Notes: Several shine in open scrimmage
RELATED: Detailed practice observations
The question took Stanford head coach David Shaw all of about half a second to answer. And on the heels of Bryce Love's explosive five-carry, 77-yard, one-touchdown performance, all 500 or so fans in attendance at Stanford's open scrimmage on Sunday probably would have arrived at the same conclusion
Does Love have a shot of breaking into Stanford's running back rotation this year as a true freshman?
"Yes," Shaw said.
Love showed his 4.4 speed by blazing through the Cardinal defense for a 65-yard touchdown run. On an earlier play, he made several tacklers miss and took a carry for 15 or so yards.
While Love, who could also contribute on special teams, had a strong showing, he's not the only Cardinal freshman who could see playing time this year.
"I think we have eight or nine freshmen that could," Shaw said. "The question we get to, is will it be worth it? That will be the big question for all of those guys. I love our defensive backs right now. They have the ability to play. But we wager, OK, should we play them four or five plays a game or hold them? If it going to be more than that? Great. If we can find a role on special teams then great. It is worth it to play four or five plays on offensive or defense and then play seven or eight plays on special teams - now you are playing in the game. It's worth burning that redshirt year. Those are the discussions we'll start to make. But there is a group of freshmen right now that look like they are ready to play now. We'll see if we have roles for them."
Stanford won't make those decisions today - or even necessarily prior to the season opener on September 5th.
"We still have a week of practices. We still have a couple of double days coming. We still have some tough stuff coming up first. This is not the end of training camp. This week is going to be hard. So we're going to throw some more stuff at these guys and put them in some tough positions and see who responds and see who's ready. And for me, it's not a positive or a negative. It's just, you know what? This guy look like he's ready, acts like he's ready, knows what to do, and we have a role for him. Then we'll play him."
"My thing is usually (making a final decision on redshirting at) four games. If a guy hasn't played by four games usually it's not worth it. Now, we've broken that a couple of times. We broke it with Aziz Shittu and we broke it with Harrison Phillips because of injury. We were past four games into the year and when David Parry got hurt and another guy that was hurt and we had to play Harrison last year. Aziz's freshman year, same thing, two guys went down. We had already basically kind of decided to redshirt him. And I had to come to him and say, 'OK, if you don't want to play and want to redshirt, that's fine.' But he said, 'No, coach, if I get a chance I want to play.' That's how those things happen. But usually four games (is my cutoff)."
While Love's explosive play opened eyes and generated buzz, Stanfor's veterans - led by fifth-year senior signal caller Kevin Hogan - also played well on Saturday. Hogan completed 8-11 passes for 100 yards and a touchdown. Another apparent long touchdown pass to Michael Rector was blown dead due to a sack. (Since quarterbacks are off limits to defensive players, sacks can sometimes be a somewhat subjective occurrence in scrimmage situations.)
"From where I was, there were a lot of positives on both sides," Shaw said. "Kevin has continued from really the Cal game on last year. His spring was good, he's in rhythm. He's making great throws. We missed a lot of deep balls last year. He's just more comfortable right now. You saw him hit Rector, you saw him hit Owusu, you saw him hit the tight ends down the middle. And you combine his athleticism as a runner and (ability as a) deep ball thrower, it's been exciting. It's been exciting all training camp so far.
Shaw also addressed the performance of a number of position groups:
Offensive line: "OL wise I think we did a good job. Not a great job but a good job against a pretty good scheme. They were getting after us pretty good. I think we're coming along there.
"We're kind of a week behind competition-wise because Nick Davidson was out for a week, he's back now getting in the competition. David Bright was out until now. He's finally back into he competition. Those guys really haven't made it in a competition up until now. This week coming up is a big week for all those guys to rotate in there and see who's ready to play."
Defensive line: "I love where we are on the defensive line," Shaw said. "That's our biggest quote unquote question. Aziz has had a really good training camp, Solomon Thomas has had a really good training camp. Brennan Scarlett continued on today getting in the backfield three or four times. Harrison Phillips didn't make as many plays today, but I think he's progressed very very nicely. He's one of those guys too that he's going to play out of position for us to a certain degree. He's going to play the nose and play an end position and he's doing a great job there. I think those four guys right now are giving us what we're looking for. We still need depth. Watkins tweaked a groin a little while ago but he's back. He actually looked really good in practice the other day, did better today. So hopefully he can get to the point of rotating in."
Linebacker: "I thought our linebackers were really solid today once again. I haven't watched the film but just the feeling of guys not missing tackles, guys taking good angles. Hard to say who played great there.
Defensive back: "i thought we had a couple of really nice plays although we let a couple of big ones go down the field," Shaw said. "It's hard to tell: Is it our guy was out of position or was it that the quarterback made the perfect throw and the guy made a great catch? Some of those things I think will continue to come."
Fullback: "(Daniel Marx) is exactly what we were hoping he was going to be," Shaw said. "He is physical. He is smart. He can catch the ball out of the backfield. He is athletic enough to tip toe around those blocks and then get back down and be physical. He has to pull a lot of guards, he has read a lot of stuff before he can make his block. He is one of those guys that gets absolutely no publication. I appreciate you asking a question about him because nobody talks about the fullback. But we are excited about him. He has all the tools you are looking for to play at that position on this level and the next."
Backup quarterback: "None of them are where I would love for them to be but I think that's why you coach," Shaw said. "I think they've both progressed. I think they both missed some throws today that we'd love for them to make. But it's the trials and tribulations of having young quarterbacks. We'll see. We're putting it to them pretty good. They're getting a ton of reps. The work today was really good. We'll evaluate what they did. Both guys hit some big plays, both guys missed some big plays. There's really nothing to report really probably until a couple of games into the year, honestly."
Keller Chryst completed 7-of-11 passes for 96 yards, Ryan Burns 4-7 for 51.
Though a number of projected contributors were held out of Saturday's practice due to injury, Stanford should be close to full health within the next week.
Offensive linemen Nick Davidson and Dave Bright, who have missed parts of camp, are fully cleared. Safety Brandon Simmons, who did not participate on Saturday due to an unspecified injury, will return on Monday. Kodi Whitfield and Devon Cajuste should be full go soon as well. (Shaw was not asked about a return timeline for Kevin Anderson, but he's not thought to be seriously injured.)
"It looks like we should be pretty close to 100 percent healthy by mid-week next week," Shaw said
Though Michael Rector doesn't have any injury issues, his status for Stanford's matchup against Northwestern is still in doubt. Rector returned to practice earlier this week after missing time due to a disciplinary issue, but Shaw declined to comment on his availability for the season opener.