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February 20, 2013
Offensive Line talk with Mike Bloomgren
Mike Bloomgren had quite the eventful offseason after helping lead Stanford to its first Rose Bowl victory in four decades.
Bloomgren was pursued by several other teams, including USC, where he was a top target of Lane Kiffin.
Eventually, following the departure of Pep Hamilton to the NFL, Bloomgren decided to stay on The Farm and accept a promotion to offensive coordinator.
Bloomgren said that his decision to pass on other, potentially more lucrative offers, boiled down to working with the players he's grown fond of at Stanford, and the opportunity to work for David Shaw.
"It's so flattering to get offered some of those jobs, whether you're talking about in the NFL or other great college programs and the dollar signs obviously are real," Bloomgren told Cardinal Sports Report last week. "They're exciting. But the reason you stay at a place like Stanford is for two reasons: The kids that you get to work for and David Shaw. (I) love those kids, and again, am completely flattered by those opportunities. Those are jobs that two years ago I would have walked on my hands and knees through glass for, some of them. But then the opportunity to stay here and especially now I have the opportunity, Coach Shaw has promoted me to the coordinator role, there's no place I'd rather be."
Bloomgren doesn't think his promotion will cause major changes in the way Stanford's offense operates.
"I think they're going to be very similar in terms of game day, because obviously Coach Shaw is going to be very, very involved, and that's the way we want it," Bloomgren said. "He's too good of a coach to just sit in his office. So I think there's going to be a lot of similarities. Obviously Mike Sanford is going to take on a bigger role. And I'm excited to kind of jump back into the pass game world. Seven years ago I was at Delta State and we were throwing it 40-50 games a game. In New York I was in the quarterback room at times and really enjoyed that aspect of it."
Shortly after Bloomgren was promoted to offensive coordinator, the Stanford offense received a major boost when it was announced that Tyler Gaffney would return to The Farm for his final year of eligibility. Gaffney's versatility makes him an especially valuable addition to the Cardinal offense.
"Tyler was our Wildcat guy two years ago and did a fabulous job," Bloomgren said. "He averaged something like six yards a carry, so it wasn't just the gimmicks or the tricks or the Wildcat stuff. It was everything. When Ty touches the ball, he's explosive. I think he can have a big impact on this football team. And don't forget his value as a receiver, either. Remember the catch at USC in that triple-overtime game where he breaks two tackles and ends up in the endzone? So I think there's a lot of great things that Tyler brings to the table. I may not be quite as excited as my older son Tyler that Tyler Gaffney is coming back, but I'm really close. I'm a close second. I'm really excited he'll be back."
The offensive line Gaffney will run behind in 2013 will be very different than the one Stepfan Taylor and co. had in 2012. Stanford returns four of its five starters from a year ago, but two (David Yankey and Khalil Wilkes) will switch positions.
"We've got four returning starters but two of them are going to find new homes on day one," Bloomgren said. "David Yankey's going back to his 2011 position at left guard and Khalil Wilkes is going to jump into the center spot and see if he can take over where Sammy (Schwartzstein) left off."
Yankey's move to guard leaves the left tackle position open. Freshmen Andrus Peat and Kyle Murphy are the frontrunners to win the job, but Bloomgren said that a third freshman tackle could also be in the mix.
"The thing is, those guys (Peat and Murphy) are obviously the ones that played last year and who got the game experience, but I don't know if you can ever count out Nick Davidson," Bloomgren said. "He's put on shoot, 25 pounds, he looks great. I think that competition at the center spot and the left tackle spot, they're going to be so fun to watch."
There's a chance that the runner-up in the left tackle position could push Cameron Fleming at right tackle, though Bloomgren said that Fleming will be hard to unseat.
"Cameron is by no means cemented in the position, but he is a two-year starter and we can't just take that for granted," Bloomgren said. "He's a guy that's earned the right to be there as a two-year starter and I'd be very surprised if he didn't earn a third there, but we'll see. We'll see how it goes. He's got a lot to work on, Cameron does, and I think he's kind of taken the bull by the horn and seen how good he can get this spring."
Though he was named second-team All-Pac-12 after the 2012 season, right guard Kevin Danser could also find himself competing to hold onto his starting position.
As arguably the best offensive guard in the entire 2012 recruiting class, Josh Garnett received substantial playing time in a variety of offensive packages as a freshman. But whether he'll be ready to beat out fifth-year senior in Danser remains to be seen.
"Danser is welcoming that competition," Bloomgren said. "Danser is doing a great job in the 6:30 workouts. He's leading by example right now. David Yankey is doing a great job as a vocal leader, which we needed him to do. And I think Danser is having a little bit of that. He's starting to kind of creep into that. And we need him to. Those guys have played football for us. They have to lead not just our group, but lead this offense, all of those guys who have played."
"And the nice thing about everybody in our room, the way we keep our room pure is everything is competition-driven. So for a guy like Joshua Garnett, he's not thinking this thing's over. He's not thinking he's a backup. He's going to come and fight for a spot and it's going to be fun to watch that as well."
Four in the mix at center: Khalil Wilkes might have the experience edge, but he's not a lock to be Stanford's center next fall. Wilkes will have to fend off challenges from Graham Shuler, Conor McFadden and Kevin Reihner in a wide-open competition.
"It's really going to be all of those guys at first, for that first session," Bloomgren said. "That's the nice thing about how our spring is broken up. You get to really evaluate your first session and we'll do that. But I think we have high hopes for the combination of Khalil and Conor coming in there. And then Graham Shuler, Kevin Reihner, they were big-time recruits. They're here for a reason. We'll see if Graham can hold up at his current weight against guys that weigh 305 pounds every down in Ikenna (Nwafor) and freaking David Parry."
The forgotten duo: Johnny Caspers and Cole Underwood were two of the more under-the-radar offensive linemen on the roster in the 2012 season, albeit for very different reasons.
Caspers didn't receive the buzz of his 2012 recruiting class peers due to his lack of high-profile offers and his place in the recruiting rankings.
"I'm so excited about him," Bloomgren said. "He's a guy who's put on 30 pounds since he's gotten here. If you talk to a lot of those guys on defense, he was the Scout team lineman that gave them fits because of his fighting style. He would just never quit. Tough kid from Chicago. He's all those insert stereotype here, and it kind of fits Johnny a little bit. He's a little eccentric but a really cool kid that likes this game a lot and likes to fight."
Underwood, meanwhile, had to contend with a severe knee injury suffered in fall camp. It's uncertain what Underwood will be able to do in spring practice.
"He's coming, but we'll see what he gets cleared for in spring," Bloomgren said. "Obviously he'll be full go in training camp and we'll get him involved in as much this spring as possible, but you know, he's guy that we need. We need him to come back and get ready to go."
Both Underwood and Caspers are candidates to play the Jumbo "wing" position, which was often occupied by Dillon Bonnell in 2012.
"When you talk about the wing position that Dillon played, obviously we're excited to have him back as the incumbent, but we're going to work Johnny there at that wing," Bloomgren said. "We're going to work Joshua Garnett if he's not starting at that wing. And then when you talk about that in-line position that Kyle played a lot of last year, whichever tackle (out of the Murphy/Peat/Davidson group) is not playing is still going to play that role. That's just a must for us in that "Jumbo" role, because it's so much of what we do."
Bloomgren on Dave Bright, and why Bright received a scholarship over some of the more highly-outed California linemen: "It goes back to that word I keep telling you about that o-line room and that's competition. He was better because he won. He did things better in camp than those other guys.
"We really liked his junior film but he's a guy that came to camp, caught our eye, and then his senior film, his ascension really took off. He started playing dominant football."
Bloomgren on Thomas Oser: I liked the fact that he had the ability to shift to center and play it so seamlessly. This is a guy who played tackle most of his career. And even as you watch his film from his senior year, he played either tackle or center and that's a weird jump. He was a very good leader as you watched his team, but in camp especially I liked the fact that he could snap the ball and step at the same time and that's such a hard skill. But he could do it he got there kind of in bad mood. He was good with his hands. Those are the things that really stood out."
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