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July 31, 2012

Cardinal Media Day Notes: QB and RB

Cardinal Sports Report made the trip to San Francisco on Monday to attend the fifth annual Bay Area college football media day. We returned with a ton of interesting quotes, notes, and tidbits from the event.

Due to the length of the interviews and amount of information gathered, we'll split our recap of the media day festivities into multiple segments. First up is a review of the Card's quarterback situation and running back depth chart.

Gaffney's departure a surprise

Stanford coach David Shaw admitted that he was caught a little bit off guard by former running back Tyler Gaffney's decision to forego his final year of eligibility on The Farm to sign with the Pittsburgh Pirates.

"(It caught us off guard) a little bit," Shaw said. "Being a 24th round draft pick we figured it wasn't going to high enough for him to go, but the way baseball works is a little different and they can pay whatever percentage of their rookie salary cap that they want to. They were able to match the number that he put out there and I don't blame him one bit. I'm excited for him. He's doing extremely well right now."

Shaw lists quarterback criteria

Although it's still unclear if Josh Nunes or Brett Nottingham will be named Stanford's starting quarterback for the season opener against San Jose State, Shaw already knows what will help guide his decision.

"It's about efficiency," Shaw said. "It's about running the plays that are called, getting the ball to the guys that they should give it to, getting the ball out of their hands, not turning the ball over. All of those decision-making things that we put on the quarterback pre-snap, those things are huge. And that'll go a long way in determining who's the starting quarterback.

Shaw declined to set a deadline for announcing the starter in fall camp.

Anthony Wilkerson leading the charge behind Taylor

Stepfan Taylor will be a workhorse back for the Cardinal, but even with Gaffney's departure, Stanford is well stocked at the running back position. Shaw said that Anthony Wilkerson, who is now fully recovered from an unspecified knee injury, could take on a bigger role in 2012.

"Anthony Wilkerson is now completely healthy and has dominated his rehab," Shaw said. "(We're) sad to see Gaffney go, but at the same time I'm excited now to have a bigger role for Anthony because every chance he's had to play he's performed but we've had such a loaded backfield he was always the youngest guy in the group and it was hard to get him too many carries."

Shaw added that Ricky Seale, who was a standout spring performer, could also be in the mix for carries, along with Remound Wright and possibly incoming freshman Barry Sanders.

"Ricky Seale had an outstanding spring, was probably the MVP of the spring offensively," Shaw said. "We feel really good about where we are offensively with those guys, with Remound Wright coming in to battle this summer and bringing in young Barry Sanders as well. "

Utilizing Young

Although Shaw didn't mention redshirt freshman Kelsey Young along with the rest of the Cardinal's running back options, make no mistake: Stanford's offensive braintrust hasn't forgotten about Young. The former four-star recruit is simply too dynamic an athlete to not see the field.

"In high school he played running back and we'll give him some opportunities there," Shaw said. "We'll move him around a little bit. He's just one of those guys we have to find ways to get his hands on the ball. I think he's going to have a really good year."

"Wildcat" uncertainty

Although Gaffney made meaningful contributions to Stanford's offensive in a number of areas, one of his specialties was running the "Wildcat" offense. With Gaffney's sudden departure, Shaw was somewhat vague about the future of the Wildcat.

"We'll make those decisions in training camp," Shaw said. "Stepfan Taylor practiced it a bunch last year also, but we'll see if that's a role that somebody else can fill too. That was also programmed rest for Stepfan. We knew when those group of plays came up we knew we could get Stepfan off the field.

"If he ends up being that guy great, if it ends up being somebody else, great. Don't be surprised if we do some mixture of all kinds of different combinations of both running backs and fullbacks."

Replacing Patch

Although he didn't receive the accolades of some of his teammates, Jeremy "Patch" Stewart was quietly a vital part of Stanford's red zone offense success in 2011. He scored 10 total touchdowns (nine rushing) and emerged as Stanford's primary goal line running back.

With Stewart off to the NFL, Stanford must decide whether to stick with Taylor in the redzone, designate another running back/fullback as the goal line back, or utilize some combination of Taylor/another player.

"The hard part for us all of last year was that Stepfan never needed to be taken out of the game," Shaw said. "There's nothing he can't do. We just had so many guys, once again we have so many guys that we think have special talents that we'll do that to keep Stepfan fresh, but Stepfan (excelled on the) goal line for years, including his true freshman year, he was outstanding inside the five yard line. He runs so low, he runs so physically and drives his legs on contact. He's the ideal short yardage goal line back, but we just felt that was a unique role for a guy we thought had earned it in Jeremy Stewart.

"This year going forward we'll still use Stepfan there but we're going to try to find roles for the other guys on the team too."

Comfortable with Picazo

Although it doesn't appear that Robbie Picazo will be strongly considered for Stanford's quarterback job in the fall, Shaw said that he would be comfortable using Picazo in game situation if necessary.

"Robbie's kind of the bridge between the older guys and younger guys right now," Shaw said. "I think about Robbie the same way I thought about Tavita in terms of mentally understanding the game. Robbie is a coach on the field. If need be I know Robbie can go in a game and do a good job for us, get us in the right play and get the ball in the right guy's hands, so we feel really good about where Robbie is also."

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