A welcome addition to the Stanford football roster greeted Stanford assistant coach Tavita Pritchard on Monday as Pritchard and the Cardinal kicked off the second session of spring ball. Running back Tyler Gaffney, back on the gridiron after taking a year off to play professional baseball, participated in his first football practice in more than a year.
"He looked good," Pritchard said. "It was just getting back to football for him. I know he was excited to be here. Everyone's excited to have him back. It's good, because now we have the full group here. We have a lot of good backs."
A rare dynamic exists between Pritchard and Gaffney. Both played on Stanford's 2009 Sun Bowl team, for which Gaffney had 22 carries and Pritchard 22 pass attempts. The transition from fellow player to coach/pupil might be unusual, but Pritchard doesn't anticipate it being uncomfortable for either party.
"It's a unique situation for sure, but I enjoy it because I look at this as these are guys that I always hoped that I had kind of a leadership role with, and so I hope it's not too much different," Pritchard said. "It's all about mutual respect anyway, and Stanford guys are all for that. It's a good situation."
"He's very mature," Gaffney said. "Everyone treats him as coach. He's great. He knows what he's talking about. He knows ball, and he could move himself as a quarterback, so when he's talking about reads and how to make cuts, he knows exactly what he's talking about. There's no dropoff from there."
Cardinal Sports Report asked Pritchard to comment on the players who will be in the mix to earn a spot in the committee of running backs who will strive to replace Stepfan Taylor next fall.
Pritchard on Anthony Wilkerson and what he hopes to see from Wilkerson for the remainder of spring: "Just to continue to be consistent," Pritchard said. "He's a guy, like last year he had a lot of injuries. And that wasn't anything he could control. That was some freak stuff in there, and so it's just about being kind of an every-down guy and just being able to be a consistent with everything we do."
Pritchard on Jackson Cummings, and what Cummings needs to do to challenge for playing time: Jackson has a tremendous work ethic," Pritchard said. "He's a guy that does exactly what he's coached to do. He's a guy that, we talk about controlling things that you can control, and he's the epitome of that. He comes out to work every day, it doesn't matter what group he's with, and he just goes. I think as he continues to do that he'll find himself in situations to where he can continue to earn trust with the coaches, and I think that's what it's all about, just continuing to do what he's doing."
Pritchard on Barry Sanders, and where Sanders can improve: "Similar to (Anthony Wilkerson) in that he's got to be consistent, but it's only different because has to stop making young guy mistakes. With Wilk, it's just making every rep his best rep. With Barry J, he's got to make sure he's not having brain farts and not making a mistake, a big mistake that's going to hurt. He's got to make sure he's continuing to get in his playbook and study and make sure he's a guy you can rely on when it's third down and he's got to know which backer to get. And he's coming along nicely."
Pritchard on Ricky Seale's performance so far this spring and moving forward: "Loved what we saw from Ricky in the first session," Pritchard said. "Obviously the unfortunate injury at the end kind of held him out, but was loving what he was doing. He's a guy that's got to continue to expand what he does. He's kind of fulfilled a niche in this offense, but he's got to keep improving and he is doing it, of kind of everything we do in our running game."
Pritchard on Remound Wright's niche in the offense: "Remound's niche is really he's a really good all-around back," Pritchard said. "He does really everything we ask him to do in terms of all of our different schemes, be it zone or our gap scheme. So he's a guy who is consistent. He's got to continue to improve his pass blocking, who he's working to and being able to punch guys and whatnot and stunt their rushes, but he's doing a nice job. They're all doing a nice job and the big thing is just consistency from everyone."
Though his time on the recruiting trail itself has been limited (Pritchard was only the road for a short time in January after his initial hire), Pritchard has already begun to make his mark as a recruiter for Stanford. He's the primary point of contact for several 2014 Cardinal recruits (including Devante Downs, Tay Evans, and Auston Anderson, among others), and seems to be enjoying the recruiting responsibilities.
"It's exciting," Pritchard said. "And it's the same reason I'm so excited to still be here, because I can genuinely sell the heck out of this place, because I believe in it so much and I can speak to my experience, and so I feel 150 percent on board when I'm talking to a parent or a potential player, because I believe in this place so much and believe in the people around here."