Spring Practice: Day Five

The fifth day of spring ball was also the third straight practice in full pads, which again gave us a good look at the tackling of this defense and the effectiveness of the offense. One very important player returned to action, but unfortunately one was lost. For all the latest news and notes, read on...

The highlight news of the day was the return of Amon Gordon to action, as he participated in his first practice of the spring.  Four practices behind his position mates, Gordon is starting off on the second string at the strongside end.  Too early to tell how he stacks up against the others in the group, but the clear standout of the day was Louis Hobson, who had a dominating performance.  He ripped through the offensive line for several tackles for losses in the 11-on-11 scrimmage at the end of practice.  Hobson is bigger than ever, but is also as healthy and mobile as we have ever seen him at Stanford.  If Wednesday's practice was indicative of the player he can be this fall, and someone healthy enough to stay on the field, Stanford's pass rush may be legit...

Is is also noteworthy that with Gordon back in action, the defensive end group now numbers six players: Gordon, Hobson, Julian Jenkins, Will Svitek, Michael Lovelady and Taualai Fonoti.  But even with Gordon's return Wednesday, the defensive interior maintains just its four members.  If somebody is going to be moved inside, I'll expect it this week or not at all this spring.  Speaking of inside, Babatunde Oshinowo is the player who is causing the most havoc in practices across the entire defensive line, and he recorded more sacks Wednesday.  My only concern about the Chicagoland freight train is how many snaps he can muster in a game.  At his size and with the full-out motor he pushes every play, you can see him slow to get up after a series of plays where he has run around in the offensive backfield.  Stanford needs legit depth for him at nose tackle, even when he stays healthy.

Overall, the defense pretty well dominated in this practice.  So much so that the entire offense did a series of up-and-downs at the end of practice as the team huddled with Buddy Teevens.  The age-old question presents itself, though: Is this defense actually approaching top-level play?  Or does the defense just look so good because the young offense is so bad right now?  I think there is some of both, but it's hard to tell when you face yourself everyday...

Other highlights on the defense included big plays from Leigh Torrence and T.J. Rushing in the secondary.  Torrence made back-to-back interceptions, the first of which he scraped just off the ground on a missed communication between the quarterback and receiver in motion.  The second was a play straight-up in pass coverage, as Torrence lunged for the pass just in front of Justin McCullum on the sideline.  Fantastic play.  Rushing made his big plays on tackles, with a pair of bigtime sticks that surprise you coming from his diminutive frame.  No question he is stronger than we saw last fall, and already looks a little more confident moving around on the field.

In the linebacking corps, Michael Craven is still dinged up and was not even on the sideline for today's practice.  Capp Culver participated in some drills, but with the yellow cautionary jersey on, he did not line up in the full scrimmage action.  Coach Tom Williams made some interesting adjustments as a result, including playing a pair of the middle linebackers on the field at the same time.  I saw several reps with Jake Covault and Brian Gaffney on the field together.  Also of note, I saw a really nice stick by Mike Silva up the middle on a running play.  Great solo tackle behind the line of scrimmage.

On offense, the most interesting schematic wrinkle was that the team added the option to the package Wednesday.  The quarterbacks worked early in practice on footwork drills for dropping back, sidestepping, and tossing the ball out to the side.  The play made its way into scrimmage action a few times, but it's too early to tell if this is a trick deep in the proverbial bag, or instead a legit tool for this offense.  It certainly makes sense, given that the offensive line may have problems holding a pocket for the quarterback, and our running backs right now look their best running outside the tackles.

One exception to that RB comment would be a very revealing play today from Kenneth Tolon.  The coaches have been concerned that he cannot run up the middle, and only breaks his best gains when he bounces the ball outside.  But Wednesday, Tolon took a ball between the tackles and showed that his burst and acceleration can find seams inside.  The play had the offensive linemen trapping to the right; Tolon took the handoff and followed the center, then making a lightning quick cut back to the left.  It was probably the most encouraging thing I've seen from the running game in full pads/contact this spring.  

Brett Pierce continues to do just about anything he wants when he catches the ball.  One memorable play had him haul in the pigskin out of the flat, only to be met by Timi Wusu along the right sideline.  Pierce stopped on a dime, and took the would-be tackling Wusu with his free arm.  Pierce whipped him around his body and over his crouched back, almost like a ragdoll.  And this is a reasonably physically imposing Wusu we are talking about.  The play just made you marvel at the size and strength Pierce is playing with today.

On the offensive line, coach Steve Morton delivered as he promised Monday, with David Beall getting the start at first string left guard.  In Josiah Vinson's absence, Jeff Edwards has a solid hold on the first string right guard, backed up by Tim Mattran.  The positions seem pretty settled right now, with Matt McClernan and Jon Cochran backing up Kirk Chambers and Amon Gordon to action, as he\r\nparticipated in his first practice of the spring.  Four practices behind\r\nhis position mates, Gordon is starting off on the second string at the\r\nstrongside end.  Too early to tell how he stacks up against the others in\r\nthe group, but the clear standout of the day was Louis Hobson, who had a\r\ndominating performance.  He ripped through the offensive line for several\r\ntackles for losses in the 11-on-11 scrimmage at the end of practice. \r\nHobson is bigger than ever, but is also as healthy and mobile as we have ever\r\nseen him at Stanford.  If Wednesday's practice was indicative of the player\r\nhe can be this fall, and someone healthy enough to stay on the field, Stanford's\r\npass rush may be legit...

\r\n

Is is also noteworthy that with Gordon back in action, the defensive end\r\ngroup now numbers six players: Gordon, Hobson, Julian Jenkins, Will Svitek,\r\nMichael Lovelady and Taualai Fonoti.  But even with Gordon's return\r\nWednesday, the defensive interior maintains just its four members.  If\r\nsomebody is going to be moved inside, I'll expect it this week or not at all\r\nthis spring.  Speaking of inside, Babatunde Oshinowo is the player who is\r\ncausing the most havoc in practices across the entire defensive line, and he\r\nrecorded more sacks Wednesday.  My only concern about the Chicagoland\r\nfreight train is how many snaps he can muster in a game.  At his size and\r\nwith the full-out motor he pushes every play, you can see him slow to get up\r\nafter a series of plays where he has run around in the offensive\r\nbackfield.  Stanford needs legit depth for him at nose tackle, even when he\r\nstays healthy.

\r\n\r\n

Overall, the defense pretty well dominated in this practice.  So much so\r\nthat the entire offense did a series of up-and-downs at the end of practice as\r\nthe team huddled with Buddy Teevens.  The age-old question presents itself,\r\nthough: Is this defense actually approaching top-level play?  Or does the\r\ndefense just look so good because the young offense is so bad right now?  I\r\nthink there is some of both, but it's hard to tell when you face yourself\r\neveryday...

\r\n\r\n

Other highlights on the defense included big plays from Leigh Torrence and\r\nT.J. Rushing in the secondary.  Torrence made back-to-back interceptions,\r\nthe first of which he scraped just off the ground on a missed communication\r\nbetween the quarterback and receiver in motion.  The second was a play\r\nstraight-up in pass coverage, as Torrence lunged for the pass just in front of\r\nJustin McCullum on the sideline.  Fantastic play.  Rushing made his\r\nbig plays on tackles, with a pair of bigtime sticks that surprise you coming\r\nfrom his diminutive frame.  No question he is stronger than we saw last\r\nfall, and already looks a little more confident moving around on the field.

\r\n

In the linebacking corps, Michael Craven is still dinged up and was not even\r\non the sideline for today's practice.  Capp Culver participated in some\r\ndrills, but with the yellow cautionary jersey on, he did not line up in the full\r\nscrimmage action.  Coach Tom Williams made some interesting adjustments as\r\na result, including playing a pair of the middle linebackers on the field at the\r\nsame time.  I saw several reps with Jake Covault and Brian Gaffney on the\r\nfield together.  Also of note, I saw a really nice stick by Mike Silva up\r\nthe middle on a running play.  Great solo tackle behind the line of\r\nscrimmage.

\r\n

On offense, the most interesting schematic wrinkle was that the team added\r\nthe option to the package Wednesday.  The quarterbacks worked early in\r\npractice on footwork drills for dropping back, sidestepping, and tossing the\r\nball out to the side.  The play made its way into scrimmage action a few\r\ntimes, but it's too early to tell if this is a trick deep in the proverbial bag,\r\nor instead a legit tool for this offense.  It certainly makes sense, given\r\nthat the offensive line may have problems holding a pocket for the quarterback,\r\nand our running backs right now look their best running outside the tackles.

\r\n

One exception to that RB comment would be a very revealing play today from\r\nKenneth Tolon.  The coaches have been concerned that he cannot run up the\r\nmiddle, and only breaks his best gains when he bounces the ball outside. \r\nBut Wednesday, Tolon took a ball between the tackles and showed that his burst\r\nand acceleration can find seams inside.  The play had the offensive linemen\r\ntrapping to the right; Tolon took the handoff and followed the center, then\r\nmaking a lightning quick cut back to the left.  It was probably the most\r\nencouraging thing I've seen from the running game in full pads/contact this\r\nspring.  

\r\n

Brett Pierce continues to do just about anything he wants when he catches the\r\nball.  One memorable play had him haul in the pigskin out of the flat, only\r\nto be met by Timi Wusu along the right sideline.  Pierce stopped on a dime,\r\nand took the would-be tackling Wusu with his free arm.  Pierce whipped him\r\naround his body and over his crouched back, almost like a ragdoll.  And\r\nthis is a reasonably physically imposing Wusu we are talking about.  The\r\nplay just made you marvel at the size and strength Pierce is playing with today.

\r\n

On the offensive line, coach Steve Morton delivered as he promised Monday,\r\nwith David Beall getting the start at first string left guard.  In Josiah\r\nVinson's absence, Jeff Edwards has a solid hold on the first string right guard,\r\nbacked up by Tim Mattran.  The positions seem pretty settled right now,\r\nwith Matt McClernan and Jon Cochran backing up Kirk Chambers and