Fall Practice Day 1: Mike Sanford

Despite the opportunity to coordinate Western Kentucky's offense and call plays, new Cardinal running backs coach Mike Sanford - a former offensive assistant with Stanford - made the move back West earlier this year to take over the reins of a talented group of backs. Read on for Sanford's take on the Cardinal's explosive running backs group, as well as his decision to return to Palo Alto

Below is the transcript of the Bootleg's one-on-one interview with Sanford.

The Bootleg: To start, because I don't think we've talked to you since you returned to Stanford, what was the process with you leaving Western Kentucky and coming out West?
Mike Sanford: Well, it was quite a long process. I talked to Coach Shaw, he called me the night he got the job and I thought that was a good thing, but of course, with the way things go, it took a while. He had a lot on his plate, getting things in order and finishing out the recruiting class and all that, so I didn't hear from him for like another 40 days or something. Basically that next phone call was saying that hey, I had been offered the job.

TB: What was the thought process for you behind accepting the offer?
MS: Well, you know I had a chance to coordinate [at Western Kentucky] and call plays, which was a great opportunity, but at the end of the day, sometimes you feel like you have a lot more to learn, I'm sure you always feel like that, and I felt like coming back here and being under Coach Shaw and his offense, and continuing to learn and advance in the West Coast system was going to be very beneficial to me. And also, learning more from Coach Hamilton, from what Coach Pep brings from his background, which is different than the West Coast offense but very similar, and I feel like I'm continually learning more every day.

TB: You were an offensive assistant here a few years ago and now you're back. What are some of the main differences you've witnessed with the new coaching regime and just the increased visibility?
MS: I saw the inner workings with what we were doing in the recruiting world, and I saw the program was really on the verge of changing and there was definitely some culture changes and I think at the end of the day it just comes down to getting better football players. And we've done that. It's just night and day where we're at personnel wise, and because of the kinds of kids we're recruiting, they love football, so we don't have to do a lot of the same stuff that other programs do in terms of just poking and prodding your kids to do the right thing.

TB: It's not a bad situation to come into, either, as the running backs coach, with Stepfan Taylor, Wilkerson, maybe four guys that could probably start at a lot of other places. What are your thoughts on where the running back group currently stands?
MS: Today was impressive, especially from the top four, the top four or five. It was actually fun to see Tyler Gaffney out here, he looks great. And then obviously Stepfan is exactly who we think he is, and that's just extremely productive, reliable, and just a great back. Anthony took a while to get warmed up today, but he looked really good. Patch [Jeremy Stewart], his body is as good as it's been. He's healthy.

TB: Gaffney didn't have the biggest role last season. Do you foresee that maybe changing this year, it looks like he's recovered pretty well from baseball, maybe gotten back up to football size maybe a bit more quickly?
MS: Yeah, I liked what I saw. I didn't really know much about him other than really I liked the play that he had (last season) against Oregon State on the screen. He seems like a change of pace type of back than can really get to full speed in a hurry. We'll just have to see. He still has to learn a lot. He's never had a full cycle to learn our system, and it's not a simple system, regardless of what position you're in. In a way, this is kind of his spring ball. These first four days are his entire spring ball condensed into four days and then it's time to get into fall camp world.

TB: There are also several exciting young guys, Remound Wright and Kelsey Young. Did you see anything from them today, and what are your expectations for them this year?
MS: Kelsey I think is a taller, more explosive back. I think he's got a lot of upside, so I'm anxious to see what he can do. I think he's swimming right now a little bit, but a very productive back and a very fast player. Remound, I really liked what I saw from him, he's got a lot of natural ability as a runner, and obviously he's built compact and low to the ground. I'm excited to watch both those guys, and Remound looked pretty good today.

TB: With the running back rotation this year, do you feel Stepfan is pretty firmly entrenched as that No. 1a guy, or is going to be all six of those guys competing, and if so be it, each guy gets five carries a game?
MS: Well, I'd say because of what he's done already and how good of a spring he had and the impression he had on our new staff, he's a very solid first string running back, but I think we have 1a, 1b, 1c, we really do have that, and we're just going to have to find roles for each one of those guys. They are versatile. It'll be fun to watch each one of those guys find their roles, and we're always looking for places to put guys into spots, as you guys know, with offensive linemen and put them in packages and what not. We're going to do the same thing with the running back position.

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