1. What were the core questions that you had hoped would be answered by Spring Practice? Were conclusions reached?
The main question I had was about the offense - replacing Tyler Gaffney and 4 offensive linemen is not easy - so I was curious what it would look like. Right now it looks like the offensive line still has some room to grow, but the passing game looks slightly retooled and the run game looks alright. There's also some big names to replace on defense (including the defensive coordinator), but they look just as dangerous as ever. So I'd say my lingering questions from the end of 2013 are now answered.
2. Any major style changes coming our way in the fall? New offense or defense installed?
The offense looked a little different this spring, with more 8-15 yard passes as opposed to deep play-action passes. The offense achieved its goal of becoming more explosive last year, but it looks like they've tried to reign it in a bit to keep the offense from going 3-and-out as much as it did last season.
3. What players emerged on offense? On defense?
On offense, RB Barry Sanders looks like the biggest playmaker ready to bust loose thanks to an expanded role in the offense. On defense, linebackers Noor Davis and Peter Kalambayi had superb spring games, creating problems in the backfield and flying to the football with aggression and speed.
4. What are your biggest worries coming out of spring ball for the fall?
My primary worry is with the offensive line. They looked pretty sloppy in the spring game. The o-line has been Stanford's most consistent strength over the last few years, so it's pretty critical that the Cardinal keep that high level of play up in order to contend for another conference title.
5. Project your season. Contender? Pretender? Middle of the pack?
Stanford is definitely a contender to win the Pac-12 north, but the jury's still out if they're a real contender to compete for the Playoff. Right now, I think Stanford is probably a 9- or 10- win team.
6. Any frosh you can't wait to get on campus?
Defensive end Solomon Thomas. The guy who brought out a tree at his official announcement had some awesome high school tape, and he should have the opportunity to play pretty quickly. Him and running back Christian McCaffrey, the son of Ed McCaffrey, should make some noise on campus this fall.
7. Who will you miss the most from last season? Who will be stepping up to fulfill those shoes?
The player who will be most missed by the fans is Shayne Skov, with Trent Murphy not far behind. There are plenty of young linebackers chomping at the bit to step up in Skov's spot, but replacing the national sack leader in Murphy will be a bit tougher. I'm looking for Kevin Anderson to have a nice year in Murphy's old role.
8. Any particular Pac-12 match-up/rivalry you are looking forward to this Fall?
I'm most looking forward to the Stanford-USC game in Palo Alto on September 6. Having a huge Pac-12 game in the second week of the season should serve as a good litmus test of where each team is and will be this season.
9. What are the specific injury concerns coming out of this spring?
Ty Montgomery is perhaps the most banged up player, suffering from both a leg and a knee injury and missing all of spring practice. The receiving corps is pretty deep and he's expected to be fully healthy by fall, but you don't want to have an All-American struggling with nagging injuries.
10. Based on what you've seen, who is ready to take a major leap this fall?
Outside linebacker Kevin Anderson. He had a couple of massive plays in the Rose Bowl, including a pick-six, and he should be in position to make a lot of big plays as Trent Murphy's replacement at OLB.
11. Is Kevin Hogan a playmaker or just a game manager?
A little bit of both, but probably closer to the latter than the former. I thought Hogan was going to have a massive season after the first few weeks last year, but he struggled in the middle of the year. I don't think Hogan's going to have some kind of incredible breakout season this year, just another capable one, which is good enough to keep the Cardinal playing at a very high level.
12. Will 2014 end the national nightmare of the Cardinal in the Pac-12 Championship game?
I think the only team capable of beating Stanford in the north is Oregon, and we all know how that's gone the last couple of years. Both teams have serious changes coming this fall, though, so this might not be clear until week 6 or 8.
13. Whom do you want to punch in the face?
Roger Goodell. Always.