Much has been made about the number of defensive playmakers that the Stanford Cardinal lost this offseason but the cupboard is far from bare in Palo Alto this fall. The team does have some holes to fill in their front seven but their secondary should be a major strength for the Cardinal in 2014 as they return three starters in the back end of the defense, highlighted by strong safety Jordan Richards who should emerge as one of the nation’s premier playmakers this season.
As a junior in 2013, Richards got to play side-kick to free safety Ed Reynolds and emerged as a dynamic playmaker in his own right. He led the team with three interceptions, including one he returned for a touchdown, while finishing fifth on the team with 68 tackles. With Reynolds now gone to the NFL, Richards gets the opportunity to step up as a leader in the secondary with a strong stable of corners in front of him to help funnel plays his way.
Stanford will need Richards to be even more disruptive in 2014, probably, as they work on replacing their lost pass rush early on. Without the ability to consistently get to the passer, the Cardinal secondary will have the opportunity to make more plays on the ball. If Richards and company can capitalize on those opportunities and create turnovers, the Stanford defense won’t miss a beat as they get their new starters up to speed.
Jordan Richards has the ability to be one of the elite defensive playmakers in the country. If he plays up to his potential, the Cardinal defense will be as tough as ever as they force turnovers and make life difficult on their Pac-12 competition.