Bigger shoes than you think: Stanford

Sixth in a series looking at lineup holes that are important even if they don't make headlines.


Everybody is talking about: Who steps in to replace Heisman Trophy runnerup Toby Gerhart at running back?

Bigger shoes than you think: Free safety Bo McNally

On the one hand, McNally represents the sort of player Stanford had in abundance before coach Jim Harbaugh arrived -- smart, tough, runs a 4.66 40-yard dash. The Cardinal secondary has struggled in recent years and, yes, it likely will upgrade its athleticism when McNally is gone. But here's a hunch that Stanford just might miss its two-year captain and three-time leading tackler. It's notable that even as Harbaugh upgraded recruiting -- particularly in terms of team speed -- that no one displaced McNally from the lineup and prevented him from starting 38 games and recording 294 tackles and grabbing 10 interceptions.

Who is stepping in: Fifth-year senior Austin Yancy, who started 12 games at strong safety in 2007 and one game there in 2009, had 23 tackles last year. He has good size -- 6-foot-4, 219 pounds -- and is a veteran player. Promising sophomore Harold Bernard, McNally's backup in 2009, had just six tackles last year but has looked good thus far in spring practices. It's possible both could see action beside strong safety Delano Howell. [Edit note: As noted in a comment below, a third option is Alex Loukas, who moved over from quarterback this spring].