You just can't measure the excitement surrounding the beginning of this 2001 Stanford football season. For Saturday morning's first practice, the sky was perfectly clear, with the sun warming your face. The grass was lush - receptive and supportive. Faces were bright with optimism, but focused on the task ahead. There were no surprise no-shows, and most if not all bodies appear to be in tact and fully functional. The Path to Pasadena started this morning, and the outlook is positive. It's tough to gauge too much on the first hour of two-a-days, but some items jumped out at me...
- There is some early optimism with these QBs. Randy, Ryan and Kyle were all healthy and in attendance, with only Chris Lewis absent to take a final exam in finishing his summer coursework. Randy is brimming with confidence, and is focused on what he wants to see with this new offense. "We need to be more explosive than last year, like what Todd had with Troy, DeRonnie, Tafiti Uso and Dave Davis two years ago." He is looking for the skill players who can work with him to make plays, and particularly remarked to me how impressed he was with JR Lemon. "He was picking up audibles that freshmen just don't get." In total, Randy was having good connections, particularly with the guys out of the backfield. The all-important question with Randy is his health, which he says is all good now. The toe is completely well. Ryan Eklund still hasn't put on the meat I'd like to see, but early reps are showing me that perhaps he has built some of the confidence that was so clearly lacking this past fall and spring. He is less hesitant, though we'll keep watch as he feels more pressure. This was my first look at Kyle Matter, and I have mixed reactions. On the one hand, he looks incredibly accurate and poised. One great 35-yard strike to Brett Pierce at the goal line particularly struck me. On the other hand, he sure has an unorthodox throwing motion. More reps and attention from Diedrick will tell how this will affect his college potential.
- Despite the hand-wringing on the BootBoard, all players expected to show were in attendance that I saw. Stanley Wilson was in the defensive backfield, and Darin Naatjes was taking reps at tight end. I have no reason to expect at this time that this team is losing anybody beyond the departed Mike Holman from this summer.
- Anthony Gabriel and Nick Sebes were two players that looked noticeably bigger to me. Trey Freeman incredibly looks even more trim than this past spring.
- Amon Gordon is finally healthy, and very psyched to be out on the field. He's completely well, and working out at ILB. He was out of breath when I caught him at the end of practice, but it was clear in talking with him that he is simply ecstatic to get his chance. In what limited action I saw of him, he's playing fierce. He wrapped up and threw down one ball carrier, which is promising in my mind. His problem I had seen in practices before was trying hit, rather than wrap up his target.
- Justin McCullum should have an impact this fall. He runs his routes well, and is smart out on the field. He also set out a nice block along the sideline to help get Brian Allen a few extra yards. How many true frosh receivers are going to do that on the first day of practice?
- Matt Leonard is picking right up where he left off in the spring. He is the terror on this team in how he gets after the quarterback. I see no reason to revise my prediction of a major impact on the Pac-10 from #99.
- Kerry Carter had the best run I saw in the morning practice, right up the middle, but with great quick lateral movement through the defensive backfield. If KC keeps that up, he'll break out this fall.
- Leigh Torrence and Stanley Wilson got most of the reps behind Ryan Fernandez and Ruben Carter. They are certain to get game reps early this fall. I noticed Torrence actually get a couple of reps with the 1's.
- Tank is cut, and looks the part of somebody headed to the next level.
- Prized recruit Brandon Hancock was in attendance, along with his father Bill. This will put the $C fans in a tizzy, but Brandon was sporting a Stanford visor. The Trojenz were so excited to see the Hulk in a SC visor just a few days ago, so what ever will they think now? :) It's hard to yet get a read on where Brandon is leaning, but his father indicated that he could commit early, or commit later after actually taking official visits. Really tough read. We'll see what we can learn after seeking out more info on the rest of The Hulk's unofficial visit on the Farm with The Sheriff...
With another practice this afternoon, more notes to come!