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Stanford football practice notes

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Stanford football held a practice open to the public on Saturday morning. With little fanfare for the event, a good crowd came out to get their first glimpse at the 2012 Cardinal and White since the spring game.

The first thing to point out from the event is to take it for what it is worth. This is the end of the first week of training camp and only the second or third practice in full pads. So especially when it comes to depth charts, don’t read too much into it. That said here are some notes in no particular order.

Let’s start with the walking wounded. Those in jersey and shorts not participating in practice included Patrick Skov, Kevin Reihner, Michael Rector, JB Salem, Lance Callihan, Andrus Peat, and Matt Kasner. I did not see Josh Mauro on the field and forgot to follow up on him. Nobody seems to be out for a long period of time among this group.

Everyone’s favorite subject is the quarterback situation. All three quarterbacks are looking good but none distinguished themselves as great. The going thought amongst those that know and watch is that Brett Nottingham has the better tools and certainly throws the better long ball while Josh Nunes has the better command of the offense. In fact it seems every time Coach David Shaw talks about Nunes he is giving a quote like what he said today, “Josh did a good job of getting us out of some bad plays.”

Shaw said that Kevin Hogan is playing very well and is trying to push himself into the quarterback competition. Shaw said he is not there yet, but he has earned some reps with “older guys.” Hogan is clearly the best athlete of the bunch and would add a scrambling threat to the offense.

With Peat out with a hand injury, the offensive line depth chart for today looked like this. The starters left to right were Brendon Austin, David Yankey, Sam Schwartzstein, Khalil Wilkes and Cameron Fleming. The second team line went Nick Davidson, Dillon Bonnell, Connor McFadden, Kevin Danser and Kyle Murphy. The third line had Davidson, Josh Garnett, Graham Shuler, McFadden and Murphy. Shaw said Wilkes was also rotating in at backup center.

It seemed from Shaw’s comments that the left tackle position is between Austin and Peat right now. Peat is due back at practice on Tuesday if his hand injury “calms down.” Murphy is in at right tackle because they did not want to complicate things by having him learn multiple positions. Shaw also had good things to say about Garnett. If the left tackle battle does not work out, sliding Yankey to the position seems to be the third option.

On the defensive depth chart, your starting defensive backs were Barry Browning, Terrence Brown, Ed Reynolds and Jordan Richards. Wayne Lyons and Devon Carrington were the first to rotate in. Usua Amanam seems to be working at that Michael Thomas nickel position.

In the prime example of taking the depth chart for what it is: AJ Tarpley and Jarek Lancaster were the starting inside linebackers today with Chase Thomas and Trent Murphy on the outside. Shayne Skov and James Vaughters were in the middle of the second team with Kevin Anderson and Alex Debniak.

The defensive line started Henry Anderson, Terrence Stephens and Ben Gardner. Charlie Hopkins and David Parry were first off the bench.

The player of the day on defense was clearly James Vaughters. If it were not for the #9 on his back he looked just like Shayne Skov. He could not be blocked. He was fast, he was hitting hard, and he could not be blocked. He was in the backfield before the handoff twice and would have had a couple of sacks in a real football game. I remember writing last year how he looked like he was thinking too much and not reacting. That clearly is no longer the problem. He and Skov in the middle were a fearsome duo.

For a guy coming off of a major knee injury, Skov looked good. It did not appear he had his crazy game going but he certainly showed no signs of weakness.

The offensive player of the day was rookie wide receiver Kodi Whitfield. He was impressive to see. He is tall, has speed, but more size then I expected. He caught every ball thrown his way. His routes looked crisp. He made one great catch downfield in traffic. He also made a catch on a crossing pattern and got crushed by Skov. He bounced off the ground and continued his run to the end zone. He could be a player.

Wayne Lyons showed some physical toughness. He blew up two receivers during Oklahoma drills. Then he made two nice plays, one against the run and one on a short slant during team drills. He looks like a solid tackler.

Terrence Brown looked great in coverage. On a couple of deep balls he was step for step with the receivers. He did not make any plays but that was more on the quarterbacks then anything.

Redshirt freshman running back Remound Wright looks intriguing. At 5-9 he is not big, but he has huge legs. He showed good quickness and the agility to elude tacklers.

Only saw Barry Sanders run the ball once but on that play he was great at being patient and following his blockers. He certainly looks like he has a running backs body.

Running back Stepfan Taylor is being held out of most contact drills. As Shaw says "he has nothing to prove" so coaches want to keep him fresh for the season.

Hogan looked pretty sharp at quarterback. He had three catchable balls that were not caught, but he seemed to make some good decisions and his scrambling ability makes him stick out.

Henry Anderson had a nice day. He is a tall man and that works to his advantage. He blocked or deflected two passes at the line of scrimmage. Even if he does not get a pass rush his height and wing span can play a role in pass defense. AJ Tarpley made an interception off of one of the tipped balls.

It was hard to find details in the offensive line play. I tried to keep an eye on Austin. He got beat bad a couple of times by Chase Thomas, but show me an offensive lineman that has not had that experience. Austin seemed to hold his own against Gardner for much of the day.

The overall impression that the first open practices leaves is that the defense is way ahead of the offense. It also appears that this is a very deep and talented football team. How that translates to wins though will depend on good players stepping up and becoming great players.

Practice next Sunday, August 19th will also be open to the public as part of an open house at Stanford. Practice will start at 10am with the open house to follow.

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