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August 13, 2013TweetFollow @StanfordRivals
Many viewed Stanford redshirt freshman offensive lineman Johnny Caspers as the "other" prospect in Stanford's 2012 offensive line recruiting class, which many recruiting experts ranked as the best of all time.
As the only offensive line prospect in the class who wasn't deemed a four-star recruit by at least one major ranking service, Caspers was initially an afterthought for fans and pundits. His limited offer list - Arizona and Illinois were probably his top offers outside of Stanford - didn't exactly inspire confidence, either.
But since he arrived on campus last summer, Caspers has proven that he's talented enough to compete with the big guns - and then some. According to Cardinal offensive coordinator Mike Bloomgren, Caspers gave Stanford's defensive linemen fits in practice even last year as a true freshman.
"I'm so excited about him," Bloomgren told Cardinal Sports Report after the season. "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. (He's a) 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."
Now, on the heels of a strong spring, Caspers finds himself in a spot few expected: a heated battle for the right guard position. The competition might be rendered moot if redshirt senior Kevin Danser fails to win the center battle and returns to right guard, but if Danser does emerge as the Cardinal center, Caspers and Josh Garnett will be expected to compete for a starting spot.
Cardinal Sports Report caught up with Caspers after Stanford's first practice of fall camp to discuss the right guard competition and Caspers' recruitment.
Cardinal Sports Report: What has your first full year been like here at Stanford?
Johnny Caspers: It's been a great year both academically and athletically. We have great upperclassmen, whether its David Yankey, Conor McFadden, all of the upperclassmen have been very helpful. They've (helped me) learn the offense. With the offense, once you go through it, once you install it once in the fall and then again in spring you really kind of get a better feel for it. My comfort level has definitely increased in a year. Going through these walk-throughs in the morning, it's a lot different. Last year basic plays you question yourself and now you just have more of a comfort level with everything.
CSR: Size-wise, how has your body developed since you arrived on campus?
JC: I think I put on 25 pounds in a year. So that's Coach Turley, he set me up pretty well with that and gave me all the tools to do that well. That's been a huge help to my game, putting on good weight. That's helped out a lot. That's helped me compete.
CSR: This year you're really in the mix at right guard. What is your goal for that competition this fall.
JC: For the right guard competition I just want to do as well as I can with all the reps that I'm given. If I get beat out I get beat out but I really want to take advantage of those reps because it's really a privilege getting the reps with the ones. Those guys have been doing this for a while now and it's really cool working with them. If I get that spot great, if not I want to take advantage of all the reps I can.
CSR: How does that rotation work with you and Josh Garnett and Kevin Danser when he's over there. Do you cycle kind of evenly with the ones?
JC: Kevin was working mostly center today. Me and Josh Garnett were getting a little mix at right guard. But I think it will change, at least in the past it changed on a day-to-day basis where we'll kind of rotate around. Danser will move maybe back more to right guard and get a couple of the centers like McFadden and Khalil Wilkes and even Kevin Reihner some shots at center. I think it will be a day-to-day thing.
CSR: Out of high school what was your second choice. If Stanford didn't come around where would you have ended up?
JC: That's a good question. Stanford was always kind of the school that had been my reach. I didn't know if they would offer me. When they did offer me it was very exciting. I kind of had to scramble there. I probably would have gone to Illinois. I would have tried to go to Illinois or an Ivy League school. I didn't have a lot of offers otherwise.
CSR: I wanted to ask about that. You've come and almost outplayed some of the higher recruited and ranked guys in your class. Is that (being under-recruited) still a chip, is that something that you take with you?
JC: I mean yeah, I think it's definitely a chip. It's tough to forget about that. I'm real good friends with all the guys in my class. I feel like I'm working together with them more than I'm working against them or butting heads. It's a competition but we're all great guys. Over the summer I lived with Kyle Murphy and Josh Garnett and really got to know those guys a lot better. Yeah, the recruiting thing, it's behind us. But yeah, there's a little bit of a chip, but I really like those guys.
CSR: What's the one area or two areas in which you think you've improved upon the most, or areas of your greatest development since you've arrived here?
JC: I would have to say my footwork in general. Early on it was pretty ugly. I'd say either my zone and power footwork or my knowledge of the plays.