He's just a freshman and people are already telling Quenton Meeks he should think about getting into coaching once his playing days are over. Once he starts talking football, though, it becomes clear. The man was made for the sport.
It helps that his father, Ron Meeks is the secondary coach for the San Diego Chargers and has been an NFL assistant for 25 years. Obviously, talking football is a normal family function.
Quenton Meeks doesn't consider himself as athletic as his Stanford teammates, though anyone watching the Cardinal's 30-28 comeback victory over Washington State last weekend would beg to differ. His first two career interceptions came at crucial times as Stanford was rallying from a 12-point second-half deficit.
He may argue that it came from watching tape, picking out every little tendency of the opposition. You just don't walk onto a football field, in a Pac-12 Conference contest, using brains alone. Meeks has talent. He's just not wasting it.
Meeks, used as a nickel back, has appeared in all eight games, starting the past three. He'll likely be in the starting lineup when the ninth-ranked Cardinal (7-1 overall, 6-0 Pac-12) takes a seven-game winning streak to Boulder to take on Colorado (4-5, 1-4) Saturday at 10 a.m. (PT), to be televised on the Pac-12 Networks.
The Buffaloes opened the season with a 3-1 mark before losing three straight to open conference play. Their last two losses have been by a combined 11 points. They have one of the best wide receivers in the conference in Nelson Spruce and an offense that ran 114 plays in last week's 35-31 loss at UCLA.
"They play hard, the way you want your team to play," Stanford coach David Shaw said. "The mistakes you make, they're going to capitalize. They have an aggressive offense. If you are not ready, they will snap the ball. Their quarterback (Sefo Liufau) is a good decision maker."
Liufau will have to account for Meeks, who may just know enough about the Colorado offense to make another game-changing play.
Meeks is a member of a young secondary that ranks No. 2 in the Pac-12 in passing efficiency at 114.8. The Cardinal is sixth in pass defense, allowing 223.5 yards per game.
"I'm a decent athlete, but the reason I can make plays is my meticulous attention to detail," Meeks said. "It's not perfect, it needs to get better. But to me, this game is so mental that to be successful, you have to have an edge mentally. A lot of players play on pure athleticism, but I'm not one of those guys."
He studies film like, well, a coach. Once he gets a handle on his school work early in the week, every spare moment is spent viewing film with the rest of the defensive backfield, or by himself.
"I've got my IPad on repeat all the time," Meeks said. "I love the X's and O's of games. "People say I should be a coach after I'm done. I just love that aspect of the game."
While he was being recruited, he paid particular attention to the secondary coach. He was looking for a particular type of coach and he found it in Stanford's Duane Akina.
"He's the best secondary coach in the country," Meeks said, not including his father. "He teaches you concepts. That's one thing when I was being recruited that I was looking for. I wanted somebody in college who I thought was going to be the best and Coach Akina was definitely that guy. I wasn't wrong in my thinking. He coaches you really hard, but you know it's out of love. He's going to put you in the right positions and you just have to trust the things he's coached you to do."
He points to his interceptions against the Cougars as evidence.
"We noticed that formation and all week we were preaching for me to get underneath that route," Meeks said. "I actually tried to do it earlier in the game, but I kind of hesitated and Kodi Whitfield came to me on the sideline and said, 'You just got to go. Just go. Trust it. Once I saw the formation, and saw my receiver release the way he did, I just trusted my instincts and went, and the ball just fell into my hands."
He never hesitated on the second pick.
"We noticed in that particular formation they like to run the screen play," Meeks said. "(Cornerback) Ronnie Harris noticed it before I did. I had a sense that it was coming, but Ronnie just knew and called it out. In that particular coverage, it gave me the opportunity to take a chance, and I just jumped it. That's something we practiced."
The first interception set up a six-yard touchdown run by quarterback Kevin Hogan that gave Stanford a 27-22 lead in the fourth quarter. The second pick set up the game-winning field goal by Conrad Ukropina with 1:54 left in the game.
Another defensive standout was Palo Alto grad Kevin Anderson, who returned to action after missing a month with an unspecified injury.
"I thought he looked great," Shaw said. "He gives us fresh legs. He hasn't played in a month. He felt stronger but he said he felt a little rusty. Having him back last week was huge."
Shaw also said he anticipates linebacker Kevin Palma and wide receiver Devon Cajuste to play against the Buffaloes.