Monday afternoon, the David Lofton Receiver Era began at Stanford as the 6'4" freshman athletic wonder lined up for his first practice as a Cardinal wideout, after spending his redshirt season and first three weeks of spring at quarterback. Stanford has a history of making star wide receivers out of quarterbacks, including the move just two years ago of Teyo Johnson, who is days away from becoming an NFL draft selection, possibly as high as the third round. Before him, the Cardinal have had a number of NFL wideouts who arrived on The Farm as signal callers: Justin Armour, Gene Washington and (of course) James Lofton. Given that David's father went through this same position move some 27 years earlier, it was a natural that son would consult with dad on the move.
"He kinda wanted me to stick it out a little longer at quarterback," David says of his father's advice. "But with the way the the snaps were going, I felt like I needed to find another way to get on the field. I'm a competitor, and I saw an opportunity right now at receiver to get in the mix. Especially with some of the injuries we have."
Lofton says that the low repetitions he received at QB in Saturday's scrimmage were a final push for him to make the move. After talking it over with his father, the younger Lofton wanted to talk to the offensive coaches immediately. He marched up the stairs of the Arrillaga Family Center to the football offices and set out to find Buddy Teevens, Bill Cubit and David Kelly for a series of conversations, but as luck would have it found the three of them huddled together in the same office holding an offensive pow wow. "I told them that I wanted a shot at wide receiver, and they were immediately receptive," Lofton recalls.
One advantage for such a move with the current offensive coaching staff is that the offensive coordinator in David Kelly is also the receivers coach. As such, Lofton was already involved with Kelly in team meetings and during passing drills in practices. "I think I already have a good feel for him because of the work this spring," the newly converted WR opines. "The difference now is that he is directly my position coach and will have more specific directions for me. It won't be much different. He's someone who demands discipline at all times on the field, and he's big on perfection. I'm good with that, and I know he will get everything he can out of me."
So how was the first day as a receiver, not just at Stanford but in David Lofton's football career? "I thought I'd have more trouble catching the ball then I did," he admits. "I've never played receiver before in my life, but I know all the formations already, which helps. I was getting a little winded at first, though - we don't have to run this much as quarterbacks (Lofton grins). But blocking is something I really need to work on. That's for sure."
When asked about his assets that he brings to the receiver position, Lofton replies that his all-around athleticism and size should make him a valuable contributor. He notes that he is the tallest WR on the team, at which point I fire back the question: taller than Justin McCullum? With a big grin Lofton answers, "I'm a little taller than him. He's got a few pounds on me, but I'm faster." Sounds like a challenge to me, Justin!
On the question of weight, Lofton reports that he currently tips the scales at 215 pounds, which is a significant increase since his 200-pound entry weight last summer. At like his entire freshman class, he has seen tremendous strength gains to go along with the weight increase. Lofton sheepishly admits that he was squatting about what he could bench when he set foot on The Farm, but he has since added 75 pounds to his squat max (now 420 pounds). He has also increased his bench 45 pounds (now 315) and his clean by 30 pounds (now 300). "But my legs are what have really gained the most," he reveals. "I started Coach Forbes' program the summer before I got here and it totally changed my legs. I don't think guys realized how skinny my legs had been until they saw my high school highlight film.Lofton figures he'll likely shed five or so pounds just with the added running he now requires as a receiver.
As for the long term prognosis, it is too early to tell if this is a permanent or semi-permanent move. He calls it "short term" for now, but it is difficult to see a scenario by which he would make a complete move back to quarterback later in his career. Lofton was already a relatively raw QB, with just one year at the position in high school and some scout team work in his redshirt year at Stanford. To pick up the reins a couple years down the road after an extended absence from work at the position would be a tough trick to pull off. Especially at Quarterback U, where the elite of the elite flock to The Farm just about every year. But Lofton does say that the offensive coaches want him to still take a few rep's at quarterback in preparation for some option and gadget plays. Teyo Johnson did some work in a similar vein during fall practices the last couple years, though the plays Lofton would run are likely of a different flavor...
The new receiver walked out onto the practice field Monday for the first time without his signature yellow jersey, which all quarterbacks wear to signal that they are off-limits to defenders. He had told just a very few people about the move after it was agreed upon Saturday afternoon, and that made for some surprised double-takes from teammates Monday. "I think the guys were pretty surprised, but they were all encouraging," he says. "I know the quarterbacks will miss me, especially in team meetings. I think I brought a little spice to those."
Additional note: The timing of this move is eerily similar to that made by Teyo Johnson two years ago. Johnson was also a raw quarterback brimming with athletic ability who saw no repetitions beyond the scout team in his redshirt season of practices. He could not crack the top of the depth chart the following spring and made the jump to wide receiver for the last week of that spring. But one very notable difference between these two moves is how they happened. In this instance, Lofton brought the move to the coaches. In 2001, Tyrone Willingham and his staff told Johnson that he needed to move to another position - the quarterback experiment having failed. He was told he had two choices where he could play going forward at Stanford: wide receiver or outside linebacker. Given that Johnson did not like tackling or defense, which the coaches well knew, the move to WR was a quick though begrudging decision. Johnson told me that he was never happy with how quickly he was moved away from QB, where he was promised in high school he could play at Stanford, and that left some angst and friction thereafter. Lofton is moving of his own volition, which hopefully keeps him a happier and more productive member of the team through the remainder of this Cardinal career.
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