With all due to respect to redshirt quarterback Kevin Hogan, the strength of No. 5 Stanford's team lies in the front seven of their defense. While Trent Murphy and Shayne Skov generate most of the hype, fellow tough-guys Josh Mauro, Ben Gardner and Henry Anderson are earning long looks from NFL scouts, as well.
Murphy and Skov were consistent standouts in the Cardinal's controversial 31-28 victory over Washington.
Murphy's unique agility at 6-foot-6, 261 pounds helped him sack Huskies' quarterback Keith Price in the first quarter and tip a pass that led to an interception by linebacker A.J. Tarpley in the fourth. Skov's explosiveness and efficiency resulted in some of the biggest hits in the game.
Along with huge kickoff returns from Ty Montgomery, this unit's ability to clog the line of scrimmage played a critical role in Saturday night's key Pac-12 North win.
A quietly but equally effective contribution to Stanford's victory, however, was redshirt junior free safety Ed Reynolds, whose coverage skills helped limit Washington's ability to find talented pass-catchers Austin Seferian-Jenkins and Kasen Williams.
Both Seferian-Jenkins (tight end) and Williams (wide receiver) are legitimate early round NFL prospects but the juniors struggled to make impactful plays for most of the night in large part because of Reynold's range and physicality.
Williams became a significant factor as the Huskies made a valiant fourth quarter comeback but his production (five catches for 89 yards) came mostly on deep out-breaking routes when he drew single coverage.
At 6-foot-2, 205 pounds, Reynolds possesses the lanky build scouts are looking for at the position. He also demonstrated good agility and acceleration to handle covering Seferian-Jenkins out of the slot as well as supply deep help over the top to limit Price, normally an aggressive deep-ball passer.
The high academic requirements Stanford imposes usually equate to instinctive, technically-sound defenders and that is certainly the case with Reynolds, a savvy defender and reliable open-field tackler. Reynolds breaks down well in space and delivers a pop on contact, often driving ball-carriers back.