Stanford's preseason Mackey Award watch list tight end Luke Kaumatule has switched positions. In fact, Kaumatule is no longer playing offense.
Lacking defensive line depth due to the injuries suffered by Henry Anderson and Ikenna Nwafor (and receiving only minimal contributions from their younger linemen), Stanford moved Kaumatule to defensive end after the Utah game.
"It's what we recruited him as, a defensive lineman," Stanford coach David Shaw said on Tuesday. "He was very good at it. He was playing tight end because I asked him to. He was willing to do whatever we needed. We as a staff foresaw last year coming; we figured Levine (Toilolo) and Zach (Ertz) were both on course to graduate, both probably leaving… knew we had three young tight ends coming in that may or may not be ready to play. Charlie (Hopkins) hadn't been healthy in two years, and moving Charlie to tight end, there was one guy that we knew was big enough, physical enough to at least play the position and Luke hasn't caught a lot of passes but he's played well. He's really coming off probably his best game.
"Coach Mason approached me and with Henry being down our guys are playing a lot. The young guys at those positions are doing OK but we needed a spark and that's Luke. Luke's going to give a spark. We felt his energy even last night at the non-padded practice. So he gives us length and athleticism. I don't know how much he's going to be play but there's a chance he's going to grow into a contributing role there on defense."
Is the move permanent?
"Today, yes," Shaw said. "And I told him the other day too, which is if we have an injury issue at tight end he can always come back over. We're not going to change anything drastically while he's on defense. He can come back over and save us if he needs to. But between what Charlie did this past game, what he's done, and we use Kyle Murphy, we've used Graham Shuler now, we've used a bunch of other guys. Davis Dudchock came in and played a little bit and is looking to have a more significant role going forward. He's done a great job in practice. So to help our defense we had to do it and then now with the way Charlie played last week and where Davis is, not to mention our tackles that help us out there we should be fine on offense."
Shaw didn't move Kaumatule until the two talked it over.
"The decision wasn't made until I talked to Luke and I felt Luke out about if he was seriously against it we wouldn't have done it," Shaw said. "Luke's response to me was 'sounds like fun'".
Though Kaumatule's move leaves Stanford low on experienced tight ends, the Cardinal doesn't plan to burn the redshirt of one of its trio of true freshmen at the position.
"I would say they're close (to being ready to play) but I don't want to take their redshirts away for six games plus," Shaw said
Kaumatule's move from offense to defense wasn't the only notable change on Stanford's pre-UCLA depth chart. Sophomore defensive lineman Aziz Shittu was noticeably absent from the two-deep.
"He's OK," Shaw said. "He's not injured. It's just moving Luke over there… he's still technically on the depth chart, he's just not on the two-deep necessarily. Those guys know, all of them, that we need help on the defensive line. I think Ben Gardner has played great, I think Josh Mauro has played extremely well. I think David Parry when he's played has been good. We need more from the other guys. That's why we moved Luke over. We have to create some more competition and it's got to show up in practice before it shows up in the game."
Anderson still a few weeks away: Stanford defensive end Henry Anderson "should be running this week," David Shaw said, but is still several weeks away from being ready to return to play.
"Once he runs on the field and his knee doesn't swell on him we know we're on track," Shaw said. "The next few weeks are going to be interesting, to see if he's back for maybe Oregon, maybe the game after Oregon. He's been on schedule, maybe slightly ahead of schedule. We're going to push him the next couple of weeks and see where he is."
No second-guessing playcalling: When asked if he regretted not running on either third or fourth down on Stanford's last drive at Utah on Saturday, Shaw declined to speculate on how the play calling could have been different.
"Every play call that doesn't work gets second-guessed somehow," Shaw said. "I can't worry about that. We've won a lot of close games here and we've called good plays in those games. And the games that we don't win, the play-caller gets second-guessed, and I don't lose a bit of sleep over it. Because you prepare, you train your guys, you call the plays that you believe are going to work.
"To go back and second-guess doesn't help us, doesn't help the players… we teach them and coach them on the plays that were called and work on the execution."
Shaw said that Utah's defense dictated Stanford's decision to turn to the passing game on third and fourth down.
"We were efficient running the ball, but they were really, really tight," Shaw said. "I mean, they were coming down hill. So we showed them two big personnel groupings to hopefully inspire them to play tight, and then we tried to spring Ryan Hewitt into the flat, which everybody's been asking for, and they jumped it.
"And then we tried to come back with a boot, show run and get Kevin on the edge, we gave him a run-pass option. The only possibility was to throw it high back-shoulder to the tight end, which was the only safe play because the corner ran underneath it and the other guy jumped Ryan Hewitt in the flat and they didn't let the backside guy come across, kind of cut him off.
"And Kevin couldn't run because there was somebody coming at him, so he put the ball in the one safe place, which would have been a miraculous catch by the tight end, but it's the safest place to throw the ball. And then we came back and tried to spread them out and he's got four one-on-ones and he's got to try to buy time and find a way to get one of those guys a chance to get catch the ball."
Owusu vs. Montgomery: Stanford's kick return unit has featured two of the best returners in college football in the last few seasons. Prior to enduring health problems, former Cardinal wide receiver Chris Owusu was a dynamic returner; he tied a conference record by returning three kickoffs for touchdowns in 2009.
Montgomery is threatening that mark this season. He's already taken a pair of kickoffs the distance, and has nearly scored on several other plays.
How does Shaw compare the two players as return threats?
"(They're) very, very similar," Shaw said. "Chris is top speed faster. Chris was (one of the) fastest (guys) at the combine two years ago in the 4.3's. Ty's low-4.4's. Ty's stronger. Ty has better balance. If Chris had a seam he was gone. Ty doesn't need that much of a seam because he can still get bounced, he can spin and put that foot back on the ground and get back up to full speed. He's like a great running back that can run routes and play receiver."
Sizing up UCLA: UCLA quarterback Brett Hundley ranks ninth nationally in total offense and is completing over 68 percent of his passes. He's thrown 12 touchdowns against four interceptions, and, Shaw said, is playing with a level of maturity rare for a young signal caller.
"There's never a point in any game this year when he looks uncomfortable," Shaw said. "He's not a young quarterback anymore. He doesn't get surprised, he doesn't get flustered, even when he gets rushed you see him escape with composure. He'll still keep his eyes down the field for a couple of steps then either throw it or tuck it away and run. You see him slide and get down which is smart. He's a very, very good quarterback and he's going to be a starter on the next level before too long."
For as critical as Hundley is to UCLA's offense, senior outside linebacker Anthony Barr is an equally effective playmaker for the Bruins' defense. Barr, who bypassed the NFL Draft last season, has 27 tackles and four sacks so far this season.
"It's going to sound like buttering up before we play them," Shaw said. "I know that's what it's going to sound like and if this gets to Coach Mora I hope he doesn't take it like that. Just watching football the kid is unbelievable. As good as he was last year he's better. He looks bigger, stronger, faster. He's not as tall as Jevon Kearse but he presents the same problems that Jevon Kearse brought. He's so quick, so explosive, but he's got power. A lot of those really fast guys that just pass rush around the edge, you can run them around the quarterback. This guy can come back inside. He can bull rush a tackle and knock him back to the quarterback. You get him out in pass coverage and he can cover guys. He can run down the field with guys."
"He's the best defensive player we've probably seen in this conference the last couple of years. I don't think it's close.
After watching Barr last season, Shaw didn't expect Stanford would have to contend with him against in 2013. The Cardinal head coach figured Barr would declare for the NFL Draft.
"I thought he was gone," Shaw said. "After what he put on film last year he was going to be a top-10 pick. There's no question about it. To come back now and to get stronger, bigger, faster, and to be playing at an even higher level, it's a credit to yes the caching staff there, but it's a credit to the young man and his character."
Shaw stopped short of criticizing the roughing the passer penalty assessed to Stanford's Ben Gardner in the first half of Saturday's game, but made it clear he was not in agreement with the call.
"The rule is it's a judgment call," Shaw said. "It's a 100 percent judgments call. I think it's obvious to detect which side I'm on. It was a judgment that it was unnecessarily roughness.
"We've hit a lot of quarterbacks here. And the flags that we've gotten up until this point were deserved. James Vaughters last week, unnecessary roughness, late hit on the quarterback, no question. Ed Reynolds, helmet-to-helmet on the quarterback, no question, ejection, ejected the first half of the next game, no question. We had a discussion about this last one."
Stanford linebacker Joe Hemschoot, who weighed 208 pounds when he first arrived at Stanford, is now up to 221 and has emerged as one of the Cardinal's top special teams tacklers. He's also received increased playing time in Stanford's defense at both the nickel and inside linebacker positions.
On Saturday, Hemschoot recorded the first interception of his career and had the opportunity for a big return, but tripped over a "turf monster," the Colorado native joked.
"It was man coverage," Hemschoot said. "They threw the bubble I was sprinted out to tackle it. One of our guys hit him so it bounced off his hands and landed in my lap, kind of. Unfortunately I fell, but that would have been nice to get the six."
Starting nose tackle David Parry was held out of practice on Monday and Tuesday practice but is expected to return tomorrow and play on Saturday. Parry is dealing with a nagging abdominal injury.