One in a series of articles looking back at the 2013 season and evaluating each position group.
- Is this the greatest offensive line class in signing day history?
- Are there too many?
It might be a while before we can fully answer the first question, but because of Stanford's unique offensive approach, we can comfortably answer the second. Andrus Peat started all thirteen games at left tackle this season and earned second team All-Pac-12 honors, and Josh Garnett got a spot start at left guard in place of David Yankey against Washington State, but several other members of that class contributed greatly to what continues to be a thoroughly dominant unit.
Stanford frequently plays six offensive linemen at once, and there are various packages that feature as many as seven, eight, or even nine linemen on the field. Twenty-twelve signees Kyle Murphy, Johnny Caspers, and Graham Shuler even don alternate no-name jerseys to masquerade as tight ends or fullbacks in some sets. The primary goal of all this creativity is to overwhelm opposing defenses, but an additional benefit is that it sends a clear message to recruits: Come to Stanford and you'll get on-the-job training that will eventually earn you a spot on the best offensive line in the nation.
This year's edition of the Tunnel Workers Union featured Peat at left tackle, Yankey at left guard, Khalil Wilkes at center, Kevin Danser at right guard, and Cameron Fleming at right tackle. Together that group has paved the way for 2,742 yards rushing, the highest Stanford total since 2010 and a good bet to top the school record of 2,837 yards set in 2009, albeit in one fewer game. Not surprisingly, all five linemen received All-Pac-12 honors -- Yankey first team; Fleming, Peat, and Wilkes second team; and Danser honorable mention.
The star of this unit, without question, has been Yankey. After earning consensus All-America honors in 2012 while playing out of position at tackle, Yankey switched back to his natural guard position in 2013 and finished as a unanimous All-America, making him the first Stanford player in three decades to earn back-to-back consensus All-America honors. The line of scrimmage is often viewed as a war zone where 300-pound behemoths simply slam into one another for three hours each Saturday, but Yankey destroys this image. Yes, he tips the scales north of 300 pounds and he's adept at plowing straight ahead, but his true greatness shines when Stanford runs power and Yankey slips out of his left tackle spot, shuffles balletically across the back of the line, and finds a defender to engage. It's truly beautiful.
We've been saying this for five years now, and we'll likely be saying it for years to come. The offensive line is the heart of Stanford football. The names have changed over the years, but the results remain the same.
Overall Grade: A
Future Outlook for the Position: A
Yankey will likely leave for the NFL, and Wilkes and Danser have exhausted their eligibility, but at this point there is no doubt their replacements will help the line maintain the expected level of dominance.