The Stanford Cardinal have built themselves into a perennial Pac 12 power thanks in no small part to the talents of their linebacker corps. That unit will once again be one of the strongest in the conference, despite losing the talents of outside linebacker Chase Thomas. Stepping up in his place will be James Vaughters who has been anxiously waiting for his chance to step up. Is 2013 the year he finally breaks through?
Vaughters was the jewel of Stanford’s 2011 recruiting class and has all the tools to be an elite defender. He hasn’t had much of an opportunity to showcase that talent, however, after getting stuck behind some excellent defensive stalwarts. He has been used sparingly in his first two seasons in Palo Alto, playing behind Shayne Skov, Jarek Lancaster and A.J. Tarpley. The young linebacker wasn’t able to crack the starting lineup as a sophomore when he moved inside as Tarpley proved a better fit alongside Skov.
But with Thomas off to the NFL, Vaughters will move back outside to his more natural position and into the starting lineup. He will have the benefit of Trent Murphy playing on the opposite side taking much of the attention of offensive blocking schemes, freeing Vaughters up to get more one-on-one opportunities. If he capitalizes on that opportunity and plays up to his potential, he could become another excellent Stanford linebacker coming off the edge.
David Shaw continues to improve Stanford and make them into a conference power thanks to his ability to recruit and stock up on linebackers. James Vaughters appears poised to carry on that tradition in 2013, but will he prove up to the challenge of getting the Cardinal back to the Pac 12 title next fall?