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Tom Fitzgerald | The San Francisco Chronicle | August 15, 2014

Stanford football Lance Anderson settles into new position

Stanford, Calif. -- There are easier ways than this to break in as a college defensive coordinator.

You've just lost one of the greatest classes of defenders in Stanford history -- including Trent Murphy, Shayne Skov and Ed Reynolds. You're going to face offenses led by all seven of the top passers in the Pac-12 last season.

Congratulations, Lance Anderson. Enjoy those 15-hour work days.

Anderson, it should be said, fits his new position as comfortably as an old shoe. There were no interviews for the job after Derek Mason left to become head coach at Vanderbilt. Anderson was the obvious replacement.

He has had tough jobs before. On a Mormon mission in the Phoenix area right out of high school, he was shot at while riding his bike in a tough neighborhood. Other times, he had food thrown at him.

He takes pains to point out that it wasn't like working in Fort Apache. "Those incidents were few and far between," he said. Still ...

Anderson, 43, grew up on a farm in Idaho, played four sports in high school and was valedictorian of his class. Originally committed to BYU as an inside linebacker, he changed his mind after his two-year mission and went to Idaho State instead, thinking he'd have a better chance to play there.

His analysis of himself as a college player: "Not great. I did try hard. Had a lot of injuries."

He says he caught the coaching bug when he was in high school and couldn't shake it even after graduating from college and entering the pharmacy program at Idaho State.

Dumping drug school was a tough call for him and his wife, Sherri, whom he married at age 22. They knew coaches lead insecure, nomadic existences. But they thought if it didn't click, he could always go back to pharmaceuticals.

Fortunately, Sherri knew college football -- all three of her brothers played it.

Anderson had assistant jobs at Idaho State and Utah State pulled out from under him when the head coaches were let go. He also coached with the Mobile (Alabama) Admirals in something called the Regional Football League. If you haven't heard of the team or the league, you're not alone. The league lasted only a year.

He hooked on at Bucknell for a few years, then was on the staff at St. Mary's for a year just before the roof fell in. "I had no idea they would drop football," Anderson said.

While at St. Mary's, he was introduced at a Raiders practice to Jim Harbaugh, then the team's assistant quarterbacks coach. They hit it off, and when Harbaugh got the University of San Diego head-coaching job, he asked Anderson to join him. Anderson was already on the Utah State staff by that time, so he turned down Harbaugh. But things went south at Utah State, and when Harbaugh asked again, he joined him.

Anderson followed Harbaugh to Stanford in 2007 as an assistant coach and recruiting coordinator. He's no longer the head recruiter under David Shaw but still serves as liaison to the admissions office.

"He's always been a phenomenal recruiter, and he's always been a great communicator with the players," Shaw said. "He always wore 10 different hats, but when you sat down and talked defense with him, you realized he knows the game inside and out."

The Cardinal defense lost a half-dozen key players, but Anderson isn't complaining. "We're very happy with what we've got: young guys who haven't gotten as many snaps, who've been in the shadows a little bit. Now there's an opportunity to get on the field and produce."

He's got his work cut out, but don't forget: Anderson has spent seven years dealing with the most demanding admissions office of any FBS school in the country. Maybe devising ways to stop people like Marcus Mariota and Brett Hundley isn't the toughest thing he's had to do.

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