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August 20, 2012
Open scrimmage observations: Defense and ST
Cardinal Sports Report was on hand for Stanford's extended scrimmage on Sunday morning. With more than a thousand fans in attendance, the Cardinal ran through an estimated 70 plays and a variety of special teams formations.
In the first part of our scrimmage recap we focus on the Card's defense and special teams.
Kickoffs: Conrad Ukropina and Jordan Williamson took kickoffs for the Cardinal. Williamson exhibited the stronger leg (including one kick that went about eight yards deep into the endzone).
Ty Montgomery, Jackson Cummings, Anthony Wilkerson, Remound Wright and Alex Carter all took reps returning kicks. While the kickoffs didn't include live tackling, I thought Carter looked pretty fluid receiving the ball and quick in his transition up the field. Stanford is currently seeking a player to complement Montgomery in the return game - due to his value to the offense, Stanford will limit Montgomery's returns. Carter returned kicks in high school and is an intriguing candidate to do the same on The Farm.
Field Goals: Williamson and Ukropina struggled in limited field goal reps. Both made kicks from 30 yards, but each missed from 35 and 40. Williamson was able to conclude his day on a positive note, however, nailing a kick from 48 yards away. Leg strength wasn't an issue for either kicker, particularly Williamson, who blasted each of his kicks.
Punts: Stanford's coaches have stated on several occasions in the past month that senior Daniel Zychlinski has the upper hand in the punter competition, and he showed why on Sunday. Zychlinski out-dueled fellow punter Ben Rhyne and launched a couple 50-plus yard boots.
Drew Terrell, Barry Sanders, Dontonio Jordan and Keanu Nelson took reps receiving punts. It's always somewhat remarkable (not to mention reassuring) how calm and consistent Terrell is getting into position and catching punts. Meanwhile, Montgomery struggled, fumbling one punt and juggling another.
Secondary: Barry Browning, Terrence Brown, Ed Reynolds and Jordan Richards comprised the first-team secondary, while Wayne Lyons, Carter, Devon Carrington and Harold Bernard played with the second team.
It's a little bit difficult to determine which player/position deserves the praise (or the blame), but aside from two Brett Nottingham passes (to Keanu Nelson and Kodi Whitfield respectively) Stanford's vertical passing game was virtually non-existent. Carter stood out on several occasions for his aggressive and dependable tackling, and Jordan Richards made a physical tackle. Redshirt freshman Zach Hoffpauir also made a nice stop on a Sanders run up the middle during the latter stages of practice, limiting the explosive back to a short gain. Lyons had a nice pass breakup on a deep ball thrown by Evan Crower intended for Dontonio Jordan. By and large, however, the defensive backs weren't tested very often.
Linebackers: Chase Thomas and Trent Murphy were the first team outside linebackers while A.J. Tarpley and James Vaughters were the first team inside backers. Kevin Anderson and Alex Debniak were the second team outside backers, and Shayne Skov and Jarek Lancaster played inside with the second team.
Not that anyone expected anything less, but Murphy and Thomas proved nearly impossible for the offensive linemen to block. (The duo went up against Kyle Murphy, Andrus Peat and Brendon Austin for the majority of their reps). I credited Murphy with two sacks and a forced fumble and Thomas with one sack - since quarterbacks are off limits to tackling it's sometimes a little bit difficult to decipher what is and what isn't a sack, but both Murphy and Thomas were very effective.
Skov flashed nicely on a few open field tackles and Tarpley made a nice tackle on a receiver in the flat for a short gain.
Defensive Line: Henry Anderson, Terrence Stephens and Ben Gardner took first team reps with the defensive line while David Parry, Aziz Shittu, Ikenna Nwafor, Charlie Hopkins and several others rotated in with the second unit.
It's always hard to judge line play in these type of scrimmage situations, but Stanford's run defense was relatively stout. Sanders did break off a few long runs, and Jackson Cummings galloped for a touchdown, but the rushing attack didn't have much room to operate, particularly between the tackles. Most of Sanders' success came when he got outside.
There didn't appear to be much consistent quarterback pressure from the defensive linemen, but I did credit Anderson with a sack. None of the touted freshmen defensive linemen made too much of an impression, however.
Stay tuned for part two of our scrimmage recap which will focus on the Cardinal offense, and remember to check out our preseason expert roundtable with Todd Husak, Bo McNally and Andrew Phillips.
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