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December 28, 2012

Day Three: Offensive Focus

The offense took the Rose Bowl media stage on Friday morning after the defense did so on Thursday. Below are highlights of the press conference, as provided by Rose Bowl media representatives.

Sam, can you talk about the freshman on the offensive line and the development you've seen from them through the year?

SAM SCHWARTZSTEIN: These past couple of weeks we've been getting to see the second team guys and the third team guys that we didn't see that much this year.

But across the board all six guys that the coaches brought in are going to be great players for Stanford. Really a testament to the recruiting process with the coach being able to pick out guys that are not only good players, but also Stanford guys that buy into the program.

But seeing guys like Josh Garnett make some plays that look unbelievable. Murphy looking consistent as always. And even some of the guys that I didn't get to see much this year. Johnny Caspers, Graham Shuler, Nick Davidson, all of those guys are fantastic players, and once Andrus Peat turn it's on, it's even better.

So it's going to be awesome. Seeing them play in the scrimmages, it's a sign of good things to come in the future for the Stanford offensive line.

A little bit off topic. Can you talk about the Beef Bowl last night? How are you feeling this morning?

ZACH ERTZ: The Beef Bowl was a very fun event. I think Josh Garnett had about one cow to himself. He had, like, seven or eight pieces and said he could have kept going. We ran out of time.

As for myself, I only had two pieces. I was talking to the Wisconsin players and they said they would feel sluggish if they ate too much. I tried to stay away from that.

DREW TERRELL: It was funny. I think all three of us were at Josh's table, or Zach and I were at Josh's table, we were cheering him on because we knew he was our only hope in the competition. We heard a Wisconsin player ate eight pieces last year. We knew Josh was the only guy that could have. Like Josh said, he finished with eight pieces. It was great food, a fun night and a lot of fun.

A lot of people are going to be wondering what Stanford is going to be like without Taylor. First it was Andrew Luck, and now it's going to be without Taylor.

Pep Hamilton: Right now I would say that it would be more of the running back by committee approach, similar to the 2010 season. If you think back to 2010, Stepfan was splitting reps with Tyler Gaffney, a young Anthony Wilkerson and Stewart. Patch, we call him Patch. Jeremy Stewart who is playing for the Oakland Raiders right now.

But we'll get back to the running back by committee approach until somebody establishes themselves as our workhorse.

What about center?

Hamilton: That's tough. That's a tough question. Especially now. It's always tough to replace your center. Just that continuity and trust that the quarterbacks develop in center. And our offense in particular would put so much on the center to make the calls when we check our plays at the line of scrimmage. So replacing Sammy would be a tall task for us. The center is really an extension of the quarterback and our coaches. The center has to make a number of calls on any given play. So training our next center will be just as tough as training our next quarterback.

Wow, I would say right now we have Khalil Wilkes that's played some center. He's giving snaps or snapping to our quarterbacks during the QBs. Center. He's changed in practice. We have Kevin Reihner, another offensive lineman that hasn't played a bunch, but another smart kid that we're training to possibly play center at some point. Graham Shuler, a young kid from Tennessee that we brought in to play the center position. So we'll see.

If Kevin Danser had to possibly move to that position, I think he would be able to. So we'll see, but that's a tough question.

It seems that the line has been able to reinvent itself every year. It seems that every year they mesh. Is that the way the system is run? Is that a credit to them? Coach Bloomgren?

Hamilton: I think it starts with Coach Bloomgren and Ron Crook and their ability to really just have a plan in place to get those guys to kind of gel and come together. I think it also helps that we play a lot of offensive linemen, you know? We have personnel groupings, as well, and we'll have seven offensive linemen. And there are times we have eight offensive linemen on the field for any given play.

So, you know, when you're a young offensive lineman, and you're playing some tight end or you're playing fullback, and you have an opportunity to play early in your career when it's time for you to become an every down player, the game is not too big for you. So that really helps us.

Is that a selling point?

Hamilton: Absolutely.

You're going to say they're going to run plays with eight offensive linemen?

Hamilton: Oh, yeah. We had to employ that sales point of strategy in recruiting Kyle Murphy and Andrus Peat, two five star tackles. Well, hey, both of you guys are going to play, and both of you guys are going to play early. Now if you win 98 as opposed to 78, it shouldn't matter much. But you're going to play. And I think it really helps our guys to gain that experience early in their career and become productive players for us.

You guys obviously worked closely with the offensive line. How have you seen that group?

Zach Ertz: Yeah, I think we have one great leader in Sam Schwartzstein, and he sets the tempo for everybody else on that unit. He's done a heck of a job this year. We have David Yankey who is obviously the best guard in the country. Whatever you want to call him. We kind of put him in positions to be successful. He's probably the best player on the line right now, and some of the things he does are very impressive.

For a younger guy, I guess he was a younger guy last year. I don't know how young he is now. But with all the influx of offensive linemen, are he and Sam sort of the veterans of the group now and showing these guys how to get it done?

Ertz: Yeah, all five of our guys are juniors or above. But I think Cam too, and those two are kind of the key guys on the offensive line because they were starting last year. And I think those three have helped Andrus and Josh and Kyle Murphy, especially.
But some of those young guys, like Johnny Caspers, Nick Davidson, they're going to be very good in the future. So I'm looking forward to seeing how they go.

Not to belabor this point, but how soon after this New Year's are you going to make the decision?

Ertz: I'll probably talk to Coach Shaw a few days after the game. We haven't spoken about what we want to do after. So we'll talk maybe the third or something, and see if we want to have a face to face meeting, then I'll probably drive down to Stanford a few days after that and I'll talk to Coach Bloomgren, Coach Hamilton to see what they have to say. Then I'll get that input and talk to my family. The week after, maybe.

So you haven't made your mind up in your head yet?

Ertz: No. I mean, the good news is I am on pace to graduate. I only have three classes left. So I've been fortunate enough to have this option. And I haven't thought about it too much.

If you do come back, will you take graduate work?

Ertz: Yeah, I'd either double major get a Masters degree in something.

You don't know what?

Ertz: No.

As you look at the future of this program, it looks pretty bright for next year. But in your mind, what will the offense be, and what will the offensive line be?

Ertz: The offensive line are some of the best in the country, in my opinion. I mean, with David and Cam and Danser and Khalil coming back along with Andrus and Kyle and Josh having another year under their belt. There's no reason they're not one of the best lines in the country. All five of our linemen next year will have a ton of potential. I think they'll blend well because they're all very good friends off the field. I think it's going to be something special to see. Then we have Kevin, obviously, coming back for the next three years, and he's going to be something special too.

I mean, I know Kevin Hogan, away from the O line, but Kevin's going to be special, obviously. Stepfan's a once in a decade guy. You can't really replace Stepfan with one guy. It's going to be a committee with Ricky Seale. Anthony Wilkerson and Remound Wright. All three of those guys can do a great job.

Talk about the offensive line a little bit. You're sort of the veterans now whereas last year you were the new guys. How has that adjustment been for the three of you? Kevin also is a veteran. He wasn't a starter last year, but he's been around just as some of these younger offensive linemen come in, how have you seen your role change and get them acclimated to the way you do things?

Sam Schwartzstein: I've had to see some great leadership since I've been here. Starting with Alex Fletcher, then Chris Marinelli and Andy Phillips and Chase Beeler, two of my mentors. Those guys are some of my best friends and mentors. Getting to see them and their approach to the game. How it was different from John and Dave last year. We knew we had the two best offensive linemen in the country on our team. You know, they kind of approached it with like a physical presence, and understanding that you have to play up to their level, and they're not going to go down to yours.

I was able to combine those with the motivational factors that Andy and Chase brought to where we are able to have a mixture of the two. David Yankey and Cameron Fleming stepped up unbelievably. From the first practice without the two big dogs, Yankey was in there barking at everybody. Making sure that everyone was in the right spot. Cam - you let Cam get off the bus first the way he's been able to transform his body. So those guys, their ability to help lead has been a really awesome journey this year. I think we've all grown from it.

Were you surprised when Hogan was named starting QB?

Drew Terrell: Well, I think we were kind of surprised when he got the nod as well. It kind of came out of nowhere. Coming out of camp, he was the third string guy, and he was able to make some plays in practice throughout the season.

Then in both the Cal and Colorado game, it gave coaches confidence in him. And he stepped in and played incredibly well. He had beaten four straight ranked teams, and he showed incredible poise and confidence in himself that permeates across the rest of us.
We have incredible confidence in him now.

He's getting better with his command of the offense and being really a student of the playbook. You know, the way he's played has really inspired us as a group. Like I said, we have a lot of confidence in him now and going forward.

What was the turning point? He came in like the third series?

Terrell: Of the Colorado game?

He had like four straight touchdowns, and then was it like whoa, we have a new starting quarterback?

Terrell: I think it was the fourth quarter. He had been in for a while. And a lot of us didn't notice he was still in the game. And we were like is Hogan still out there? He's playing really well. We put up, I think it was like 48 points. It was like we're playing pretty well.

Then Coach Shaw made the announcement to us on the Monday following the game, and a lot of us were surprised. We have a quarterback change in the middle of the season. But it's been positive for our football team, and we've been able to progress and move forward. He's done an incredible job.



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