Despite its No. 4 national ranking, Stanford enters training camp Monday with a lengthy to-do list.
Here are three issues that must be resolved in order for the Cardinal to defend its Pac-12 title and compete for the national championship:
Stanford's greatest weakness in recent seasons -- its only weakness, actually -- has been the modest production from its receivers, which limits the Cardinal's quick-strike ability. Last year's top wideouts, Drew Terrell and Jamal-Rashad Patterson, have departed, and a handful of players are competing to fill the void. Junior Ty Montgomery, who was injured for part of last season, enters training camp as quarterback Kevin Hogan's No. 1 option. The other contenders include Kelsey Young, Devon Cajuste, Michael Rector and Kodi Whitfield. The quartet's combined career touchdowns: Zero.
Stanford compensated for inconsistent play by its receivers in 2011-12 with stellar production from its tight ends. But without Zach Ertz and Levine Toilolo, the unit must be rebuilt. The most experienced player, junior David Dudchock, has no career receptions. Sophomore Luke Kaumatule is 6-foot-7, with nimble feet and soft hands; he's the best bet to start the season opener. Look for three incoming freshmen, Austin Hooper, Greg Taboada and Eric Cotton, to compete for a spot in the rotation.
The mental challenge is more daunting than the physical. With expectations soaring and kudos coming from every corner, the players must remain focused. Gone are many of the locker room's most vocal and respected leaders (tailback Stepfan Taylor, center Sam Schwartzstein and linebacker Chase Thomas). Left to fill the void is star linebacker Shayne Skov, the heart and soul of the defense. But he can't do it alone. Guard David Yankey, fullback Ryan Hewitt, end Ben Gardner and others must help keep the 85-man roster locked in.