A great crowd was on hand Sunday morning for Stanford football practice which was followed by an open house at the Stadium. One estimate had a thousand people on hand for the scrimmage, that may be a bit high, but it was a very big crowd for a Stanford practice.
The format for the day was a scrimmage with the first teams playing against the second teams and then some third team vs third team action. Special teams was mixed in between series. Here are some observations:
The defense still looks ahead of the offense. What is difficult to tell is whether the offense is struggling or is the defense that good? The outside linebackers as a group are outstanding. Chase Thomas and Trent Murphy were close to unblockable today. So how do you judge the young offensive tackles against them?
Speaking of the offensive tackles, the starting line from left to right for the first play was Brendon Austin, David Yankey, Sam Schwartzstein, Kevin Danser and Cameron Fleming. But there was a lot of rotation. True freshman Kyle Murphy was in at left tackle before the end of the first series. Andrus Peat was at left tackle for the final series the starters played.
Last week, Coach David Shaw said they wanted to leave Murphy at right tackle so he would not have to learn both sides of the offense. When asked why he was on the left side Shaw’s answer was simple, “because it is Kyle.” Apparently he has had no troubles picking up both sides of the line and not getting confused going back and forth. Austin is now doing the same as he took snaps on the second string at right tackle as well.
While he is still just playing on the third unit, Shaw says Josh Garnett “is close.” Does that mean moving into a starting position or just seeing playing time is yet to be determined. Shaw said again that they will have eight or maybe even nine offensive linemen ready to play.
As for the quarterback position, all indications seem to be Josh Nunes will win the job. He continues to take all the first team snaps with Brett Nottingham working with the twos. Again today Nottingham appeared to be the better quarterback, especially on down field throws. But Shaw tipped his hand a little bit. Shaw said the ability to get the offense out of a bad play is 80% of the quarterback’s job. The going theory is that Nottingham may have the better arm, but Nunes has a better handle on the offense and in the end that could win him the job.
This will be the week for all the competitions to come to an end. The game plan for San Jose State will begin to be implemented on Sunday. Shaw says they will name a quarterback before that. Summer school is over so this will be a big week for the offensive line as they battle all week as well.
The officials stats for the quarterbacks today had Nunes 7/10, 49 yards and a touchdown. Nottingham was just 2/3 for 92yards. Kevin Hogan was 7/13 for 31 yards. And Evan Crower was 3/4 for 13 yards.
Hogan did not look nearly as sharp as he has in recent practices.
Injuries of note: Fullback Ryan Hewitt rolled his ankle in the first series. He limped off the field. Shaw did not think it is a high ankle sprain. It will likely cost Hewitt some practice time this week but there does not seem to be a lot of concern about missing game action. Center Sam Schwartzstein also left with a tweaked ankle. Shaw said if it were a game he would have kept playing but in this environment they had him sit out.
Stepfan Taylor does not see carries in live action and Anthony Wilkerson saw limited action. That allowed some young backs to show their stuff. Remound Wright looked very good. He was quick, he showed good moves, and has some power in his legs for inside running. He had a great run after a catch in the flat that went to the end zone, thanks in part to a great downfield block by Keanu Nelson. Wright, a redshirt freshman, might see some playing time this year.
Barry J Sanders also looked great. I am sure he will get sick of hearing comparisons to this dad, but that is how he looked. On one play he turned a loss of five into a gain of 30 by escaping to the outside and turning on the speed. He has great acceleration. Sanders also had a nifty 12 yard run by following his blockers and cutting to the inside.
There will be an ongoing debate for the coaches. Sanders has the ability to play, but is it worth burning his redshirt season if there are not enough touches for him?
Sanders was credited with 52 yards, Jackson Cummings had 33 yards and a touchdown, Kelsey Young rushed for 22 yards (on a nice reverse) and Wright had 18 yards rushing.
With Hewitt out, Patrick Skov was in at fullback backing up Lee Ward.
Kodi Whitfield continues to impress at wide receiver. Shaw said Ryan Whalen picked up the offense in about a week when he was a freshman. Shaw says Whitfield did it in two days. Shaw said Whitfield will see time this year.
On defense, the starting front seven were all the names you know. James Vaughters and AJ Tarpley were at middle linebacker. The backup front seven had Aziz Shittu, David Parry and Charlie Hopkins in the line. Kevin Anderson and Alex Debniak on the outside, with Shayne Skov and Jarek Lancaster on the inside.
The starting secondary included Barry Browning, Terrence Brown, Jordan Richards and Ed Reynolds. Usua Amanam still rotates in as the nickel corner. The second string was Wayne Lyons, Alex Carter, Devon Carrington and Harold Bernard. This might be the best cornerback group Stanford has seen in years. Carter and Lyons both look great but they can’t break into the top group. Last week Brown showed great coverage skills. This week he showed good physical tackling in the flats.
Back to the offensive line, all three youngsters struggled against the top defense. Murphy does look impressive and you could see his potential. Peat had the most success on the final drive he seemed to come into his own a bit battling with Kevin Anderson.
Peat says he is still adjusting to playing with a cast on his hand. He can’t grab the defender anymore.
Khalil Wilkes was backing up at center and at guard. His role may very well be that of the top interior backup .
The last play of the day was a nice touchdown pass from Nunes to Levine Toilolo who used his height to get over Carter and the safety.
On kickoff returns, Ronnie Harris, Alex Carter and Remound Wright all had opportunities. On punt return, Drew Terrell was joined by Sanders and Nelson
Players of the day: On defense it was clearly Trent Murphy and Chase Thomas. On offense I will go with Wright and Sanders and then throw in Nelson. He had a great catch down field in traffic on a strike from Nottingham. Plus his block on Wright’s run was good enough to warrant this second message.
One more week for camp. Training camp will get shut down at the end of this week, and on Sunday it is time to get ready for the opening game a week from Friday against San Jose State.