If the Cardinal are going to be successful in 2012, they'll need an injured linebacker to return to his old form. They'll need their kicker to forget the Fiesta Bowl and they'll need someone to replace David DeCastro.
Offense: the new right guard
Stanford will be breaking in a new quarterback this season and they’ll certainly need that player -- Josh Nunes or Brett Nottingham -- to shine. However, the Cardinal will really need a stellar season from whoever replaces David DeCastro at guard. DeCastro was a key cog that made Stanford’s running game work last year. You may not have noticed with Andrew Luck under center last season, but the Cardinal like to run, a lot. Even with Luck, Stanford ran the ball 55.4 percent of the time in 2011. With a new QB in 2012, that number figures to be even higher. The candidates to take over for DeCastro are Kevin Danser and Khalil Wilkes, with Danser having the edge.
Defense: LB Shayne Skov
As a sophomore in 2010, Skov led the team in tackling. However, he didn’t get a chance to repeat that feat in 2011 because he tore his MCL and ACL in a week 3 game against the Arizona Wildcats. Without Skov last year, Stanford still managed to put together the second-ranked defense in the Pac-12. If Skov shows no ill effects from his knee surgery, Stanford could field one of the top linebacking corps in the country. Skov, Chase Thomas and Trent Murphy made Stanford one of two teams in the nation that had three players named to the Butkus Award watch list.
Special teams: K Jordan Williamson
The last time we saw Williamson, he was struggling through a 1 for 4 performance against Oklahoma State in the Fiesta Bowl. Against the Cowboys, Williamson missed a 35-yard game-winner as time expired before missing a 43-yarder in overtime. Before missing the three kicks in the Fiesta Bowl, Williamson had only missed three kicks all season. Confidence is a kicker’s best friend and Williamson will need to prove right away that he’s not dwelling on his Fiesta Bowl struggles.