The swelling in Stanford fullback Ryan Hewitt's bruised knee has finally subsided. That means there won't be a single player held out for medical reasons during the Cardinal's season opener versus San Jose State Saturday.
"This is the first time I can remember [this being the case]," head coach David Shaw said after practice.
Good fortune is involved, of course. But so are Stanford's cutting-edge strength and conditioning techniques, which have already managed to slash injury rates 87 percent since the beginning of the Jim Harbaugh-David Shaw-Shannon Turley era. The Bootleg documented the Cardinal's seamless medical, training, and sports performance collaboration five months ago. Score one more for the formula, as it has now allowed Stanford to masterfully navigate the physically brutal, treacherous waters of fall camp. To take an example from the opposite end of the spectrum, a quick peak at USC's season preparations just two weeks ago would have revealed a markedly different story: 21 players sidelined, and scores more wearing yellow non-contact jerseys.
Don't be mistaken: Unpreventable injuries will strike Stanford this season. Football is a violent sport, so it's virtually impossible to pass through an entire season unscathed, and the Cardinal is not immune by any stretch of the imagination. But Turley and his staff have indisputably tilted the odds in Stanford's favor, and the team is at full strength entering game one because of their efforts.
Another Shot Fired?
Just a day after not-so-subtly attacking the SEC, David Shaw publicly took issue with words spoken by the coach of Stanford's next opponent.
The Cardinal and San Jose State have no more games scheduled beyond Saturday's match-up, and San Jose State's Ron Caragher suggested that the Farm Boys are at fault because of their unwillingness to travel to Spartan Stadium for a home-and-home arrangement. Only four of the 66 meetings between the two schools have been in San Jose.
"It was insinuated by coach Caragher that this was our decision, that we don't want to play a home-and-home, so that's why it's going away," Shaw responded, unprompted by the reporters in attendance. "[That's] completely not the case.... There is still another financial component which is still not for public consumption. But it's between the two universities. I just want that to be known: We're not making this game impossible."
The full transcript of Shaw's words is here. It's not in the same league as "we bow to no man, we bow to program," but Shaw's firm rebuttal approaching gametime does infuse Saturday's 8 p.m. contest with just a little extra potential sizzle.
By the way, the "financial component" that Shaw referred to may have something to do with the fact that Auburn is paying San Jose State over $3 million for two upcoming visits, while it's been reported that Stanford ponies up only about $250,000 every time the Spartans visit The Farm. Based on that discrepancy, it's easy to see why the two sides aren't seeing eye-to-eye.
If Stanford and San Jose State do reach a financial agreement, perhaps the San Francisco 49ers' new Levi's Stadium, located in Santa Clara between both campuses, would be a good location for a future installment of the Bill Walsh Legacy Game. The late Walsh, a San Jose State graduate, would be tied to everything at that venue: He coached both the Cardinal and 49ers.
Key Test: The Secondary's Car Keys
San Jose State quarterback David Fales led the nation in completion percentage last year, and he returns his top four wide receivers in 2013. Stanford's secondary made a quantum leap in 2012, but its next offseason of work will be tested right out of the gate.
Shaw has spoken of the powerful bond that safeties Ed Reynolds and Jordan Richards have developed over the past few months. He's called their Derek Mason-implemented style "controlled chaos with a lot of movement." It's designed to confuse quarterbacks and buy time for the front seven to deliver sacks, and it's built with player control in mind.
"Coach Mason has been talking about giving us the keys to the car," Reynolds said. "He wants us to make the right calls, tell the linebackers and the corners their assignments, and recognize the distribution of threats on the other side. [Richards and I] have built that relationship. We can now just look at each other, and we know what kind of look we want to give the quarterback. We've built that over time."
The sturdiness of what Reynolds and Richards have constructed over the past several months will be tested Saturday, when Fales and his experienced San Jose State receivers try to tear it down in the span of three hours.
It's almost time.
David Lombardi is the Stanford Insider for The Bootleg. Check him out at www.davidlombardisports.com and follow him on Twitter @DavidMLombardi.
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