The 2009 edition of the Stanford Cardinal was a good team. Compared to what college football fans had come to expect from Palo Alto, they were downright spectacular. There were several reasons why the team was able to become one of the nation's best in 2010, but one of the most often cited was the dramatic improvement of the defense. Under the guidance of defensive coordinator Vic Fanggio, the team switched to a 3-4 scheme, a transition that was possible largely because of the presence of Sione Fua (2006-2010) anchoring the defensive line from his nose tackle position.
It's difficult to evaluate an interior lineman based solely on statistics. He won't have the gaudy sack totals of a defensive end, the tackles of a linebacker, or the interceptions of a defensive back. In Fua's two most productive seasons he was involved in a total of only 47 tackles, and in his four-year career he had only nine sacks. Opposing coaches, however, clearly saw Fua's value, as he faced double teams all season long. His size and strength at the center of the defensive line helped the team limit opponents to only 120.8 yards rushing per game. For his efforts Fua was named second team All-Pac-10. We're guessing, though, that he's much more proud of being named to GMC's Silver Squad.*
*My first thought was to try to come up with a list of the best Stanford football players of all-time, but I quickly realized that I'm not qualified. I've only been watching Stanford football since the fall of 1987, so I can't really comment intelligently on players who suited up before then. Sure, I know that Jim Plunkett belongs, but I know nothing about Randy Vataha. Sports Illustrated once named Ernie Nevers the greatest college football player of all-time, and that's certainly good enough for me, but how can I possibly rank him against players of a more modern era? So I decided to create a list of the best Stanford players that I've actually seen in my time as a fan, and since that's roughly twenty-five years, I'm calling it the Silver Squad. (Catchy, isn't it?) Anyway, I'd love to hear your own memories of these players, and I won't be offended if you argue about who should or should not have been included on this list. Enjoy.
[Photo Credit: Steve Mitchell/U.S. Presswire]