Stanford's depleted defensive line corps received a needed dose of good news on Thursday with the successful return of starting nose tackle David Parry. Parry, who was held out of Wednesday's practice with what David Shaw termed a "lower abdominal issue," is expected to play this weekend.
"He felt better today," Shaw said. "I saw him running between periods… He felt great."
Inside linebacker Blake Martinez, who injured his knee before the Army game, also practiced on Thursday and will travel to Utah. He's likely to receive his first playing time since San Jose State.
"Blake Martinez did great today," Shaw said. "(It was) to the point where I (initially) wanted to take him as an emergency guy, (but) he'll probably see some snaps on special teams this week. He showed us that he can run and cover and change direction. He's wearing the knee brace. He feels great about it. We're looking forward to hopefully get him some snaps."
Meanwhile, redshirt junior defensive end Henry Anderson, who suffered a knee injury against Army, could start running as soon as next week.
"We're on track," Shaw said. "He has one more appointment with the doctors and if he passes the next test he's going to start running next week. So we're looking at hopefully a couple of weeks away.
"He's passed everything so far and he's just wearing the knee brace right now but it's a mobile knee brace. He's starting to move it now. The doctor's appointment will tell if he's completely on track and we'll go into the next stage which is more starting to run on the Alter G (anti-gravity treadmill) and all that stuff before we get on the field. If it's not ready than it will be another week but hopefully next week we'll start getting him going a little faster."
The ups and downs of the offensive line: Stanford is averaging 5.1 yards per carry so far this season, up from 4.4 a year ago. Offensive line coach Mike Bloomgren thinks the Cardinal's run game is on the upswing, but is disappointed that the offense struggled to close out Arizona State and Washington.
"What I'd say is we're getting better (in the run game)," Bloomgren said. "We're not where we're going to be. I think you'd see that we've had some guys make some great runs behind us and we've had some things that were well blocked. The negatives would be some of the times in the fourth quarter when we haven't moved the ball like I thought we should this year. And (we) certainly love the idea that our head coach is going to challenge us and put the game on our backs. We've closed out a lot of games but we've had two this year where we really didn't do a great job. I want to see us change that and go back to the dominant group that will run the ball against anybody at any time."
Sophomore offensive guard Josh Garnett was in the starting lineup when Stanford successfully closed out Washington State. Bloomgren was pleased with his performance.
"For a first start, (Garnett played) out of this world," Bloomgren said. "It was such a good step to see out of Josh. Nobody liked the reason why he was starting, obviously, but he took a very business-like approach all week and it showed. He went out there and performed very, very well for a first start."
Redshirt freshman center Graham Shuler still hasn't earned his first start, but he has played the first snaps of his college career this season. Bloomgren said that in addition to developing a continued understanding of Stanford's offense, Shuler has fared well in the limited snaps he has received.
"The thing that (has happened with Graham) since (earlier in the season) is he's played in football games," Bloomgren said. "And that's a big deal. And not only has he played in them, he's done well. He has an innate ability to drive people off the rock. Putting him in No. 95, you know, No. 95 in your program, No. 1 in our hearts kind of thing. It looks silly to have your center out there in 95, but man, he's doing a great job."
No word on whether Shuler will be targeted in the passing game like fellow offensive lineman Kyle Murphy, who doubles as a tight end, was earlier this season. That's not to say the Cardinal's offensive linemen wouldn't welcome the opportunity to show off their receiving skills.
"There's a lot of talk in our room," Bloomgren said. "There's everything from tackles thinking they should be playing tight end or be deep receiving threats to Cam Fleming saying that the reason we throw screens is to get athletes out in space so they can make blocks. They all want the ball a little bit but luckily they know their job is to block and protect."
Crank the music up: Stanford blasted music in practice to prepare for the raucous environment of Utah's Rice-Eccles Stadium.
"It got to the point, actually, my ears were hurting a little bit," Shaw said. "I had to go to the other side of the field because I was standing right by the speakers. Hopefully it was good enough to prepare us for the noise."
Though Shaw didn't play and hasn't coached in a game at Utah, he knows there will be an enthusiastic and loud crowd.
"I've just heard it's a great college football environment," Shaw said. "(It's) loud, the fans are into it. They're supporting their team. They get after you a little bit, which is what they're supposed to do. I'm looking forward to it."
Response to new facility: Two of Stanford's highest priority recruiting targets - Solomon Thomas and Casey Tucker - took unofficial visits to The Farm last week for the Washington game. While Shaw is not permitted to discuss specific recruits due to NCAA rules, he said that the new facility has been a hit with visiting prospects.
"Blown away is the response I would use," Shaw said. "Before now you could say that Stanford would never do something like that. Now, and it's not just because we've had success, it was the fact that it was time. It was time to upgrade our facilities and the makeover is astounding. Just to have that much space… the technology is phenomenal, which is what you expect being where we are. And the unbelievable images of all the guys and the success, the pictures of success that we can surround our guys with is really cool."
Emulating Wilson: Stanford rotated quarterbacks on its scout team but Ryan Burns "did a good chunk" of playing Travis Wilson, Shaw said.
Replacing Star: Utah's defensive line has weathered the departure of first-round draft pick Star Lotulelei and top sack artist Joe Kruger from last year's squad, Shaw said.
"(There has) not much of a drop-off," Shaw said. "Star was a superstar, no pun intended, but he was phenomenal. (But the current Utah defensive line is) really, really good. They play great with their hands. They get push in the pocket. They don't stay blocked. They get off the ball great. And once they recognize they shed offensive linemen. They knock guys back, they throw them on the ground and they make a lot of plays. That's one thing we have to be conscious of, we have to stay on our feet. We have to make sure that we are doing the pushing and not getting pushed. But that's going to help determine who's going to win the game, who controls the line of scrimmage."