David Shaw stirred spirited discussion with his criticism of the SEC's adherence to an eight-game conference schedule, saying he was "more disappointed than surprised" that the conference was not moving to a nine-game format.
Many believe that varying schedule structures can compromise the selection fairness of the new four-team playoff, which makes its debut this season. Pac-12 teams play nine league games, and Stanford further spices up its slate with an annual nonconference contest against Notre Dame.
"Why can't [the SEC] do the same thing?" Shaw said. "We should all be playing by the same rules."
The coach's comments came during one of his few media availabilities between the end of spring practice and the start of August training camp. Stanford is currently embroiled in its vital conditioning stretch, the phase during which sports performance coordinator Shannon Turley has a long chance to leave his biggest mark on the team. The Cardinal are working hard to physically prepare themselves for 2014's rugged marathon, which features road contests at Washington, Notre Dame, Arizona, Oregon, and UCLA.
Fortifying the Fronts
The Farm Boys will have to maintain a muscular inside presence to survive that gauntlet. Cohesion along a new offensive line and depth behind a veteran defensive front will be of paramount importance, and Stanford is working to fortify both of those critical components. Shaw praised Aziz Shittu again on Thursday, suggesting that the junior has the best shot of Stanford's emerging talents to crack the rotation on the defensive front. Henry Anderson, David Parry, and Blake Lueders have starting spots locked down, but the staff is demanding that Shittu, Luke Kaumatule, or a combination of other players provides a buffer up front to stabilize the defense.
This coming 2014 season will provide a fascinating case study on the other side of the ball. The Cardinal is replacing nearly all of its starting offensive line, and the five projected starters are all members of the heralded 2012 recruiting class. Up until this point, Stanford has developed excellent offensive lines from rather unheralded talent. In fact, prior to that famed 2012 recruiting cycle, Stanford had signed only a pair of four star offensive linemen in the Jim Harbaugh-David Shaw era (David DeCastro and Brendon Austin).
The 2012 class marked a massive infusion of talent: That recruiting haul alone featured a trio of five-star hogs and two four-star talents. Those players have now had two years to mature within Stanford's system, and that means that the time for them to form the bedrock of the program has arrived.
Aside from being vital to Stanford's fate in 2014, then, this current development phase is intriguing: If recruiting rankings speak any truth, the Cardinal has never worked with as much raw talent up front as they have now. The program has prided itself on its ability to independently evaluate and develop less-heralded players into elite talents. The team's unprecedented success, though, has flooded it with a new level of recruiting wealth, and now comes the moment of truth: Will Stanford be able to develop a slew of highly touted players into monsters up front as effectively as they developed the less-heralded players of the past? Remember, players like Jonathan Martin and David Yankey were both initially only three-star recruits. Both turned into absolute stalwarts, and that suggests the sky is the limit for former five-star guys Andrus Peat, Kyle Murphy, and Joshua Garnett.
A reporter asked Shaw about which redshirt freshman impressed him most during spring practice, and the coach quickly answered with outside linebacker Peter Kalambayi's name.
"He has the speed, size, physicality, and an understanding of what to do," Shaw said.
Kalambayi started the spring game in place of an injured Kevin Anderson and was actually the Cardinal's most productive defender. He finished with team-leading seven tackles and two sacks.
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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