“Oregon is flashy,” the Cardinal defensive back said, shrugging.
It really is that simple. Offense sells tickets, the saying goes -- and brings in the TV ratings and media attention. Never mind that Stanford has won the last two conference championships, played in four straight BCS bowls and beat the Ducks in two prime-time matchups.
This is the conference of quarterbacks, headlined by Oregon’s Marcus Mariota; behind him, the Ducks were picked to win the 2014 league crown. Stanford, lauded recently for its dominating defense, must replace All-America linebackers Shayne Skov and Trent Murphy, anchors of a unit that solved Oregon’s blur offense.
Also gone is defensive coordinator Derek Mason, now the head coach at Vanderbilt. Stanford promoted outside linebackers coach Lance Anderson in his absence. At Pac-12 Media Days on Thursday at Paramount Studios, coach David Shaw acknowledged that the Cardinal “lost a lot of senior leadership.”
“But that’s what happens every year,” he added.
Richards and his teammates -- the senior likes to boast about a deep Cardinal secondary -- won’t know until August whether Anderson has any wrinkles to add to Stanford’s defensive scheme. After all, he is still getting used to Anderson’s voice bossing him around at practice.
“Man, I’m still hearing coach Mas [in my head],” Richards said. “But I do think we’re always going to focus on the intellectual side of the game.”
As for the next great Stanford linebacker, Richards isn’t sure why people aren’t already talking about A.J. Tarpley. The fifth-year senior finished second on the team with 93 total tackles last year. (Skov notched 109, with 13 tackles for loss.)
“If people don’t know him,” quarterback Kevin Hogan said, nodding his head, “they’re going to very soon.”
The Cardinal lost seven offensive and four defensive starters from 2013. But finding replacements is nothing new for this program, according to Richards. Stepping in to play a major role as a junior or senior isn’t intimidating because the adaptation to Stanford’s expectations starts as an incoming freshman.
“Guys come in as four stars, three stars and pretty soon it’s, ‘Welcome to college football, and college football conditioning,’” Richards laughed.
In other words: You get humble quick. That’s probably why, despite being peppered with questions about being slighted, again, by the media, Richards, Hogan and Shaw wouldn’t bite.
“I don’t use it as motivation,” Shaw said. “I don’t get happy or sad about it. It is what it is.”
Then, in a moment of true honesty: “I might pick Oregon also.”
|Aug. 30||UC Davis|
|Sept. 27||at Washington|
|Oct. 4||at Notre Dame|
|Oct. 10||Washington State|
|Oct. 18||at Arizona State|
|Oct. 25||Oregon State|
|Nov. 1||at Oregon|
|Nov. 22||at California|
|Nov. 28||at UCLA|