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October 24, 2013

Notebook: Oregon State's aerial attack

The Pac-12 features an assortment of offensive styles. From Oregon's up-tempo spread attack to Stanford's methodical power-run oriented approach, the conference does not lack for variety.

Like Stanford, Oregon State runs a more conventional offensive scheme. But unlike the Cardinal - and perhaps any other team in the conference - the Beavers' offense focuses on the downfield, deep passing game.

"They're definitely more of a pro-style offense," Stanford linebackers coach David Kotulski said. "Coach Riley is as good a coach as there is, not only in the Pac-12, but in the country, and we respect what he's able to do. Different people stretch (defenses) different ways, whether it's by tempo or whether it's by horizontal stretches. They're as much of a vertical stretch as any team that we've seen this year. They do a fabulous job. Mannion's played a lot of football and he's really smart and does a great job getting the ball off. There's a reason why he's leading the country in offense and why Mr. Cooks is where he is in terms of receiving yards and touchdowns."

For all of the success the Beavers have had in the air - they're the No. 1 passing offense in the nation - the Beavers are ranked No. 122 nationally in rushing yards at 73.7 per contest. Kotulski doesn't think the Cardinal should take Oregon State's run game lightly, however.

"Storm Woods is as good a running back… we were talking about this with the players," Kotulski said. "Last year, he was coming off his injury when he played us here. We thought that other than maybe Ka'Deem Carey and Johnathan Franklin, he was in those guys' class. Great vision, toughness, acceleration, very good running back. Caught the ball well, blocked well. Thought he was really a very, very quality running back. So they have the ability to be able to (run). And they're actually starting to get their offensive line back healthy again and playing. It's a form of function more so than anything else I think."

Hemschoot's role increasing: Redshirt junior linebacker Joe Hemschoot has long been a force on Stanford's special teams. But he's recently received more playing time on defense at both the nickel and inside linebacker positions.

"Joe's a perfectionist," Kotulski said. "Joe is a very intelligent person, very diligent in everything he does. And now he's starting to play again. I think that's probably the biggest thing that he's done. We use him in multiple positions and Joe gives us that opportunity of a guy that can go out and cover a wide receiver or a tight end or can come on back and fill a hole inside. He gives us a lot of multiplicity and I think probably the biggest thing is his confidence in what he's doing and playing. It started with the special teams where he's been a demon and it's carried over onto the defensive side. I think it's more comfort... I guess moreso than anything else in terms of what we're asking Joe to do."

Davis settling in at inside linebacker: Redshirt freshman linebacker Noor Davis' move from outside linebacker to inside linebacker looks like it will be a permanent one.

"Certain guys have better feel in space, other guys are better with hands on people," Kotulski said. "He's one of those guys that's a little bit better in space and learning to do those things. There's no question he's found a home and we look forward to great things from him in the future."

Injury updates: One of Stanford's top receiving targets remains questionable for Stanford's visit to Oregon State on Saturday, while the Cardinal's starting kicker will likely miss his second straight game.

Wide receiver Devon Cajuste was in full pads and got through individual drills on Wednesday. If Cajuste feels good tomorrow and can practice, he'll remain a candidate to play. Otherwise, Stanford will hold the redshirt sophomore out of action.

"(Devon) was good, not great," Shaw said. "But we'll see how he feels tomorrow, see if he can do something tomorrow. If he can do more tomorrow, great, if he can't he probably won't play."

"I don't think there's a lot of pain, it's just whether or not he can get the force to push off. He's not a little guy, (weighing) 227 ponds, whatever he is. So there's that significant pounding. He ran a couple routes he went through the progression then he went off to the side and did some individual drills. We'll see if he's really sore tomorrow then we'll back off. If he's not as sore we'll try to push him again tomorrow."

Meanwhile, kicker Jordan Williamson did not participate in Wednesday's practice and is unlikely to be available on Saturday.

"We kept Jordan out today," Shaw said. "We'll maybe try and kick him a little bit but I don't believe we're going to take him. I don't think he's going to make it. He still looks good for Oregon though. I think both those guys still look good for Oregon."

Starting defensive end Henry Anderson continues to progress from the knee injury he suffered against Army. Stanford is still targeting the Oregon game for his return.

"We'll see how he goes through next week but this week has been really good," Shaw said. "I wouldn't say he's ready for Oregon just yet but we'll see how he practices. Hopefully get some practices in next week during the bye."

New defensive linemen settling in: Blake Lueders and Luke Kaumatule are now in their second weeks working at defensive end.

"I think Blake has kind of turned a corner, I believe from watching him practice," Shaw said. "He learned it really quickly, but it's one thing to learn it and another thing to know it. I think he's shown that he knows it now. He's a little bit quicker making adjustments and his pass rush has gotten better from the inside because it's a different world than rushing on the edge. I think he's done well."

"Luke's going to get better every single week. He's all fire and energy. He knows a little bit more this week than he knew last week. Hopefully by the end of the year both of those guy with henry coming back is going to make us really deep up front."

Along with improved depth, the addition of two players to the defensive group has resulted in heightened competition for the younger defensive linemen who have played the position for the duration of their Cardinal careers.

"I would say the guy that's probably responded the most is Jordan Watkins," Shaw said. "He's practiced great. He's put himself on the travel squad. He's got length and speed and energy. He hasn't played just yet, but he's on the verge. He's one of those guys that's really coming along."

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