Stanford football coach David Shaw can look at three Pac-12 championship trophies and a pair of Rose Bowl trophies and think it's just the beginning. That's despite not knowing who will be his next quarterback and who will replace Josh Garnett and Kyle Murphy on the offensive line.
Shaw inherited Andrew Luck and several future NFL offensive linemen. But he helped develop Kevin Hogan, Garnett and Murphy.
The Cardinal, which beat Iowa, 45-16, in the Rose Bowl last Friday, retains plenty of talented athletes moving forward. Shaw and recruiting coordinator Lance Anderson have developed an approach to the recruiting process that works.
Stanford is in good hands with Shaw, who was raised within the coaching fraternity. Few coaches can speak more passionately about Stanford and coaching.
Through five years, Shaw owns a staggering 54-14 overall record, including 36-9 in the Pac-12, 6-2 in the postseason and 3-2 in bowl games. The two bowl losses were by a combined seven points.
Hogan's record-setting success at Stanford has been well-documented: 36-10 as a starter, three conference titles, and first Cardinal quarterback to rush for more than 1,000 yards. He threw for 2,867 yards this season, giving him 9,385 career yards, No. 3 all-time in program history. Stanford, however, will miss his leadership most of all.
"He's someone you want to have on your side forever," said Heisman Trophy finalist and Rose Bowl Most Outstanding Offensive Player Christian McCaffrey. "I feel blessed to have played with him and to call him a leader. Go back to the USC game, when he hurt his ankle. He came back and just fought and won us that game. After Northwestern, he brought us all together and exhibited nothing but leadership."
Shaw was just as effusive.
"We had very, very high hopes for Kevin because ultimately he is extremely competitive," Shaw said. "We knew he had a high ceiling, though we tried to nurse him along a little bit. To watch him start the season with such maturity and such toughness and be the kind of leader that you want, it's been great. It's been truly special because we've leaned on him a lot, both on and off the field."
McCaffrey showed the importance of an all-purpose running back to an offensive attack an set a Rose Bowl record with 368 all-purpose yards and becoming the first player in the game's history to rush for more than 100 yards and gain more than 100 receiving.
The Cardinal (12-2) will lose six starters on defense, including Palo Alto grad Kevin Anderson, and possibly six on offense. In addition to Hogan, Garnett and Murphy, receiver Devon Cajuste leaves after spending five years in the program and junior tight end Austin Hooper declared for the NFL draft.
"It shows all the work that we've put in through our four years," Hogan said. "We've enjoyed success. We've suffered from defeat. It's such a great feeling knowing that we got back to work and we put in a great season."
There are reports receiver Michael Rector could also declare for the draft. Touchdown and short yardage specialist Remound Wright also will be gone.
In addition to Anderson, the defense also loses linebacker Blake Martinez, defensive linemen Scarlett Brennan and Aziz Shittu, the Rose Bowl's Most Outstanding Defensive Player, cornerback Kodi Whitfield and safety Ronnie Harris. Long snapper Reed Miller also matriculates.
Palo Alto grad Keller Chryst appears to be the frontrunner to take over at quarterback, although Ryan Burns will be given every opportunity to earn the job.
Chryst has a touchdown pass to his credit, to fifth-year senior Rollins Stallworth, and a pancake block.
Returning offensive linemen include center Graham Schuler, right guard Johnny Caspers and right tackle Casey Tucker. Garnett and Murphy won't be easy to replace, though there's a talent pool that includes David Bright, Nick Davidson, Brandon Fanaika and Jesse Burkett.
Greg Taboada and Dalton Schultz have shown the ability to play tight end and receivers Francis Owusu and Trenton Irwin are ready to move into the starting lineup.
On the defensive side of the ball, look for a healthy Harrison Phillips, out with a knee injury this year, to anchor the front with Solomon Thomas. They'll be joined by senior Luke Kaumatule, who used his redshirt season this year. Kaumatule came in as a tight end and has been shifted to defensive end and then to outside linebacker. His versatility allows Stanford to plug him into spots he's most needed.
Jordan Watkins, Noor Davis, Nate Lohn, Joey Alfieri, Mike Tyler, Kevin Palma, Jordan Perez, Sam Shober and Craig Jones all return to the front seven.
Dallas Lloyd will lead the secondary, along with returnees Alijah Holder, Terrence Alexander, Alameen Murphy, Justin Reid, Taijuan Thomas and Quenton Meeks, who returned an interception for a touchdown in the Rose Bowl.
Kicker Conrad Ukropina also said he'll be back. He made all of his PATs this season and was 18 of 20 on field goals.
Stanford is in the midst of success unmatched in school history. Is there a BCS playoff berth or another Rose Bowl appearance in the future? Don't bet against it. Shaw and his squad are looking forward to the challenge.