Back for Spring Session Two: A Situational Focus
David Shaw says that Stanford players are fresh and "chomping at the bit" after their longest break in nearly a year. The Cardinal, who enjoyed three weeks off for dead week, finals, and spring break, reconvened on the practice field Monday to kick off the second session of 2014 spring ball.
Stanford players had only about two weeks to recuperate, as winter conditioning work started shortly after the Rose Bowl. This most recent hiatus preceded the upcoming two-week stretch that will close spring ball and lead into Shannon Turley's vital conditioning stretch, which begins almost immediately after the April 12 Spring Game.
"They needed that break to recharge," Shaw said.
The next two weeks of practice will take on a decidedly situational focus. Stanford will drill red zone execution, third-down performance, and short-yardage, goal-line sets.
"We want to put players in those situations with something on the line, even if it's just push-ups," Shaw said. "We want them to understand how vital [those situations] are."
Shaw announced that Ty Montgomery would miss all of spring practice three weeks ago. On Monday, he elaborated on the receiver's medical status. Montgomery's recovery from the knee injury he sustained late in the Rose Bowl is going well. While he's been out, doctors have "cleaned up some other stuff" through a "minor upper body procedure," and that's why Montgomery has been seen around campus wearing a sling. He's expected to be 100 percent ready for the season.
"He's mentally fired up and ready to go," Shaw said.
The Cardinal are finally starting to get good news on the Ikenna Nwafor front. The defensive tackle has been out since September with a foot injury that took longer than initially expected to heal. Shaw said that the bone in Nwafor's foot has, in fact, now healed.
"Ikenna has made great progress," he said. "I saw him jogging today. That put a big smile on my face. I hadn't seen him jog in a while."
Offensive lineman Brendon Austin "got banged up" in Monday afternoon's practice in what sounds like a knee-related injury, but Stanford's medical personnel do not think it is serious. Quarterback Evan Crower sat out the practice session. He came off the field wearing sweats. More information on his status should be available on Saturday.
Praise for Tarpley
A.J. Tarpley is about to become a four-year starter at linebacker, and a reporter asked Shaw about when the fifth-year senior first grabbed the staff's attention. It turns out that No. 17 was dependable during his redshirt year as a true freshman, when Shaw says that he seemed to "make every play" during practice.
"His production isn't a surprise," Shaw said. "The only surprise is that he hasn't gotten more fanfare. In some of our biggest games, he's been phenomenal. Those who continue to watch him at the next level, they're going to love him."
While a resurgent Shayne Skov logged a team-leading 109 tackles in 2013, Tarpley wasn't far behind. He posted 93 stops and picked off his third career pass, further cementing his reputation as a linebacker with very good aerial coverage instincts.
"He's intercepted more passes than most of our defensive backs because of his anticipation," Shaw said.
Just a few weeks ago, Tarpley returned an interception for a touchdown during the first session of Stanford spring practice. With Skov gone, he'll probably garner more attention on the inside in 2014, where Blake Martinez will likely join him as a starter.
"He's extremely smart," Shaw said of Tarpley. "He's a playmaker."
On a side note, several players have told The Bootleg of Tarpley's personal motto on the field: "Quick ain't fair."
Northwestern Union Case
Shaw questioned the motives behind the Northwestern players' union movement.
"I'm as confused as anybody as to the importance of this," he said. "I'm curious as to what's really driving it. As far as I know, everything that they've asked for has been provided.... I think it's weird to try to unionize but still compliment Northwestern and their staff for being taken care of. Those two things don't seem to go hand in hand."
Since the federal labor agency does not have jurisdiction over public universities, the current push to unionize athletes is focused on private schools. That's why this matter is of particular interest to Stanford. Shaw said that he has spoken briefly with his players about the situation but is "curious" to see further developments before determining his next course of action.
He said that Stanford offers players scholarships worth $60,000 a year, free health care, an "unbelievable education," and "unbelievable contacts" -- all while suggesting that Northwestern does a similarly good job of treating its players.
"I'm waiting to see why this is so vital," he said. "To insinuate that there's anything we're doing to harm these young men, I think it's not correct."
Shaw also fired back at Northwestern quarterback Kain Colter's comments during a televised interview that suggested Stanford rescinded a scholarship because of injury.
"I can tell you 100 percent, there was no issue with his injury," he said. "Our track record speaks for itself. We've never dropped a kid from an offer or commitment because of an injury."
Shaw declined to go into further details about Colter's Stanford recruitment, which he oversaw as Stanford's assistant coach assigned to the Colorado area.
Also of Note
* During his time as a student, Shaw played a game for Stanford men's basketball under coach Mike Montgomery, who retired Monday. "I think Monty's record speaks for itself," he said. "I love him. I have a lot of respect for him."
* Former fullback Owen Marecic appeared at the end of Stanford practice again. He came to collect the players' high-tech mouth guards, which register data for concussion research. Marecic, who played for the Cleveland Browns for two years before briefly signing with the San Francisco 49ers this past season, is no longer playing professional football.
* Colin Resch's recent interview with Richard Sherman may be the most insightful look yet into the cornerback's famous post-NFC title game rant and self-marketing strategy. Have a look here.
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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