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August 16, 2014

Open Practice Breakdown: Offense



Stanford's defense got the better of the Cardinal offense in the second open practice of fall camp.

Stanford's offense scored only one touchdown and one field goal in the team's Saturday morning scrimmage, which lasted about an hour-and-a-half.

"That's the hard part, when the defense plays so well, is it just because we have a good defense or is it because we could have done some things better on offense," Stanford head coach David Shaw said. "Is it because the defensive backs are making great breaks on the ball, or the routes weren't quite where they needed to be? I have no idea until I watch the film, but the positives are the defense making plays and we'll see if there are things we can improve on in the offensive side. I know some of it you just chalk it up as Henry Anderson is really good. He ran a play down from the backside - I don't know who in America was going to block him on that move that he made. We had a third down and short where between David Parry and Aziz Shittu and Henry Anderson, the line of scrimmage (got pushed back). It doesn't matter what play you call - it doesn't matter. It's not going anywhere. So it's a combination of can we do some things better on offense, or is the defense just that good?"

A few other factors might have contributed to the defense's strong showing. For one, several key offensive players (including Kyle Murphy, Remound Wright, Ty Montgomery, Jordan Pratt and Kelsey Young) were held out of action. Additionally, the playcalling was intentionally vanilla.

"We constricted what each side of the ball is going to call," Shaw said. "You didn't see a whole bunch of reverses or trick plays on offense, you didn't see all kinds of crazy blitzes on defense. Because as much as anything, this is an evaluation of a lot of guys, of guys that are trying not to redshirt, so freshmen trying to show what they can do. We have some guys that are trying to either get a starting job or get into the playing rotation. So we wanted to make sure that we're still watching guys compete against each other and we're not really going scheme against scheme. We didn't do anything today that we haven't done for the last couple of years. So really, the day one, day two installation plays, we just wanted to see the guys play fast."

Running back: With Kelsey Young (minor ankle injury; expected to return next week - would have played if Stanford had a game today, Shaw said) and Remound Wright (has rejoined the team but not yet in full pads), Stanford had limited numbers at the running back position on Saturday. Barry Sanders, Christian McCaffrey and Ricky Seale more or less split carries. Each had his moments, but none clearly separated himself from the rest.

"I thought Ricky had two really good runs today, and then some ones that were just OK," Shaw said. "I thought Barry had a couple of nice moves and runs today and the other ones were OK. I thought Christian McCaffrey had some nice runs today and the other ones were OK. I think we have a group of guys that can all play. If we can get them to share time and every time they touch the ball you get their best, you get something special, and they start to feel like a group, like a tag-team wrestling team (where the attitude is), 'Hey, it's your turn, let's go get them'... Hopefully they'll start to get that and we'll get a bunch of guys playing at a high level."

Perhaps due in part to the absences at the running back position, the Cardinal's fullbacks were quite involved in the offense today. The Cardinal used a three-fullback package (Lee Ward, Patrick Skov and freshman Daniel Marx) on several occasions in short-yardage situations. Marx had an impressive six-yard (approximately) gain on a fourth down from the package; the first-team defense got penetration and stopped Skov. Additionally, both Skov and Ward recorded receptions on play-action passes.

As far as the big picture goes, Ward and Skov are already assured of receiving substantial reps this year; with a strong week of practice under his belt, Marx is now pushing to join them.

"He is (in contention to play as a freshman)," Shaw said. "He'd be one of those guys (where) it depends on what he's ready for special teams wise, depends on what we do as a unit. But the last few years we've actually have had to use three fullbacks at some point, whether through injury or just through game plans. He's right on that cusp. I think he's really come on the last week or so, also, along with Greg Taboada. Those two guys have really been trending upwards. And we'll see in the next week of practice and we'll see where we are health-wise, but also what else he does. If he can help us on special teams and he can help us on offense, he'll play."

Tight Ends: With Austin Hooper not participating, Greg Taboada, Eric Cotton and Charlie Hopkins each received reps with the first team. Taboada had a strong performance, capping what Shaw said was an excellent week of practice.

Taboada hasn't necessarily overtaken Eric Cotton at the 'F' tight end spot (Austin Hooper is the starter at the inline 'Y'), but he is expected to make significant contributions this year.

"I think it's just showing us that we have another guy that can make plays," Shaw said. "I think we rewarded him by letting him go with the ones more today. Eric went with the twos for a little bit and then got some with the ones also. The bottom line for all those guys, we're going to play them all. I'm just excited we're actually being able to go back to two and three tight end sets, which is great. So for me, similar to the running backs, let's find out what they all can do and do well and give them opportunities. I'd imagine we're going to play four tight ends this year, at least, and that's not even including Dalton if Dalton plays. If Dalton plays then it's five. I think Charlie Hopkins has had a good camp. There are some things that he does really well for us."

According to Shaw, the primary factors standing in between Schultz and playing time as a true freshman are "just knowledge and experience".

"Let's see how fast we can advance him," Shaw said. "And if he doesn't make it, there's no pressure on him to because we have a good group of guys. You saw him jump offsides today, he missed a block today, so those (are) freshmen things that get you. But you also saw him run up the seam and make a heck of a play. You see him in the passing game, he's a difference-maker. He's hard to cover. But he's also a physical run blocker. There's no pressure on him to play, necessarily. If he's ready, he's ready. If he's not then we'll get him stronger and ready for next year."

Quarterback: Kevin Hogan led Stanford to its only two scores of the day, and was generally solid. He completed the majority of his passes and did not throw an interception.

Stanford's other quarterbacks struggled to find a rhythm, however. Each of the backups threw at least one interception, and none was able to string together multiple completions to consistently advance the offense down the field.

Offensive Line: With Kyle Murphy held out due to what David Shaw termed a minor arm injury, Nick Davidson was given an opportunity to start with the first unit.

First Team: Andrus Peat (left tackle), Josh Garnett (left guard), Graham Shuler (center), Johnny Caspers/Brendon Austin (each rotated with the ones), Nick Davidson (right tackle).

Second Team: Casey Tucker (left tackle), Dave Bright (left guard), Kevin Reihner (center), Brendon Austin (right guard), Nick Davidson (right tackle).

Third Team: Casey Tucker (left tackle), Dave Bright (left guard), Jesse Burkett (center), Lucas Hinds (right guard), A.T. Hall (right tackle).

*Later in the scrimmage, Hinds moved to left guard and Johnny Caspers slid over to right guard, replacing David Bright.

Casey Tucker and David Bright rotated in as extra offensive linemen with the first unit.

How does Shaw assess the progress of the offensive line group?

"I feel really good about where they are," Shaw said. "We didn't have Kyle today. He kind of hurt his shoulder the other day. He'll be back practicing next week. It was just wise to keep him out today. We're trying to get him ready for the season. But as a unit, from left tackle to right tackle, I feel good about where we are. We're not where we need to be by game one and certainly by game two because I think we have a lot of work to do. I've made a lot of comments about our line but I stand by every single one of them. Sometimes it gets reported, sometimes it doesn't, but I'll say it again: We're not quite where we can be and we're not quite where we're going to be, but we're working towards that because talent-wise it's an outstanding group. I think our communication has been good but not great. I think our execution has been good but not great yet. We're trying to make sure that by the time we play football games that count it's great."

Receiver: With Ty Montgomery and Jordan Pratt out (and Francis Owusu a late arrival), there were plenty of receiver reps to go around. Walk-on Rollins Stallworth might have had the most productive day of any wideout, catching three passes (several of which were on throws that were slightly off the mark and required Stallworth to make difficult grabs) for (very approximately) 35 yards.

As he has did several times last year, Michael Rector flashed in the downfield passing game, hauling in a 48-yard pass from Hogan. The ball was actually somewhat underthrown; Rector was able to out-jump defensive back Ronnie Harris to make the grab.

Back in full pads after being held out of a few practices due to precautionary measures, Devon Cajuste had another strong showing. He made a pair of catches, including the only touchdown of the scrimmage, and

  • The offensive players held out of the scrimmage due to injury, academic obligations, or for unspecified reasons, included Kelsey Young, Jordan Pratt, Reilly Gibbons, Brandon Fanaika, Thomas Oser and Remound Wright.



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