Irish Running Backs vs Stanford Linebackers
The linebacker position is another that Stanford is trying to replace lost production in. After losing linebackers Peter Kalambayi and Kevin Palma, the position group is thin in returning talent and experience. Seniors Bobby Okereke and Jordan Perez will be the two men in the middle and senior Joey Alfiere will be their best outside linebacker and pass rusher — coming into the game with 12 career sacks.
Bobby Okereke was third on the team in tackles last season and will be the leader of the defense. At 6-3, 234 pounds, he has the ability to disrupt the Irish offense with his speed and size as we saw last year when he tallied nine tackles in 38-20 loss. This season he already has 23 tackles with four tackles for loss and two sacks.
Keeping Okereke from making plays will force their other, less experienced linebackers to step up. The Cardinal linebackers have a tough task to begin with of keeping tabs on all four Irish running backs and limiting their strengths. Whether it’s Armstrong in the passing game, Jones Jr. in short yardage situations, or containing Williams’ speed and explosiveness, their can be a mismatch between these two position groups on any given play throughout the game Saturday.
Stanford only had 32 sacks last season which was one of their lowest totals in almost a decade. I would not be surprised to see them turn up their blitzes and try and disrupt Book and the offense. Stanford linebackers are always fast and aggressive, so picking them up in blitzing situations will be critical.
If Dexter Williams wasn’t playing, I think this matchup would be a little closer on paper, but even then the Irish running back committee has produced so far this season. With Williams back, it’s hard to see Stanford’s linebackers keeping them contained all four quarters.