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September 20, 2013
Final Preview: Arizona State
No. 5 Stanford (2-0) will begin its Pac-12 conference slate on Saturday with a visit from No. 23 Arizona State (2-0). The Cardinal will be without several players due to injury, but will expect the return of a key offensive contributor.
Starting defensive end Henry Anderson will miss Saturday's contest and at least the next month with an unspecified knee injury.
"They're saying four to six weeks," Stanford coach David Shaw said on Thursday. "I'd lean toward six until we see how the progress starts going. I'd guess closer to six."
Reserve inside linebacker Blake Martinez, who was seen walking relatively fluidly with a brace on his left knee after practice on Thursday, could be back sooner.
"We'll see where he is at the end of next week," Shaw said. "It might only be another three weeks or so. That's what I'm hoping on the short side. But he's responded really well. Rehab is going well. So hopefully about three."
Backup corner Barry Browning will also miss Saturday's game.
In more positive injury news, fullback Ryan Hewitt will be expected to play on Saturday after missing the Army game.
"Hewitt went today, it looks like he's going to play," Shaw said. "He'll still rotate, he'll still play a part, but it's the first time I've been able to see him run full speed and he was good through contact today, which is what our fullbacks need to be. He'll go in the rotation and we'll start ramping him up a little bit."
Starting running back Tyler Gaffney was held out of practice on Thursday with a headache, but he, too, will be in the lineup on Saturday.
"He just had a headache," Shaw said. "Not a migraine, nothing that will keep him from playing or anything like that. We backed him off. He just had a bad headache, that's it."
With several players out, the Cardinal's depth will be tested. Sophomore Aziz Shittu is expected to rotate in as the fourth defensive lineman.
"Aziz Shittu has had a really good week of practice," Shaw said. "I was excited to see that. He knows that we need him to step up."
Shaw also mentioned said that redshirt freshmen defensive linemen Ikenna Nwafor and Nate Lohn "had really good weeks" of practice.
At linebacker, Joe Hemschoot was inserted into the two-deep in Martinez's absence. While it's uncertain how many snaps Hemschoot will play behind Stanford's top three inside linebackers (Shayne Skov, A.J. Tarpley and Jarek Lancaster), Shaw has been pleased with Hemschoot's performance in practice this week.
"Joe's been great," Shaw said. "Joe plugged himself back in (Thursday) and (was) rolling with the twos and getting a lot of reps. We may need him to rotate in there and keep guys fresh and play. He's had a really good week of practice. It's been fun to see him run around and play."
What does Hemschoot do well on the field?
"Joe's a contact player," Shaw said. "He's not the biggest guy but some of our guys think he packs the biggest punch. He's a hitter. He's had a good week of practice."
Special Teams Rundown: Sophomore receiver Kodi Whitfield has only returned one of seven punts this season, but he made the one count. Last week, Whitfield returned a punt for 25 yards against Army.
"I thought at Army he did a nice job," Stanford special teams coach Pete Alamar said. "I thought he did everything right with that return. He picked the initial hole well then used his blockers really well, picked up the blocks downfield. I was really happy for him to get another shot. He's only really had two opportunities to filed a punt right now. But I'm really pleased with his progress."
Sophomore Reed Miller has improved in his second year as the Cardinal's long snapper.
"(I'm) really pleased with his punt snaps," Alamar said. "He was OK on his field goal/extra point snaps. He has been OK, not as consistent quite yet. He's thrown a couple high ones. Ben (Rhyne) has done a great job of getting the ball down for Jordan. But I'm pleased with his punt snaps. He's really come along. I think he's improved in that area. I think we'll make a couple little subtle changes and I think he'll be dialed in on his extra point snaps too."
In addition to excelling on kickoffs, Cardinal placekicker Jordan Williamson has been nearly perfect on field goals so far this year. Williamson is 4-5 on field goals this year. He's made 3-4 from 40-plus yards, and his only miss was in Stanford's opener against San Jose State from 52.
What, exactly, is Williamson's range?
"A lot of that's going to depend on game day," Alamar said. "One, how is he hitting the ball in pregame? Two, where are you at weather-wise? Are you with the wind, are you against the wind? Is it a cold day, warm day, is there elevation, no elevation? Those are all factors. He's a 50-plus yard guy. He's got plenty of leg. He hit from 58 yesterday in practice. He had a little wind at his back and hit the ball really well. It was probably good from 65 because he had the wind yesterday. Typically with him, you're going to have to find a pretty decent headwind for him to not have the leg to go 52, 53."
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