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September 11, 2013

Position Review: Offensive line



So far, so good for Stanford's offensive line in 2013.

The unit helped clear the way for Tyler Gaffney's second career 100-yard rushing game and kept quarterback Kevin Hogan upright in a 34-13 season-opening win over San Jose State. Additionally, there were no issues in the quarterback/center exchange between first-time starting center Khalil Wilkes and Kevin Hogan, and, perhaps most impressively, the offensive line wasn't called for a single penalty.

And the only first-time starter in the group, sophomore Andrus Peat, had a tremendous season debut.

"He played a whale of a game to be honest," Stanford offensive line coach Mike Bloomgren said. "Some of his combinations were ones that we'll put in the teaching reel for years to come, him and David Yankey. Obviously those are two big, strong men in combination and we're enjoying seeing those guys combo people. He had a few bad plays and the rest were really, really good."

Peat, a former five-star recruit, was lavished with praise this offseason. Stanford head coach David Shaw gushed about Peat during training camp.

"This year, I'd be curious how many better tackles there will be in the nation," Shaw said. "I don't know for a fact so I couldn't say. Having an early second round pick in Jonathan Martin and then David Yankey who will be a first round pick at tackle or guard, we haven't had anybody with the athletic ability that he has. There's no ceiling right now. We're talking about special. (He's in a) different category."

Bloomgren provided a similar response when asked about Peat's talent.

"I don't know what Andrus' ceiling is," Bloomgren said. "It's somewhere up there in the stars. He has a lot of potential and as well as he's playing right now, I don't think he's near reaching it."

That, Bloomgren said, is something that will come with time and experience.

"Just more games," Bloomgren said. "More games under his belt, a true comfort level with everything we're doing, which again I think he has to some degree. I don't want to speak for him, but I think he has a lot of confidence in what we're doing and how we're doing it right now. I'm really pleased with the steps he's taken."

Peat was not the only young offensive lineman to make an impact for Stanford in the Cardinal's win over San Jose State. True sophomores Kyle Murphy and Joshua Garnett saw extensive playing time in the Cardinal's various jumbo packages.

Bloomgren said that he was happy with the production of the team's jumbo sets, which also included offensive linemen Brendon Austin and Johnny Caspers.

"I was pleased with all those jumbos that went in," Bloomgren said. "We had a time where we had Brendon Austin in an eligible jersey, Kyle Murphy in an eligible jersey, Johnny Caspers and Josh Garnett. So four guys, and I think we had nine linemen in the formation and a running back, Gaffney, and a quarterback. I think we probably had somewhere near 3,200 pounds in the game at once with nine offensive linemen and those two."

Second-year linemen emerging

Another one of the offensive line training camp standouts was redshirt freshman center Graham Shuler. Though Shuler wasn't frequently mentioned as a contender in the center competition, he earned praise from Cardinal coaches during camp.

"He's always been our most athletic center," David Shaw said. "Now that he's got more size, if he can be consistent, he could start to crack the competition, but we're very pleased with where he is right now. You can put it down: He's going to be extremely good."

Now, Stanford coaches want Shuler to continue to gain a comprehensive knowledge of the Cardinal offense.

"I think just complete mastery of the playbook (is the next step for Graham)," Bloomgren said. "And Graham will look at you and be like, 'I learned so much between the second session of spring and now.' And he's absolutely right. He's right probably 90 percent of the time on the line of scrimmage. We just need that other 10 or, at least nine-and-a-half more percent."



Though he's not one of the Cardinal's starting five linemen, Stanford is pleased with Kyle Murphy's progress. Murphy has filled out his frame - he's now listed at 295 pounds - and played more than a dozen snaps at various positions in the Cardinal's opener.

"Kyle Murphy has made that step, and that's why we get him in games," Bloomgren said. "He's playing a very high level of football right now. (We're) really pleased with Kyle."

Similarly, though he's not listed on the depth chart as a starter, Josh Garnett has prominent roles in certain Jumbo packages. Garnett is the Cardinal's starting "Ogre" wing back, the position James McGillicuddy once occupied.

"What he's done from last spring to this fall and all through training camp, he's taken some really good steps," Bloomgren said. "He's not at a point where I think you'd feel completely comfortable playing a whole game, but in all of his roles he is doing really well."


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