Farm Report: Shaw takes the blame
Stanford coach David Shaw opened his weekly press conference by volunteering responsibility for Stanford's struggling offense. The Cardinal ranks last in the conference in scoring offense and is No. 11 in total offense.
"My stance right now, honestly, is I've got to do a better job on offense giving guys chances to be successful," Shaw said. "And we need to change some things. You're going to ask for specifics. I'm not going to give you specifics. But my stance right now is we can't just continue to do what we've been doing. We have to make some changes. And it's got to come from me. I take the blame. There is a lot of criticism of our offense and I deserve it. We have too good of personnel in our three losses to score 10, 10 and 17 points. It's inexcusable with the guys we have."
"I have to do things to help our quarterback, who's won a ton of games for us and who has been successful. I have to help him get in rhythm, There are some things we can do to help him. There are things we can do to help our running game. There are things we can do to help our receivers and tight ends. We have guys that can make plays, we have guys that can score points. There are some things that we can do structurally. We're not talking about scrapping our offense - I'm not talking about that at all. But I'm talking about doing more to help our guys and hopefully that will be evident the rest of the year.
"We're too talented on the offensive side not to be able to score points."
Shaw thinks some of the team's struggles scoring points can be attributed to less than ideal utilization of the team's offensive personnel. He cited rectifying that as a key goal several times over the course of his press conference, and called it his "greatest concern" about the offense.
"In spots you've seen what our guys can do," Shaw said. "You see what Ty Montgomery can do with the ball in his hands. You've seen Michael Rector average 30 yards a catch for an entire season. You've seen Devon Cajuste repeatedly change field position. You've seen Kelsey Young break tackles and make big plays. You've seen our tight ends now from Cotton to Taboada to Hooper make plays and there's absolutely no reason why that can't continue for an entire game. We have to put those guys in position to effect the game and I'm not talking about throwing it every down. Because you've also seen Remound Wright break out as a runner. We have to get him to the second level. You've seen Barry Sanders get in space and make guys miss and be a productive runner. That's what's really eating me is the personnel that we have, there's no reason why we should score 10 points against anybody we play. So we're looking at structurally what we're doing and how we're doing it. We have to make sure that we give those guys an opportunity to effect a game."
Given that Stanford isn't planning to completely overhaul its offense in the middle of the season, how will the Cardinal's adjustments this week differ from those made in a normal week?
"I think it's what we take out and what we put in," Shaw said. "And what we emphasize and how we put guys in positions. And once again, the biggest thing for me is I have to utilize our personnel better. I just have to. I think Ty's averaging six catches a game. Not that we'll scrap the whole offense to give him 10, 12 catches a game - I don't want to do that - but I want to continue to give him the ball in positions where he can do something with it. I want to utilize Kelsey Young, need to utilize Barry Sanders, utilize Remound Wright for what he's done well. Have to utilize Michael Rector, our tight ends, we have a lot of guys that when we put them in positions they make positive things happen.
"We have to protect our quarterback. The times when he's protected, hey, he could have played better the other night. Didn't play terrible when you really look at the film and evaluate everybody. As I always say, the head coach and the quarterback are going to take the brunt of it no matter what when you lose a game. A lot of those things look like Kevin was wrong. He didn't play that bad. Not his best game but definitely not his worst game, either."
A quarterback change won't be one of the personnel tweaks Shaw makes this week. Though the Cardinal head coach has frequently praised backup Evan Crower's game-readiness, Shaw said the only two situations he currently envisions Crower playing are an injury to Hogan or if Stanford has a safe lead. In other words, Kevin Hogan's job is currently safe.
During ESPN's broadcast of the Stanford/Arizona State game, color commentator Rod Gilmore highlighted what he perceived to be Stanford running back Barry Sanders tipping whether the Cardinal was going to run or pass. Video showed Sanders scanning the defense for potential pass rushers on a pass play and staring straight ahead on a run.
Though he downplayed the impact of what the telecast depicted, Shaw did say that Stanford talks to its running backs about tipping plays and that Sanders was actually one of the team's more consistent players in scanning the defense on every play, not just passes, during training camp.
Additionally, Shaw said doesn't think that defenses have been able to key on Stanford's personnel/playcalling tendencies (i.e. certain players are generally in the game only for certain plays) to gain an edge.
"I don't believe so," Shaw said. "I think we look at our tendencies. I think they're pretty good. One thing I said early on, also, is I like building tendencies. That's a good thing. It's not necessarily a good thing not to have any tendencies. We look at our tendencies all the time and a lot of them are purposeful because at some point in time you'll break those tendencies but you'll break them when you want to. That's a philosophy I learned from Jon Gruden. You build tendencies, you build tendencies with personnel. Yes, we always do this in this personnel, yes this running back always does that. Great. If you can stop it OK, great. But at some point we're going to do something else. but it's not until we choose to do it. So tendencies don't bother me one bit."
Stanford's offensive line had a minor shake up on Saturday as redshirt junior Brendon Austin rotated at right guard with starter Johnny Caspers. Austin played four series against the Sun Devils, Caspers six.
"We'll see if we continue to do that at right guard," Shaw said. "I think (Austin) and Johnny Caspers are battling it out to a certain degree. I think Johnny has done well enough to stay in there and hold on to that job. I do. I think Brendon Austin has practiced well and came in and played pretty well outside of a false start that he had. We have some veterans there, Brendon Austin, that if we think they can help us we'll put him in there."
Shaw also praised redshirt freshman David Bright, who has played limited snaps as an extra offensive lineman in the team's 'Ogre' package.
"I think Dave Bright has come in and done a great job on in the role that he's had, that ogre position," Shaw said. "We'll continue to get him reps, not necessarily in the offensive line just yet, but where he is."
One of the more significant developments from Stanford's visit to Arizona State was an injury suffered by Cardinal nose tackle David Parry, who has easily been one of the team's best and most important players so far this year.
Parry suffered a leg injury late in the first half and did not return.
Fortunately for the Cardinal, Parry's injury is not considered a season-ender, but it is unlikely he will be ready for Oregon State.
"David Parry is not out for the season," Shaw said. "Most likely a week, maybe two. It would be great to get him back for the Oregon game but that would be questionable. I would say doubtful this week and questionable for next week."
Harrison Phillips and Nate Lohn will see increased playing time in Parry's likely absence. There will also be an ongoing competition in practice as Stanford's defensive linemen vie for playing time.
With Parry and Shittu - the team's top two nose tackles (Shittu is listed as a defensive end but was capable of playing the position) - Stanford does not have a ton of experienced personnel at the nose tackle position, but it does have several linemen capable of playing the spot.
"Harrison Phillips, definitely (can play the position)," Shaw said. "Nate Lohn can do it. Henry Anderson can do it. We have a bunch of guys that can do it. I always hesitate taking a great player from where he's comfortable in Henry Anderson and putting him to a place where he can do it but is not what we're typically seeing of him. In an emergency he'll go in and do it and he'll do a good job but (we're) really hoping that one or more of those other guys really takes over that spot until David Parry comes back."
Receiver Devon Cajuste, who missed the Arizona State game with an apparent concussion, could return to action this week.
"Devon is questionable leaning towards probable," Shaw said. "He's going through the progression. I believe he'll be on the field a little bit today and then if all things go well he should be hopefully full go tomorrow and then we'll see from there. Even if he is full go we'll still work him in relatively slowly."