The Stanford Cardinal begin their defense of the 2012 Pac 12 Championship on Saturday when the No. 23 Arizona State Sun Devils come to Palo Alto. Attrition can play such an important factor in a title defense as it’s often the healthiest team that stands tall at the end of the season. After 2012 second-team All-Pac 12 defensive end Henry Anderson went down with injury, Stanford was forced to already dip into their defensive depth. Luckily for them, senior Josh Mauro is ready to deliver.
The fifth-year senior has seen plenty of playing time over the last two seasons as he has worked into the Stanford rotation. He gives up a little size and strength when compared to Anderson and he will be hard pressed to match the production of Anderson, but he is a solid player that has learned to harness the ability he has and has a motor that does now quit. David Shaw has raved about Mauro and feels he has the tenacity to find a home in the NFL next season.
For now, Shaw just needs him to hold down the edge of the Stanford defense while Anderson rehabs from his knee injury. Already this season, Mauro has accounted for 10 tackles, including seven after taking over for Anderson against the Army Black Knights, and a sack. He’s got the confidence of his coaches and his teammates but this is the opportunity to show that he can do more than rotate in as part of the defensive scheme.
He will get plenty of opportunities to showcase just what he can do. Arizona State is going to spread the field and pass the ball a ton. Last week, ASU quarterback Taylor Kelly threw the ball 51 times for 352 yards against the Wisconsin Badgers and Todd Graham is going to try and attack Stanford in the very same way. With the field spread, the Cardinal outside linebackers may not be as available in the pass rush. That will put some extra pressure on the defensive line to collapse the pocket and make Kelly uncomfortable. That’s where Mauro can really shine.
After a fine career at Stanford as a rotational player, Mauro is going to get thrust into the starting lineup in the biggest game of Stanford’s young season. Can he hold the position down and keep the Cardinal on track for another trip to Pasadena this January?