and passing threat.

KG: First, great question. Second, I think you answered it with the last sentence. No matter how much Shaw tried to stress how important Luck was to the running game, I don't think it was ever really appreciated outside of the Pac-12. Now, that's not to say that Shaw and offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton can't call plays -- because they can and they're very good at it. When you look at the line, you love having Sam Schwartzstein back at center. No one understands the offense better than him -- except for Luck. And now he's gone. Cameron Fleming and David Yankey should be even better next year. I'd imagine we'll see more of Kevin Danser on the line and I'm really curious to see which of the new linemen can contribute right away. Guards traditionally see playing time sooner than tackles, but there is nothing traditional about this group coming in. I think we'll continue to see Stepfan Taylor and Tyler Gaffney get better. You lose the goal-line back in Jeremy Stewart, though fullback Ryan Hewitt was equally effective in short-yardage situations last year. And then there's the question of Barry Sanders and whether he sees time. As for the Oregon question, hang on, because you're about to fall off that limb. No matter how you slice it, losing Andrew Luck never helps you match up better against anyone.

Amber in Saratoga, Calif., writes: I was shocked at your statement: "Skov has neither the history nor the offense to warrant that severe of a punishment." How could you consider a DUI not that serious of an offense?

KG: Amber, first, I was in no way was downplaying the severity of a DUI. The point was that Shayne Skov didn't have a history of misconduct and that as far as we know this was his first slip-up. And I still don't think he should be kicked off the team, as opposed to Washington State linebacker C.J. Mizell, which is where the comparison came from. I certainly don't condone his actions and clearly neither does Shaw. Punishment is warranted. But blackballing him from the team would be too severe. Others disagree and think he should be booted. I don't buy that. And neither do I buy the "it could have been worse" argument. Of course it could have been worse. But it wasn't. So let this be a lesson to Skov, his teammates and valuable teaching moment for Shaw. I expect Skov to be a model citizen for the rest of his days at Stanford and Shaw to handle the situation justly and without prejudice.

Tony in Fresno, Calif., writes: Does David Shaw hire someone to be another co-defensive coordinator, or does Derek Mason take the job all to himself?

KG: Personally, I like the idea of one coordinator handling the pass defense and another handling the front end -- which was Jason Tarver's job. It probably happens more than we think on other teams, it's just that one guy usually gets the title. Whether the new coach gets the title or not, it was clear that Stanford's weekly defensive scheme was built on a collaborative effort and that won't change. More important I think is finding a coach well-versed in the 3-4. Tarver's knowledge was beyond vast. That's why he's now an NFL coordinator.