Joshua Garnett, O-line power Stanford's success
The foundation of a lot of Stanford’s success in the last couple of seasons has been their offensive line. Last season, left tackle and first-round draft pick Andrus Peat was the catalyst, but this year it’s all about the guards.
Joshua Garnett is slated to be a top prospect at guard in the 2016 NFL draft, but Johnny Caspers at the other spot has been grading well this season too. Garnett is now the second-highest graded guard in the FBS and had arguably his best game of the season against Washington where he was particularly crushing against the run, dominating both at the line and at the second level when he got his hands on smaller bodied linebackers.
For the second game running and his fourth game of the season he was perfect in pass-protection, allowing not a single pressure all game long.
Caspers has been less imposing but has yet to have a poor game this season, and has not allowed the Stanford quarterbacks to hit the ground at all, surrendering just six hurries over eight games. Caspers has been less dominant as a run blocker where he has shown flashes but some inconsistency.
In the middle, Graham Shuler at center has also graded well but did not have a great game against Washington, struggling against the run particularly when it came to getting to linebackers at the second level. Specifically Shuler struggled with Ben Burr-Kirven, who beat him a couple of times to make some impressive plays up at the line of scrimmage and at times seemed like the only player likely to bring down Christian McCaffrey.
You can point to several things that are at the root of Stanford’s improved play — Christian McCaffrey is one of the best players in the nation, and Kevin Hogan has not had a poor game since the season opener. However, the platform those two are given by the offensive line — and in particular the solid interior — is not to be overlooked.