Photo credit: gostanford.com
By: Ana Kieu
There’s just over two weeks before Stanford’s season opener against Northwestern on August 31 at 1 p.m. in Stanford Stadium.
While many jobs are up for grabs, things are becoming clearer for David Shaw, the Bradford M. Freeman Director of Football, and his coaching staff after last Sunday’s open scrimmage.
“All in all, good on both sides,” said Shaw. “It’s physical and it’s competitive.”
Here’s a position-by-position update from Tavita Pritchard (Andrew Luck Director of Offense), Kevin M. Hogan (Quarterbacks Coach), Lance Anderson (Associate Head Coach) and Willie Shaw (Director of Defense).
“We’re still not sure who the first five will be,” Pritchard said. “Overall, the group has been pretty darn good. Guys have a better understanding of the system and the things we’re trying to get done.”
Standouts have been tackles Walker Little, Foster Sarell and center Drew Dalman.
“We expect a big year out of Walker,” said Pritchard. “We need him to play like an elite tackle. Depending how things shake out, we hope to be able to keep Foster at right tackle. He’s comfortable out there and has made some big strides. Freshman Walter Rouse is also playing well at tackle.
Dalman takes over for Jesse Burkett at center.
“We’re excited about the leadership role that he’s taken on,” said Pritchard. “We need that center to be the heartbeat of the unit. The guys take their cue from him and he’s done a phenomenal job of stepping into that role.”
Although 10 players have been practicing, the guard spots are up in the air while returnees Devery Hamilton and Henry Hattis and freshmen Bragg Branson battle through injuries. Dylan Powell is also in the mix.
“You may see a few different combinations that first game,” Pritchard said.
As expected, Connor Wedington and Michael Wilson have excelled.
“It’s good to have a guy like Connor to direct the troops,” said Pritchard. “Michael played a ton of snaps on special teams and offense last year…as many total plays as we’ve had a true freshman play. He works hard and has refined his skills as a receiver.”
Wilson was busy on Sunday and snagged a touchdown pass from Jack West.
Osiris St. Brown has been limited in camp, but Pritchard has big plans for him this season. The same with Simi Fehoko, one of the fastest players on the team.
“Osiris is a game changer,” he said. “We’ll use him to attack defenses and he knows our system. Simi is working hard to become a complete player and his ceiling is extremely high.”
Elijah Higgins, a 6-3 freshman, impressed in the scrimmage.
Junior Colby Parkinson (6’7″, 251 lbs) is bigger, reduced his body fat, and is having a strong camp. Scooter Harrington and Tucker Fisk will also play key roles.
“Harrington is versatile inside and out and someone we trust,” Pritchard said. “Fisk has grown a ton since the beginning of last season and has a chance to be an exceptional blocking tight end with the ability to catch the ball and run. I wouldn’t want to tackle him.”
Pritchard said Dorian Maddox had a great offseason and has developed into an every-down back. “He does everything well,” he said.
Pritchard likes the versatility of fifth-year senior Cameron Scarlett and the explosiveness of Trevor Speights. Freshmen Austin Jones and Nathaniel Peat have also received opportunities and impressed with speed and quickness. Peat caught a well-thrown swing pass from Davis Mills and motored for a long score.
“Those two young running backs showed us exactly what we thought when we recruited them,” Shaw said.
K.J. Costello looks to pick up where he left off last year, establishing himself as one of the best in the country. He has been sharing time with Mills, sidelined most of the past two years due to injury.
“It’s been good to give Davis some reps with 22 guys out there,” said Pritchard. “He’s coming along with the mastery of our system and progressions.”
Since spring practice, the theme for the quarterbacks has been to execute with precision.
“I want to see mind-numbing efficiency,” he said. “Don’t get bored making the right decision. We want to be machine-like on every play. The explosive plays are going to come.”
With that mind, the Cardinal playbook has been modified.
“It’s all relative,” said Pritchard. “I think we probably still run a more complex system than most teams with what our guys are able to handle.
“In years past, we’ve carried a lot of volume. A big offseason project for our staff was to ask ourselves what we hang our hats on, what’s our foundation and core plays, and make sure we get really, really good at those.”
Anderson saw many good things last Sunday and hopes to keep building.
“The guys played hard and there was a lot of energy,” he said. “Guys played with passion, which we love seeing out there. There were a lot of positive plays and things we can learn from.”
Anderson lauded the efforts of Jacob Mangum-Farrar and Curtis Robinson.
“Jacob made a number of plays and has been doing that since spring ball,” Anderson said. “Curtis looked good making the transition to inside linebacker.”
Anderson has experienced players who are excited to step up.
“We really need to improve and respond,” he said. “We’re really not that young anymore. This is the fourth year in the program for Jovan Swann, Michael Williams and Thomas Schaffer. Swann is having a nice camp and Thomas Booker played a lot last year and is bigger and stronger.”
Anderson said Schaffer’s play has been a pleasant surprise and also singled out Ryan Johnson and Dylan Boles.
Casey Toohill, Jordan Fox and Gabe Reid have separated from the group so far. But they’re being pushed by Thunder Keck, Andres Fox and freshman Tobe Umerah.
“Andres is a good pass rusher and he’s long and athletic,” said Anderson. “Same with Tobe.”
This group started training camp with the least experience of any position, but continues to progress. Returnees Andrew Pryts and Ryan Beecher saw limited game action last year, but sophomores Magnum-Farrar and Ricky Miezan shined in spring ball and are expected to carry the load.
“Jacob has all the tools you look for and becomes a better football player each day,” Anderson said. “Ricky has been hurt but we hope to get him back next week.”
Kendall Williamson and Stuart Head helped themselves in the scrimmage at free safety and strong safety, respectively. Both showed good speed and came up quickly against the run.
With several players nursing injuries, Noah Williams and J.J. Parson are making the most of their opportunities.
“They came here as walk-ons and earned scholarships,” said Anderson. “They do things right and whatever you ask.”
Returning All-America Paulson Adebo is having a strong camp and Obi Eboh is the other front-runner while Treyjohn Butler and Ethan Bonner get healthy. Freshmen Kyu Blu Kelly, Zahran Manley and Salim Turner-Muhammad will all vie for playing time.
Anderson wants his defense to be more physical and it has demonstrated that in 10 practices. He also wants to minimize big plays.
“A lot of our issues were poor tackling,” Anderson said. “We’ve tried to address that since the spring.”
Shaw has instituted more one-on-one tackling periods, with tight ends going against outside linebackers, running backs going against inside linebackers and wide receivers going against defensive backs.
“I think it’s really helping,” said Anderson.
The Cardinal dedicated more than an hour on Tuesday to listen to a great message from Shan Foster, former Vanderbilt basketball player who played in the NBA and was the 2008 SEC Player of the Year. Foster’s message centered around relationship violence and redefining manhood. Foster spoke to the Cardinal — both football and men’s basketball programs — about holding their teammates and brothers accountable in the process. He ended by talking to the teams about using their influence – at home, around campus and in the locker room — to change how women are viewed, treated and respected in society in an effort to end relationship violence.
The public is invited to attend Sunday’s practice from 3-5:20 p.m. at Elliott Field. Afterward, freshmen and sophomore players will conduct a clinic for kids 18-and-under from 5:40-6:15 p.m. From 6:15-7:00 p.m., juniors and seniors will sign autographs.
Many pregame activities are scheduled prior to kickoff for the Northwestern game. Located near the hammer throw area at Cobb Field, activities will include a petting zoo, rock wall climbing, face painting, a bounce house and chalk talk. Food trucks will be available and Fan Fest runs from 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.
The first AP poll is scheduled to be released on Monday…In a Sports Illustrated poll of the Greatest College Mascots of All-Time, the Stanford Tree was ranked No. 5…Freshman Joshua Pakola has been moved from outside linebacker to defensive end.
“He looks like an action figure.” — Tavita Pritchard on Colby Parkinson