Pre-Fiesta Bowl interview: Mike Sanford, Jr.

They're often times overshadowed by the brilliance of Andrew Luck, but Stanford's running backs and fullbacks have played key roles in the Cardinal's success this season. After a recent bowl practice, The Bootleg caught up with running backs coach Mike Sanford, Jr. to discuss those position groups, and the development of a pair of exciting true freshman tailbacks.

The Bootleg: With the running backs, how much has the extra rest benefited your position group, compared to some of the other groups? How much have they needed it?

Mike Sanford: I feel like we haven't needed it much, but it's great to have them fresh as always. The way we've been practicing all year, the way we've been playing in games using all of them, four of them and three fullbacks, we have seven guys that are continually playing in games and in practice. That's the biggest benefit of rotating backs is that we've been fresh. We're probably one of the only position groups that's been entirely fresh the entire season, and that's been encouraging, but they're even fresher now. There's times I see a burst of speed that you may not have seen Week 11, Week 12 of the season, so it's been good.

TB: With the two true freshman, Remound Wright and Kelsey Young, what have you seen from them in their development this year, starting with Remound?

MS: Remound has done a great job. He came in here and was light years ahead of some guys mentally and physically, and he's really been working on his pass protection on the side and after practice with me. That's probably going to be his biggest adjustment to playing the college game, but as a ball carrier he's so low to the ground and he's been impressive in every scrimmage. This time of year is very important for our football program going forward. What we do towards the end of practice is we always get our freshman scrimmages, and Remound has been shining all year.

MS: Kelsey is a guy that we're going to have to find ways to get the ball for next year. He's that speed player, whether he's playing in the slot, whether he's playing in the backfield, whether he's returning kicks, he's fast. He's the guy that's going to pace us with some of those teams that we play that have that guy, the De'Anthony Thomas type player. He's going to be that burst of speed that we need.

TB: Was there any temptation to burn Kelsey's redshirt?

MS: I don't think so. I think his learning curve was pretty steep. He was a guy in high school offense they just got the ball to. What he had to learn was how to play without the ball. And he's doing a better job with it, especially getting such a good education of football at numerous positions. He's been practicing at two, three different positions and done very well at it. He's a guy that's going to play for us because we don't have speed like him on this roster up and down. We have some guys that can run, but he's a different, change-of-pace kind of a player. We didn't think about it, but I think we're excited about his future.

TB: With the other backs, you said they are fresh and you have some time now will the bowl practices, do you try anything else out with them? Is bowl preparation a time when you can really test their limits, see what these guys can do?

MS: Yeah, we're always going to have some stuff up our sleeve. The worst thing for football coaches is to give us a bunch of time to prepare for a game and of course our creative energies start combing across our offensive staff, so we're going to have some good stuff, just like Stanford did last year. It was an exciting time preparing and there was some great stuff that came out in the bowl game. So we're just going to do what we do, continue to do our formula of winning football games, but if we find different ways to get certain players the ball, we're going to do that.

TB: Finally, with the fullbacks, Patrick Skov unfortunately suffered a recent injury, but with Lee and Geoff, these guys haven't been at Stanford playing the position for that long, how have they progressed as the year has gone on, what you have seen in the younger fullbacks development?

MS: Those three guys that have been playing this year have been phenomenal. What Geoff Meinken has done in multiple roles, in certain games like Oregon State when we were down to one tight end, he and Ryan Hewitt have absolutely saved the day. Lee Ward as well. The three of those guys have played at a really high level. A lot of it goes unnoticed. Everybody is starting to catch wind of what Ryan Hewitt has done, but those other two guys have pulled a weight in a great fashion for us, and it's a lot of the reason we've been able to do what we've done.

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