The first week of spring practice for the reigning Rose Bowl champion Stanford football team also marked a first for quarterbacks/receivers coach Mike Sanford. Sanford, who played quarterback during his playing career at Boise State, was Stanford's running backs coach for two seasons before being promoted to quarterbacks/receivers coach in the offseason.
Sanford said that he's enjoyed his first few days working with the new position groups, even if there has been somewhat of a transition period.
"It's a really fun group to work with," Sanford said. "Coach Shaw and myself are really enjoying the process of working together in developing a lot of young talent at both positions. I wouldn't say it's been seamless, I think any time you jump to a new position or a position that you haven't spent a lot of time with like the receiver group for me, I think it's an exciting time, it kind of puts you a little bit out of your comfort zone. It stretches you as a coach, but it makes you really excited about the ability to develop and the opportunity to develop young talent."
And there is plenty of "young talent" at both quarterback and receiver. Redshirt freshman Kevin Hogan, is one of the conference's top young quarterbacks, while several impressive, albeit unproven, athletes highlight receiver.
At quarterback, there is some uncertainty behind Hogan (and Josh Nunes, who will miss spring ball with an injury), however. Perhaps the best of the backups is redshirt sophomore Evan Crower, who was efficient throwing the ball during Saturday's open practice.
"Evan's playing at a high level right now," Sanford said. "This is (as well) as he's played. He's not 100 percent consistent, but Evan's such a cool customer in the way he operates in the pocket. I think the biggest thing is sometimes he's so cool that we want him to kind of make everything that he does, every drill game-like, and he's doing that now. It's pretty exciting to see what he's doing. He had his best practice since he's been here according to Coach Shaw and myself on Thursday, so that was good to see."
Freshman Dallas Lloyd wasn't as sharp throwing the ball on Saturday, but did display his athleticism on a scramble during one of the scrimmage sessions.
"Dallas is doing a good job," Sanford said. "Just learning how to be in the right body position as a thrower all the time and just trusting his read, keeping his eyes downfield. He is such a good runner that I think a lot of times he does like to turn to escaping the pocket, but he's doing a good job. He's working at it. It's a process."
As for the receiver position, a number of underclassmen will vie for playing time. Though Stanford lost its top five receivers from last season (Drew Terrell, Jamal-Rashad Patterson, Stepfan Taylor, Levine Toilolo and Zach Ertz), there is hope for the future of the position.
Sanford singled out a pair of receivers for their performance in the first week of spring ball.
"In the first week Michael Rector ran some awesome routes," Sanford said. "He just has to be consistent in knowing his assignments, but being a guy that we can use in multiple positions, he's been really good.
"(Also) Ty Montgomery has done a really good job. He's been catching the ball well. He had a circus catch today on the back shoulder in a big situation. He's playing at a high level. Ty's one of those guys that I think is just excited to get back to just being out and playing the position and not worrying about the external stuff, but just playing football and being a leader."
A healthy Devon Cajuste hasn't disappointed, either.
"Devon's been good," Sanford said. "He can use his big body in so many different ways. He's such a big guy and he's moving well side-to-side and doing a good job. Devon's another guy, he's played enough where he feels comfortable out there and is starting to be able to do different things and different roles. He's been having a good couple of days, been pretty consistent."
Though he didn't have the recruiting pedigree and hasn't received the hype of some of the Card's other receivers, Jeff Trojan was arguable Stanford's most productive wideout during the open practice. He could be a player that emerges along the lines of previous Cardinal walk-on wide receivers.
"Jeff's possibly one of those guys that emerges," Sanford said. "The last couple of years there's always been some guy that you just feel he's always in the right place at the right time, he runs the right route, he runs a crisp routes, he catches the football. He gets positive yards. He's a really natural receivers. He plays the position kind of like it's supposed to be played. He's doing a good job and he's been working in with the ones."
As for the rest of the receiver group? Kodi Whitfield has built on his freshman season, Jordan Pratt has been solid, and Conner Crane and Dontonio Jordan have had their moments, Sanford said.
"Kodi (Whitfield has) done some really good things," Sanford said. "Kodi is a smart football player. For having been in the system less than a year, he has a good understanding of what we're trying to do systematically and asks good questions and he's playing football at a high level right now. So he's one of the guys that's emerging as for sure. Conner (Crane) and Dontonio (Jordan) have had their flashes, just working on consistency and growing up and being guys that we can consistently count on. Then [/db]Jordan Pratt[/db] too, he's done some nice things. He's a big body. He caught the ball well today. He's been pretty good."
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