As Saturday's game versus No. 13 Stanford rapidly approaches, DuckTerritory examines five Cardinal players Duck fans should acquaint themselves with before kickoff. Below is all the pertinent information you will need to identify the biggest weapons on both offense and defense for Oregon’s opponent heading in to the weekend.
Oregon will need a healthy Isaac Remington against Stanford on Saturday.
5. #29 DB Ed Reynolds - JR - 6'2", 207 lbs. - Woodberry Forest (Va.)
An unheralded and unexpected standout this season following a sophomore year that was lost to injury, junior defensive back Ed Reynolds has emerged as one of the top playmakers for a Stanford defense heavy on talent. Smart and versatile, Reynolds is a center fielder from his free safety position; currently tied with Oregon State's Jordan Poyer for the Pac-12 Conference lead in interceptions (5) and tied for the national lead in interception returns for touchdowns with three. Oregon redshirt freshman quarterback Marcus Mariota hasn't made too many mistakes this season, but throwing in Reynolds' quadrant has proven to be a very risky proposition. If there's one player who can change the complexion of the game in an instant for the Cardinal on defense, it's Reynolds.
4. #44 LB Chase Thomas - SR - 6'4", 248 lbs. - Marietta (Ga.) Walton
Though he maybe hasn't lived up to the hype statistically this season, senior linebacker Chase Thomas is every bit as good as his preseason All-America honors suggest. Athletic and rarely caught out of position, Thomas led the Pac-12 in tackles for loss (17.5) and tied for second in the conference in sacks (8.5) as a junior in 2011. This season, Thomas is bit off those totals, yet still leads the Cardinal in total tackles (54) and is one of four Stanford players on defense with double-digit tackles for loss, ranking third on the team with 11.0. Teaming with fellow linebackers Shayne Skov, Trent Murphy, A.J. Tarpley, Jarek Lancaster, and Alex Debniak, Thomas and the Cardinal boast one of the deepest linebacking units in the country, playing a major role in holding opposing offenses to 58.6 yards rushing per game. In case you were wondering, that's good enough for best in the nation.
3. #93 LB Trent Murphy - SR - 6'6", 261 lbs. - Phoenix (Ariz.) Brophy College Prep
A quick glance at Trent Murphy's portrait on his profile page at gostanford.com and one can almost sense how much it must suck to block the Phoenix native one-on-one. After enjoying a breakthrough season as a junior last season, Murphy has arguably been Stanford's best defensive player this season, registering 44 tackles, including 14.5 tackles for loss and 7.5 sacks -- both team bests. At 6'6", 261 lbs., Murphy has NFL size and a relentless NFL knack for getting in to the opponent's backfield and wreaking absolute havoc. If Oregon is fortunate enough to keep winning, they may not have to face an SEC defense, which has proven to be a bugaboo in recent years. Bad news is the front seven for Stanford is as deep and talented as any of those units down south. God speed, Steve Greatwood.
2. #86 TE Zach Ertz - SR - 6'6", 252 lbs. - Alamo (Calif.) Monte Vista
For a second season in a row, Stanford possesses perhaps the best tight end in all of America. Last season, Coby Fleener was the unquestioned go-to guy for Andrew Luck in the passing game. This season, Ertz has assumed that mantle, leading the Cardinal in receptions (47), receiving yards (641), and receiving touchdowns (5). Establishing Ertz and fellow tight end Levine Toilolo early and often on Saturday could be a major key to the Cardinal maintaining diversity on offense and helping calm any nerves that sophomore quarterback Kevin Hogan may have making his first start on the road in front of a raucous Autzen crowd. Fortunately for Stanford, Ertz and company will be facing a thin Oregon secondary, perhaps giving them an edge if the Cardinal offensive line can protect Hogan.
1. #33 RB Stepfan Taylor - SR - 5'11", 215 lbs. - Mansfield (Texas)
Since the departure of former Stanford running back Toby Gerhart following the 2009 season, Stepfan Taylor has been ol' reliable for the Cardinal rushing attack. Having rushed for over 1,000 yards and at least 10 touchdowns in each of the past two seasons, Taylor entered this season as one of the Pac-12's best running backs, receiving preseason all-conference honors and earning a spot on the Doak Walker Award watchlist. A tough and rugged runner with just enough speed to be considered a home run threat, Taylor is closing out his career in Palo Alto in impressive fashion. His 1,061 yards leave him 203 yards shy of passing Darrin Nelson as the school's all-time leading rusher. Facing a banged up Oregon defensive line on Saturday, Taylor could be a legitimate threat to re-write the record book inside Autzen Stadium.
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