WSU week: Notes and quotes

After Chris Owusu and Ryan Whalen returned in the USC game, there are only a couple of Cardinal injuries still up in the air. Scott Cooley has that breakdown and more in this week's Notes and Quotes...

Injury Report

After Chris Owusu and Ryan Whalen returned in the USC game, there are only a couple of Cardinal injuries still up in the air.

Tyler Gaffney has not played since Week 4 because of an ankle injury. When prompted about the chances of Gaffney playing this weekend, Jim Harbaugh said, "There's a chance."

Fellow tailback Jeremy Stewart has also been dealing with an ankle setback and hasn't dressed since Week 1.

While Harbaugh remains tight-lipped on the injury front, linebacker Chase Thomas shed some light on the questionable players. He said that the idle week allowed a few guys to heal.

"Get some injury guys back like [Tyler] Gaffney and Jeremy Stewart," Thomas said of the bye. "He [Gaffney] said he's not positive he's going to play this week, but that he could go if it was out of necessity. He said he's definitely doing a lot better."

Mini-Vacation

Stanford players were pleased to receive an unprecedented five days off from organized football activities during their idle week. Harbaugh said that he gave them extra time in order to catch up on their academic workload.

"It was greatly appreciated," Chase Thomas said. "I caught up on some much-needed rest and school work as well. He let us know earlier in the year that if we won a certain amount of games that we've have those days off, but none of us believed him. It was a nice surprise."

Monday was the first day back at practice and Harbaugh said the team was "sharp." Andrew Luck and Thomas mentioned many of the players got together for a Thursday, non-mandatory practice session where they ran through individual drills.

Going on a tangent, Harbaugh was quizzical as to why tests at Stanford were called "midterms."

"It's interesting they call them midterms here," he said. "It's not really the middle of the term, so I don't know how they call them midterms. How can you have a "midterm" when you've only been in school four weeks?"

The Most Interesting Cardinal on the Field

There's something about James McGillicuddy that puts a smile on everyone's face.

"He's a very dynamic guy. He's ever-lobbying to expand the Cuddy role," Harbaugh said.

We've seen him on the offensive line, we've seen him in the backfield and we've seen him run a pass route. Andrew Luck has told us that McGillicuddy incessantly begs for the ball. When asked when he was going to throw it to him, Luck said, "Never."

"He tells me every day he wants it," said Luck. "I threw a pass to him once in practice and he dropped it, in front of everybody."

"I've only seen two attempted passes. It's been the same route both times. He's dropped both of them," Andrew Phillips added.

"Cuddy's talking about a "Cuddy package" where he's in the backfield and gets the ball," said Harbaugh. "I said, ‘That's not a bad idea. If we get in a third-and-one situation it would be good to have a Cuddy dive,' and he said, ‘Well Coach, I was thinking of something a little closer to the goal line.'"

Harbaugh did mention that he believes McGillicuddy is more valuable and versatile in his role now than if he had won the right tackle job. And if you're curious as to why he changes numbers with frequency, it's because he has to wear a number within a certain range to be qualified as an eligible receiver.

The Stanford media contingent requested that McGillicuddy be available for next week's luncheon so stay tuned to "The Most Interesting Cardinal on the Field" watch.

Form Tackle

The "missed tackle monster" has escaped from the Cardinal closet, again.

The recent poor tackling may just be product of playing better offenses, but there's not much arguing that phase of the defense, at least temporarily, has regressed back to the second half of 2009 form.

"It wasn't our best game," Harbaugh said of the USC outing. "It's probably the only game though where we thought the tackling wasn't as good as it had been.

Chase Thomas admitted that the tackling hasn't been as sound in recent weeks. He stressed that was one of the things the defense emphasized during the bye week.

"We've gotten off-track of everyone running to the ball and wrapping up," said Thomas. "Yesterday everyone was running at the ball, bursting out of the stack and wrapping up on every tackle. I think the four or five days off definitely helped us get our legs back."

Pac-10 Expansion

The division alignments for the conference are expected to be announced this week. Harbaugh said that he had no preference as to what grouping he hoped Stanford would fall in, and was also indifferent on the subject of a neutral site for the conference championship.

There was one issue with the Pac-10 expansion Harbaugh did express an opinion on, however.

"The revenue sharing seems a bit odd," he said. "I don't know who cut that deal. We may need a better negotiator in these meetings than the last. It should be an equitable split. That's what being a conference is all about, right?"

Improvement Week

Harbaugh said that the coaching staff had a busy bye week, which he calls "Improvement Week."

"We always do a couple of things," he said. "We introduce some new concepts schematically. We work the second-teamers, the reserves, give a lot of reps to the 2's and 3's.

"We did some recruiting. We also studied Washington State and were ready with the game plan a day ahead of schedule."

Harbaugh said that the recruiting was done locally by attending some high school games.

A Speech for the Ages

During the USC broadcast, the commentators talked about a 900-word speech Harbaugh prepared and read to the team before the first day of practice. The scope of the talk was centered around all-world athlete Owen Marecic.

"It was really inspired by Owen," said Harbaugh. "It was a thought of what goes through his mind on a day of practice or a game. Competitors… what they think about or what they need to think about in order to be the best they could possibly be."

I asked for copy of the speech but Harbs quipped he was still editing so it wasn't ready for publication just yet.

"I passed out of freshman English in college so I think there's a little bit of talent there," he laughed.

Dray Day In his rookie season with the Arizona Cardinals, former Stanford tight end Jim Dray may be getting more playing time than Toby Gerhart. Harbaugh said that Dray was getting about 20 plays per game—15 on special teams and five on offense—and that his package was "growing."

During his NFL bye week, Dray visited Stanford during its idle week. He was on the field with the players during their non-organized Thursday practice, and talked to some of them afterward.

"He told us after the games he'll go find Stanford players on the other team like Coy Wire and Will Svitek when they were playing the Falcons," Andrew Luck said. "He said they talk about how much they enjoy watching us play and how fun it is to see us doing well."

YouTube Hits on "The Hit"

The counter read 1,102,629 at press time, and it's still rolling over.

Andrew Luck was already a football sensation but after drilling USC safety Shareece Wright, he's now a YouTube sensation. Just don't expect to see him on Tosh.0 anytime soon.

Luck called his lick "lucky," because Wright didn't see him coming.

"I did once," Luck said when asked if he'd watch the video on the internet. "My younger sister told me to go look at it so I've only contributed one hit I guess."

About the Author: Bootleg Senior Writer Scott Cooley has worked in the sports media industry throughout his professional career, including serving as a writer for an ESPN production house and a professional football franchise. His work has been published in multiple print and online platforms including ESPN.com. He currently writes for yours truly, as well as Bookmaker, Covers and Red Hott Locks. Cooley specializes in football, baseball and basketball with an emphasis on sports betting. Cooley and his wife reside in California, contact him at scottwcooley@gmail.com


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