More changes are still surprising us on the field as we started the second week of spring football, this one coming out of necessity rather than strategic planning. With Josiah Vinson out for the spring with a broken ankle, that leaves just nine able bodies to man the ten spots on the two-deep of the offensive line. The Stanford coaches decided over the weekend to fill that void by making the second move in less than a week for fifth-year senior Drew Caylor. Caylor had been moved at the inception of the spring from defensive end to the interior tackle positions, but today donned a #73 jersey and played center for the first time in his college career.
"He didn't even know the plays today," said offensive line coach Steve Morton. "All we could do was shout 'Go left!' and 'Go right!' to tell him where to go. Drew had never snapped to a quarterback before in his life, but he did pretty well today. No missed snaps. He's a senior and very mature. I mean, right now he has more game line of scrimmage snaps than any one else in our group other than Kirk Chambers. That feel and experience counts for a lot. And Drew is very athletic. We have to get the best five guys out there - any way, shape or form. We owe it to Drew to get him a shot at this, and I think he has a chance to make us better."
Don't write Caylor in on the depth chart at center just yet, though. Morton will be reviewing today's film and then give Caylor some reps at center early Wednesday before trying him at other positions on the OL. Caylor of course has spent time at offensive tackle at Stanford, in addition to his time at the various spots on the defensive line. In reflection upon the moves Caylor has made throughout his Cardinal career, you can't help but be impressed by his athletic versatility, which many coaches through the years have extolled. And you also have to raise your glass to his consummate team ethic, eager and enthusiastic for any chance to help the team.
One corollary effect of moving Caylor is that the defensive interior now runs just four deep across the two positions, and that has elevated Ian Shelswell to regular duty in the second string at nose tackle. This is a player who a year ago didn't conceptually understand the difference between offense and defense in the game of football, but today he is being asked to mature in a hurry. No longer just a player who Stanford has to hope will 'slowly come along' or just help in goalline defensive situations, Shelswell is needed to step up in that regular rotation.
Returning to the offensive line, the first string right guard slot vacated by the injured Josiah Vinson was filled Saturday by Jeff Edwards, and he stuck there Monday. Edwards is big enough that he could play out at tackle, but has the mobility and feet to be a very good guard. He, like all the freshman, is experiencing his share of growing pains though and had a pair of missed blocks today that let a linebacker get into the offensive backfield. Over at the left guard, Ismail Simpson again held the first string position. Simpson was easily the least publicized of the scholarship signees in the 2002 offensive line class, but now at his lower weight, he has regained the quickness that made him jump out on film in high school to the Cardinal coaches. Morton hails Simpson's quick feet, but is careful to caution observers against the conclusion that the Oklahoma lineman has a lead over David Beall at the position. "We've been switching them so far and will continue to do so," Morton explained after Monday's practice. "Wednesday, you'll see David start out with the first string. He really works his butt off and is very much in this competition." Brian Head and Mike Sullivan continue to hold down their starting spots on the line, and of course Kirk Chambers is a lock at left tackle.
In the linebacking corps, Michael Craven donned a yellow jersey Monday and stood on the sidelines during full contact work. That left the first string duties to Capp Culver, though late in practice he banged up his right shoulder and sat out the remainder of the practice, with an ice bag taped to his shoulder. That pushed freshman Mike Silva up two spots on the depth chart, letting him play alongside David Bergeron. Good experience for the freshman. Speaking of the LBs, several good plays by Bergeron and Brian Gaffney today. Bergeron had a nice INT and a run stuff, while Gaffney sniffed out a pass and broke it up with a clean swipe at the ball at the last second. Nice veteran play.
One change that you might have expected was a return for Grant Mason to the offensive side of the ball. Mason has told me that the deal he made with Buddy Teevens was for a look at cornerback for a few days, but that he could be moved back to wide receiver immediately thereafter. Monday's practice was the first of the second week of practice, an obvious point of demarcation that would have. And for the record, early though it may be with T.J. Rushing just finding his way back into the mix in this his first practice, Mason was manning the first string right cornerback position with Leigh Torrence on the left. Rushing and Calvin Armstrong are the second pair of corners, with Stanley Wilson still out of contact work.
In other depth chart news, Chris Lewis is still throwing the most consistent balls of the quarterback competition, and has a very firm lead today for that starting spot. I believe that Kyle Matter and Trent Edwards are the next two behind Lewis, with David Lofton running fourth. Matter is putting the ball farther down the field than he did last fall, but I am still troubled by the extra steps he takes and his wider-sweeping throwing moti