A breakdown of Stanford's roster by position groups, with projected starters listed.

STANFORD ROSTER BREAKDOWN

  • QB: Kevin Hogan. Entered the starting lineup in November (as a redshirt freshman), went 5-0 as a starter, beat four ranked teams and completed 70 percent of his passes. Mobile and unflappable, Hogan is one of the top young quarterbacks in the Pac-12. His backup, Evan Crower, has no game experience.

  • RB: Tyler Gaffney or Anthony Wilkerson (tailbacks) and Ryan Hewitt (fullback). The departure of Stepfan Taylor, the Cardinal's career rushing leader, leaves a significant hole in the backfield. Gaffney spent last season playing minor league baseball but was a contributor in 2011. Wilkerson averages 4.7 yards per rush for his career. Hewitt is highly versatile, a sound blocker and capable receiver who will be vital in short-yardage situations.

  • WR: Ty Montgomery and Devon Cajuste. Stanford's success depends on its receivers producing more than they have in recent years: Without the threat of a downfield passing game, the Cardinal will face defenses overloaded to stop its vaunted rushing attack. Montgomery caught 26 passes last season but was limited by injury and had several drops. Cajuste has one career reception. Reserves Kelsey Young, Michael Rector and Kodi Whitfield will play extensively.

  • TE: Luke Kaumatule. The 267-pound sophomore has one career catch, and it came in high school. Primarily a blocker and short-yardage receiving threat, he steps into the role filled by Levine Toilolo. The search to replace Zach Ertz as the downfield option — a vital component to the offense -- is ongoing.

  • OL: Andrus Peat (LT), David Yankey (LG), Khalil Wilkes (C), Kevin Danser (RG) and Cameron Fleming (RT). The best offensive line in the Pac-12 and one of the finest units in the nation. Yankey, an All-American, moves back to his natural position after spending last season at left tackle. Peat is a sophomore with no starting experience but enormous potential. Wilkes, who started at left guard in '12, slides into the center vacancy created by Sam Schwartzstein's departure. Danser and Fleming are a decorated tandem on the right side.

  • DL: Ben Gardner (E), David Parry (NT) and Henry Anderson (E). Parry started the final three games last season (after Terrence Stephens was suspended) and proved to be an immovable force. Gardner and Anderson were second-team all conference picks who combined for 13 sacks and 27.5 tackles-for-loss; their ability to contain perimeter runs by spread-option teams was integral to Stanford's success. Backup nose tackle Ikenna Nwafor has drawn sterling reviews.

  • LB: James Vaughters (OLB), Shayne Skov (ILB), A.J. Tarpley (ILB) and Trent Murphy (OLB). A first-class unit with three returning starters (all except Vaughters) that must replace all-conference honoree Chase Thomas. Skov, the heart and soul of the defense, is fully recovered from a 2011 knee injury and should be dominant inside. Murphy is coming off a breakout season (18 tackles-for-loss). Vaughters was a touted recruit but hasn't made the expected impact. Reserves Blake Lueders (outside) and Jarek Lancaster (inside) will play regularly.

  • DB: Alex Carter (CB), Jordan Richards (SS), Ed Reynolds (FS), Wayne Lyons (CB), Usua Amanam (Nickel). A stellar mix of athleticism and experience, the unit stands as the top secondary in school history and could be one of the best in the country if Lyons stays healthy and reaches his potential. Reynolds had six interceptions last season and returned three for touchdowns while Richards excels in both run support and coverage. What separates this unit from its predecessors is the ability to tackle in the open field and limit big plays.

  • ST: Jordan Williamson (PK), Ben Rhyne (P), Ty Montgomery and Kelsey Young (KOR), Montgomery or Kodi Whitfield (PR). Williamson made just 4 of 10 field goals from 40 yards and out but was solid in the clutch with game winners against UCLA and Oregon. Ryne was a backup most of last season but averaged 42.2 yards per punt in the Pac-12 title game. Montgomery is a top-notch kick returner, but his value as a receiver could prompt Stanford to scale down his opportunities.

    For more on college sports, see Jon Wilner's College Hotline at blogs.mercurynews.com/collegesports. Contact him at jwilner@mercurynews.com or 408-920-5716.