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March 7, 2013

Spring Progress Report: Offensive Line

A second-team All-Pac-12 selection in 2012, redshirt senior Kevin Danser has received reps at center in addition to guard in the first few practices of spring ball. Though the redshirt senior welcomes the possibility of playing a new position, he does have another suggestion for the Stanford coaching staff.

"I'm trying to get them to put me at running back," laughed Danser.

The redshirt senior's larger point, of course, is that he's willing to play anywhere to help the Cardinal offense, even if it means switching positions in his fifth year in the program.

"I want to help out the team wherever I can," Danser said. "If that comes at center, I'll do it. I'll play wherever the coaches want me to play to help out this team. If it's at guard, then I'll play guard. If it's at center, I'll play center. Hey, if it's at tackle, I'll play tackle."

The Danser-to-center experiment, which, it should be emphasized, is still very much an experiment, was likely prompted by the emergence of former top recruit Joshua Garnett and the lack of depth at center in the first half of spring ball. (Graham Shuler is out due to disciplinary reasons and Kevin Reihner due to injury.)

"Our goal is always to play the five best," Stanford offensive line coach Mike Bloomgren said. "And we're just going to see who that is. I certainly don't feel like Conor (McFadden) or Khalil (Wilkes) have been a letdown. As a matter of fact, I think it's the opposite. I think they've both been outstanding. Khalil has been better with his points and his knowledge of the system. I think Conor has showed some pieces of athleticism that we didn't know he had, and he's doing a great job. Both of them are living every down blocking David Parry, and that's not real fun."

Regardless of where Danser ends up, it's a safe bet that Stanford's starting offensive line in 2013 will feature at least one, and possibly two or even three, second-year players. That's no coincidence, said Danser.

"I was thinking back to my freshman year and just how I was able to piece it all together, and I was nowhere close to where these guys are right now," Danser said of Stanford's heralded 2012 offensive line recruiting class. "It's truly unbelievable watching them play. I remember watching them last year and talking with Sam Schwartzstein about it. We'd always say these guys are so much better than we were back then. It truly is the case, the way they can pick up the offense, the way they run the offense, it's very impressive. Stanford's offensive line coming in the years in the future is going to be just fine with these guys around."

One of the standout performers thus far in spring and unofficial leader in the clubhouse at the left tackle spot is one of those aforementioned freshmen, Arizona native Andrus Peat. Though Bloomgren declined to name a leader in the left tackle competition, he admitted that Peat has impressed.

"I don't know if you could say anybody has a leg up (at left tackle)," Bloomgren said. "I think you can see (Andrus has) done an unbelievable job. He's stepped in there with a lot of confidence and blocked these freak shows we have at outside linebacker and done it really regularly. I'd say Kyle Murphy has done a really good job as well, so I think just the fact that those two guys have shown how much they've own up in such a short time has been awesome. It's been fun to see."

Danser said that he thinks Peat has "All-American" type potential.

"He's truly a dominant player," Danser said of Peat. "Once he figures it all out, and it seems like he's close to doing it, once he figures it all out, he's going to be truly a phenomenal player. He's got all the physical tools to kind of be an All-Pac-12 guy, an All-American guy. It's very impressive watching him. He truly is a stud. He can be a stalwart on this line."

As for Murphy, adding some bulk to his 272-pound frame remains a priority.

"(Kyle's weight is) a really big deal at the tackle spot," Bloomgren said. "Obviously Kyle played probably as much as any freshman last year. He played an absolute ton at the Jumbo tight end. Whoever is not starting at tackle for us is going to be involved in that tight end room at that tight end position, especially in the run game.

"For him to have a chance to really compete for that left tackle spot his weight does need to come up."

Danser agreed with Bloomgren's assessment.

"Kyle Murphy is another great player," Danser said. "He has to put on some weight, he is a little bit light, but you can tell just instinctually and the way he can move, the way his balance is, the way his footwork is, he's a very impressive player. You can tell, he's just a very good, good player."

The x-factor on the 2013 offensive line might be Garnett. If the Washington native is ready to play at a high level, Danser could be freed for a move to center, where he would probably provide a better physical presence than Wilkes or any of the other center candidates. What's the key for Garnett to take the next step in his development?

"There's a lot of things when you talk about just mastering the playbook and when you talk about using the exact right technique and target on every play," Bloomgren said. "Those are things that come with reps and Josh is leaps and bounds ahead of where he was during training camp. He's probably leaps and bounds ahead of where he was at any point last season, which is what you'd expect. But he just has to keep coming."

  • Cardinal Sports Report asked Bloomgren about the pleasant surprises of spring ball.

    "You know, Andrus would be the one," Bloomgren responded. "He's just playing with so much confidence. Johnny Caspers shows flashes of brilliance. Josh Garnett shows flashes of brilliance, and then those old heads, they're continuing to take steps, which is awesome."

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