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August 17, 2014

Open Practice Breakdown: Defense



After Stanford's defense limited the Cardinal offense to one touchdown and one field goal over the course of an hour-and-a-half scrimmage, David Shaw was understandably thrilled with the unit.

"I feel great about where we are defensively," Shaw said. "I think we're doing some really good things. I think our guys have taken it upon themselves to make sure there is no dropoff. And that's what I love, because it's not coming from me, it's coming from them. Because that's the question: can Lance Anderson take over for Derek Mason? Can you play without Shayne Skov and Trent Murphy, etcetera? Nobody is more proud of our guys right now than Shayne and Trent and those guys because they know we have the ability to be really good on defense. So I think our defense is getting ready to show that."

Defensive Line

First team: Henry Anderson, Aziz Shittu, Blake Lueders and David Parry

Second team: Nate Lohn, Alex Yazdi, Luke Kaumatule and Anthony Hayes

Third team: Solomon Thomas, Harrison Phillips, Lance Callihan

Stanford's defensive front had another strong performance on Saturday, and was led by fifth-year senior Henry Anderson, who has been dominant throughout camp.

"Henry Anderson just wrecks shop in there," Shaw said. "He's starting to get a lot of nicknames -badges of honor to the defensive linemen - like homewrecker. He's been awesome, just awesome."

Anderson, Parry, Lueders and Shittu have cemented themselves as Stanford's top four linemen. Stanford has yet to finalize the other two members of its defensive line two-deep, though Luke Kaumatule could have the edge on the fifth spot in the rotation.

"There is still great competition there," Cardinal defensive coordinator Lance Anderson said. "Luke Kaumatule recently has done some really good things in terms of pass rush and is still getting better with his base techniques. Nate Lohn has made some progress and is playing well. Alex Yazdi is a real competitor in there. He's a little bit undersized but gives you everything he's got and is a real technician. I think those are some of the guys in competition there. We're really happy with the freshmen, Harrison Phillips and Solomon Thomas. Whether they can get there and be ready by the start of the season we'll see, but the competition continues."

Phillips and Thomas each made plays during the scrimmage. Phillips beat his man to sack Ryan Burns, and also recovered a fumble. Thomas got good penetration on several plays, and forced at least one hurried throw.

Linebacker

First team: James Vaughters (OLB), Kevin Anderson (OLB), A.J. Tarpley (ILB), Blake Martinez (ILB)

Second team: Peter Kalambayi (OLB); Torsten Rotto (OLB), Sam Shober (OLB) and Mike Tyler (OLB) rotated in at the second OLB spot. Noor Davis (ILB), Joe Hemschoot (ILB), and Kevin Palma (ILB) rotated at the second-team ILB position.

Third Team: Craig Jones (ILB), Jordan Perez (ILB), Sam Yules (ILB), Mike Tyler (OLB), Joey Alfieri (OLB)

Several linebackers made drive-altering plays over the course of the open scrimmage. A.J. Tarpley recorded one of the defense's four interceptions. Peter Kalambayi and Sam Shober registered sacks. Blake Martinez made a tackle on a well-timed blitz, and Kevin Palma made his presence felt with several tackles that limited the offense to short gains.

While Martinez in particular has garnered more than his fair share of rave reviews throughout camp, the inside linebacker competition for the spot opposite A.J. Tarpley is still too close to call. Martinez, Davis, Hemschoot and Palma remain under consideration for playing time.

"It's really close and I haven't really put any pressure on it because I've seen four guys that are ready to play," Shaw said. "Blake Martinez has been awesome. I've been so impressed with him. I think he's been great. I think Noor Davis is playing his best football. I'm excited to see him play in games. He's been playing like that Butkus Award winner coming out of high school. It's been exciting to watch him play. I think both of those guys are playing at a high level. And Kevin Palma, I think has kind of surprised some people. He's a guy that's about 250 but he moves just like the guys that are 230. He's quick and explosive and been filling up holes. I really feel good about those four and then Joe Hemschoot. I believe Joe Hemschoot is going to be able to help us on third down and nickel but also inside and outside as an outside linebacker. Really, all five of those guys are going to play. With these hurry-up offense you can't have A.J. Tarpley out there for 70 plays against a no-huddle offense. He'll die. So those guys have to rotate. And as a coach, I feel good that we can rotate those guys and not worry about who is in there. I trust those guys going in there and playing when the game counts."

Tarpley, of course, was one of Stanford's defensive standouts yet again.

"A.J. Tarpley, again, (he's) just always around the ball, making the calls," Shaw said. "Guys have so much confidence in him. He's become such a leader. A.J. had a phenomenal day I thought, from what I saw."

At outside linebacker, Kevin Anderson and James Vaughters are the clear starters, Peter Kalambayi the top backup. Shober, Rotto and Tyler continue to compete for minutes behind that trio; Hemschoot could be the wildcard of the group. He has played the outside linebacker position in the pass, and could bring a different athletic element to the unit should Stanford decide to move him outside.

Defensive backs

First Team: Wayne Lyons (CB), Ronnie Harris (CB), Kyle Olugbode (S), Jordan Richards (S), Zach Hoffpauir (Nickel)

Second Team: Alameen Murphy (CB), Ra'Chard Pippens (CB), Alijah Holder (CB), Kodi Whitfield (S), Zach Hoffpauir (S), Dallas Lloyd (S), John Flacco (S)

Third Team: Alijah Holder (CB), Terrence Alexander (CB), Taijuan Thomas (CB), Brandon Simmons (S), John Flacco (S), Dallas Lloyd (S), Denzel Franklin (S), Calvin Chandler (S)

Alex Carter did not participate in the scrimmage because he had to take a summer school final, but he has been given a clean bill of health.

"Alex is cleared 100 percent," Shaw said. "If he was here today he would have scrimmaged today. His recovery has been mind-blowing. Mind-blowing. Between his work ethic, his maturity, and the body that he has been blessed with, for whatever reason, he's come back ridiculously fast. We haven't rushed him, it's just his body. He has hit every heck mark way ahead of when he should. So he's cleared. He's 100 percent. No holding back on him. He's ready to practice full-go next week."

Three defensive backs made interceptions in the practice: Ra'Chard Pippens, Terrence Alexander and Brandon Simmons, who picked off Keller Chryst on the scrimmage's final play. Alexander also showed off his physicality, making a forceful open-field tackle on 247-pound fullback Daniel Marx.

Fifth-year senior Kyle Olugbode got the start over Kodi Whitfield at safety, but the competition between the two players for a starting job is still ongoing.

"It's really close between (Kyle) and Kodi," Shaw said. "I think experience wise (Kyle) probably has the edge on Kodi, but Kodi is making play all over the place. In the same vain, who starts the game, I don't really care. They're both probably going to play about the same amount. You'll see Kodi rotate in there with the ones and play great with the ones. I think he has a chance to be a phenomenal football player."

Special Teams: Jordan Williamson made one of his two field goal attempts; Williamson was wide from 50 yards, and hit a shorter attempt.

Ty Montgomery and Christian McCaffrey took reps returning kicks. Barry Sanders, McCaffrey and Montgomery rotated in returning punts.


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