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November 22, 2013

Final Notes: Big Game







Several formerly-injured Stanford players could return for the 116th Big Game. Jordan Williamson, who kicked on Thursday, could get the green light to handle field goals if he responds well to the workout.

"Jordan kicked (Thursday)," Shaw said. "Looked OK. If he's not sore (Friday) we'll progress but seemed to be OK (on Thursday)."

Redshirt freshman Conrad Ukropina will continue to take kickoffs even if Williamson is cleared.

Reserve safety and special teams contributor Zach Hoffpauir is expected to play after performing well all week in practice.

"He'll be ready to go," Shaw said. "He'll see some time on special teams for sure."

On the other end of the spectrum, Shaw ruled cornerback Alex Carter out with a concussion. Carter is expected to return for the Notre Dame game.

Stanford had previously targeted its meeting with the Irish as a potential return date for reserve defensive lineman Ikenna Nwafor, but that's no longer a realistic option.

"That's doubtful to me," Shaw said. "He's made some progress, hasn't made as much progress lately. Hopefully we'll see where he is by the bowl game."

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Bryce Treggs, Cal's top receiver, was probably always destined to end up in Berkeley (his father, Brian Treggs, starred at Cal), but he did share mutual interest with Stanford early in the recruiting process.

"I know his dad and me and Coach Hamilton got to know each other pretty well so I knew what kind of an upbringing he had, I knew what he wanted to accomplish both in school and in football," Shaw said. "I know he's an outstanding route runner. Really precise. He was trained by his dad, who did a great job with Bryce and Kodi (Whitfield) and all those guys down there. They're always well trained, receivers down there. I know he has a personality. He has a little energy to him and that's what we always saw."

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Given the lack of tight end production in the passing game (Stanford's tight ends have combined to make six catches those year, and those of those receptions were made by Luke Kaumatule, who's currently playing defense), the Cardinal will likely count on its trio of freshmen tight ends to make an impact in the aerial attack in future seasons. According to Shaw, Greg Tabaoda, Austin Hooper and Eric Cotton are progressing well in their redshirt seasons.

"I think all three of them (have taken a step forward)," Shaw said. "We laugh all the time because it's so similar to having Levine, Zach and Fleener at the same time. Fleener was a year ahead but all those guys kind of grew up together. We look at these three guys and it's very similar. I think hopefully all three will be ready to play next year."

While the three freshmen possess varying skill sets, Shaw said that each has a better understanding of how to block than the vaunted 'Tree's Company' trio did early in their careers.

"They're all different," Shaw said. "They all do different things. The best thing about it to me is they all block well. Whereas it was something for Zach to try to have to learn to do just because he didn't do it as much in high school. Same thing for Coby. Coby was a receiver. We had to teach him how to get in a stance first and foremost and then how to block. But these guys have all played tight end, they've all put their hand in the dirt, they've all gone face-to-face with somebody so they all know how to do it. It's going to be fun trying to figure out how to use them next year."

Added tight ends coach Morgan Turner: "They've definitely all made strides. We're seeing a lot of good things, especially in Friday scrimmages. We're really excited about all of them."

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Former tight end Luke Kaumatule has played only a handful of snaps since moving to defensive end last month to provide needed depth to a position group that's endured several key injuries. The timely return of Henry Anderson and emergence of Blake Lueders have prevented Kaumatule from cracking the rotation.

"If Henry didn't come back he was going to see a whole bunch of playing time," Shaw said. "But I think Henry coming back and getting a lot of snaps has put him in kind of an emergency role. I think he and Aziz Shittu are kind of in that same boat to where hey, if we need him, we have to throw them in there and let them go, they know what to do and they practice well. It's just right now the way Henry has come back and is playing, the way Josh Mauro is playing right now, the way David Parry is playing right now, those guys are playing so well. Not to mention Blake Lueders coming in. Blake's been huge for us to be so multidimensional to play a little bit inside and a little bit outside as far as the defensive line is concerned, and in an emergency we can throw him back out at outside linebacker. He's that smart, he's that tough. He's the one that's really saved us and kept those other guys off the field because he's done so well."

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True freshman Taijuan Thomas has spent his first year on The Farm playing cornerback, but he might not be long for the position. Stanford will at least consider the possibility of moving him to offense in the offseason.

"That's going to be another offseason conversation," Shaw said. "We needed him at defensive back this year. I think it's been great training for him, great training being on the special teams on the scout team. We'll see what the future holds. He's always been a dynamic player with the ball in his hands. The film says that. It's special. We'll see where we are at the end of the season. I know he can play corner and has a chance to be a good corner. I also know he could be a guy that touches the ball too so we'll see how it goes."


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