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February 26, 2013

Spring Ball Day One: Notebook

The reigning Rose Bowl champion Stanford football team kicked off its 2013 spring practice on Monday night. Despite chilly temperatures, Cardinal coach David Shaw was pleased with the team's first practice of the 2013 calendar year

"I'm excited about how we started," Shaw said. "I thought we got a lot of retention. We have a lot of guys coming back. There was a lot of energy. I think they remembered the beginning of last spring, our seniors did a great job of getting these guys ready to go. We started fast. It was a good day."

The players were't wearing pads, but Shaw was able to identify a few first-day standouts.

"We'll watch the film, but just standing out here I though Anthony Wilkerson had a really good day," Shaw said. "I thought all of our backs really had a good day. Usua (Amanam) made some plays. Ed Reynolds made some plays. We have some guys up front who are hard to block but in particular when you don't have pads on are damn near impossible to block. Our up-front guys did a good job, but if we don't have pads on they should do a good job."

Personnel Updates

Stanford will be without several players during spring ball. It was announced last week that Shayne Skov (suspension)and Patrick Skov (family reasons) will miss the first half of spring ball, and that Josh Nunes (injury) is likely out for the entire spring.

On Monday, Shaw revealed several more personnel updates that could have significant ramifications on the center competition. Graham Shuler (disciplinary issues) and Kevin Reihner (injury) will be out for the first spring ball session. (There is a chance Reihner could participate if he heals quickly, but it's unlikely.)

"Khalil (Wilkes)and Conor (McFadden) will be getting a lot of reps," Shaw said. "We're going to wear them out, which is great. They need it."

Wide receiver Keanu Nelson will also miss the first spring ball session.

Replacing Crook

Stanford's offensive coaching staff was dealt a blow when tight ends/tackles coach Ron Crook accepted the offensive line coaching position at West Virginia. Crook will now be able to continue his coaching career in the state where he grew up.

"(It's) very disappointing, partially just because I like him," Shaw said. "I like him a lot. And I talked to lot of old time coaches, a lot of old school coaches that always talk about your coaching staff being that second family. When this came up I was extremely excited for Ron, a chance for him to go back home. He and his wife are both from West Virginia. They have so family members and friends back there. It's a homecoming for him.

"I was sad for us because I like him. I like spending time with him. I like what he brings to us coaching the tight end position, but this is good for him. I'm really excited for him. I'm happy for West Virginia. Got a couple of guys over at West Virginia that I like, so I'm happy to help them to a certain degree, but we'll be okay."

As was first reported by Coach Scoop, former Stanford offensive assistant Morgan Turner is expected to be named Crook's replacement. An official announcement could come within the next 24 hours.

Shaw didn't specifically comment on Turner, but did allude to his hiring.

"We're going to bring back a guy who's very familiar with us, that knows what we do and how we do it, so we're not going to miss a beat going forward," Shaw said.

While Ron Crook coached the tackles in addition to tight ends, Turner will only coach the tight ends. Mike Bloomgren will now be in charge of the entire offensive line.

"(Bloomgren) will coach all five (spots on the offensive line)," Shaw said. "Bloom can handle all five. Ron Crook gave us that extra offensive line mentality. He was used to coaching the line. He really did a good job working with Mike Bloomgren, but Bloom can work with all five and we'll have a tight end coach."

Tight end focus

Turner will have his hands full once his hiring is made official. Tight end is perhaps the least experienced position group on the roster. Three touted freshmen tight ends will arrive this summer, but spring will be an opportunity for the tight ends currently on the roster to make a statement.

"I just want to see what all the guys can do," Shaw said. "Luke Kaumatule practiced well all of last year. He has a lot to learn. He has a huge upside. He's basically the same size as Levine right now. Levine was a fourth-year senior and this kid's a true freshman. You're looking at a guy who's just under 6-foot-8, 250-something pounds. So we're excited about him, what his ceiling is."

In addition to Davis Dudchock and Chris Harrell (Alex Frkovic is still slowed by a knee injury) a pair of newcomers to the position will try to make their mark this spring.

"We moved a couple of guys there we want to take a look at," Shaw said. "Eddie Plantaric, Charlie (Hopkins) will be up next session. And we have three guys coming in. For the guys that are here right now, we want to see what they can do so we can use that to our advantage."

Fullback Ryan Hewitt is a safety net of sorts at the position.

"I'm very comfortable with where Ryan is from his fullback position, but we can move him around as we always do, outside, inside, we can put him anywhere," Shaw said. "He can do just about anything. We always look at him as short because Levine (Toilolo) is 6-foot-8 and Zach (Ertz) was 6-foot-6 and Ryan's only 6-foot-4 and 250, but he can play anywhere we want him to play."

Hewitt's exact role in Stanford's offense could be at least partially determined by the ability of the three freshmen to play early. Shaw isn't opposed to giving a true freshman tight end significant minutes.

"I have no issues playing a freshman at tight end particularly if they come in they know what do and can make plays for us in the running game or passing game," Shaw said. "If they can help us out we're going to put them on the field."

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