8/25 (Saturday) Afternoon Scrimmage Notes

With the first scrimmage of the 2001 season, we learned quite a bit about who will play and who can deliver on this squad. Some demonstrated talents of the past week were notably on the sideline, though a few 2nd and 3rd year players are stepping up. One very disappointing development was an injury at a position where Stanford can ill afford any losses. Read on for a monster account of Saturday's full-speed affair.

  • Two down notes about today's scrimmage. The first of which wasn't entirely unexpected. Hope springs eternal in September for younger players to step up and get integrated into the team. I've been very excited and encouraged about several players on both sides of the ball who have really shown well in the past week. However, the reality of game playing time was hinted at in today's scrimmage. The only freshmen to see any time were Brian Head, Mark Anderson, JR Lemon, Mike Sgroi and Casey Carroll. Not a single snap for the frosh receivers (McCullum, Crochet or Mason) despite the opportunities afforded with Jamien McCullum and Nick Sebes on the sideline. Teyo Johnson, who dominated this morning, saw relatively limited action at WR. The frosh above who did appear, likely would not if the veterans ahead of them were all healthy (except for Sgroi, who will get kicks regardless). There is a disconnect between opportunities in practices and opportunities in scrimmages and games. We will have to wait and watch as two-a-days continue to see if the gap shrinks.
  • The second is an injury to true freshman C/G Brian Head. He heart his left knee early in the scrimmage, and appeared to be in quite a bit of pain. He could not walk off the field with any pressure on that left leg, and needed assistance off the field. He was taken to the locker room and did not return. I don't know any further details, but it doesn't look good. This would be an awful break for this fine young man, and also to the team. The razor-thin depth on this offensive line incredibly just got thinner.
  • On to better things, 3 touchdowns were scored on the day. The first came early, as Randy Fasani was pressured and threw off his back foot to find Ryan Wells just short of the goal line. Ryan Fernandez slipped and fell as he was ready to go up for the ball, allowing Wells to moonwalk into the endzone. Wells later caught the other receiving score, this time from Chris Lewis in the back corner of the endzone. Wells beat Brian Taylor in a play strikingly similar (including location) to the toss Lewis made to Jamien McCullum in the "Miracle on the Farm." Well thrown, and would have been a score even if Ryan hadn't separated as well from BT. The other man to cross the goal line was Justin Faust, on a short run up the middle. He was met by tacklers, but broke through and raced for the goalpost, arms in the air.
  • Faust, in contrast with what I saw this morning, got a lot of snaps at tailback in the scrimmage. He acquitted himself very well, and earned some more PT today. He ran hard every down, and showed his power style and quick feet with several runs of 7 yards or better. He also showed a dimension I haven't seen much before, cutting back outside when there wasn't anything up the middle, picking up about 8 yards. Brian Allen in his work continued to show the blinding speed that will certainly keep him atop the depth chart. Unless I'm mistaken, BA looks faster this year than in any other in his Stanford career. Casey Moore played a big part in creating some great holes for BA, which is why they are such a threatening pair as starters. Kenny Tolon was notably behind Justin in reps, with JR Lemon getting some work as well. Lemon will be special, and has running instincts you see only once in a blue moon. He's behind a very talented group, though, and will need time.
  • Even though Ryan Wells caught the 2 TDs, Caleb Bowman and Luke Powell were the most active receivers. Bowman was Chris Lewis' "go-to guy" late when the 2-minute drill was run, which may be telling. "Cool Hand" Luke's standout play came on a deep, arching throw from "Hollywood" Lewis, which forced Luke to come back. He got to the ball and then pivoted his body to go for the goal line. That maneuver had him off balance, so he used his hand to stay off the ground. It was a great catch and great move that would have been a score... but the ball came out during the pivot, and he had to fall on it. Brandon Royster was the one young player to most benefit with Jamien and Nick on the sideline. In addition to a short sideline grab, Brandon was used on a sweet screen play (Lewis) that picked up 20 yards. Could have gone all the way if not for an excellent open-field tackle by Stanley Wilson. "Hollywood" went to Brandon again on the screen, but with a completely different outcome. Casey Carroll met him almost immediately after the catch and laid a "decleater" on him. The pop echoed throughout the stadium, and was the unquestioned hit of the day. Wow. And in case Brandon didn't get enough, he later caught a 15-yard ball beautifully threaded by Ryan Eklund and was then popped by Colin Branch. That resulted in a fumble, which Brian Taylor recovered. Brandon will be a sore boy tomorrow.
  • Kerry Carter told me after practice that he'll be back in the line-up soon, as early as Monday.
  • Brett Pierce got the lion's share of work at tight end, with Matt Wright only taking a few early reps and Nacho injured. As I indicated in this morning's practice notes, Diedrick appears willing to use the tight ends to stretch the defense, going deep with these imposing targets. Pierce was hit for the big play in the 2 minute drill, a 36-yard strike from Lewis, which Colin Branch could not stop. Where the ball was, Brett was just too big and too strong to be defended.
  • On defense, the most noteworthy player during the scrimmage had to be wunderkind Mark Anderson. The big story? MT Son at defensive tackle for each and every one of his snaps. As he struggled with where to line up, and received a lot of direction, my mind was racing. Move this 6'7" powerful and nimble beast to defensive tackle??? I soon noticed that Travis Pfeifer was not taking any snaps, and Craig Albrecht was lining up next to Trey Freeman with the first team defense (Matt Leonard on the sideline, as well). That meant another body was needed, and Mark appeared to get the call. I asked Mark after practice if there was anything to this, or just temporary while Travis is out, and Mark indicated that he felt it was temporary. So stop the presses... Mark Anderson has not (yet) moved from defensive end.
  • The lineup alongside Mark on the 2nd team defense was Cooper Blackhurst and Scott Scharff at the ends, with Casey Carroll at nose tackle. Will Svitek was brought in for the nickel defense, with Mark heading to the sideline. Svitek had two strong plays in a row, with one sack on Chris Lewis, followed by a tackle of Lewis just past the line of scrimmage. Cooper also had a nice sack, which was loudly cheered by his visiting family in the stands.
  • Despite these efforts on the line, the defensive player of the day may have to be awarded to O.J. Atogwe. He picked off a long Chris Lewis pass intended for Teyo Johnson and returned it for 40 yards. And then on what was supposed to be the first play of the 2-minute drill, O.J. "All the Way" Atogwe picked off a Lewis pass right in front of Ryan Wells. While the first interception came on a pass off the mark, this was an exceptional effort by O.J. on a well thrown ball. He anticipated the throw and broke at the last moment, with an easy run to the endzone. The zebras called it back for defensive holding, which I take issue with. The play looked very clean, unless the holding came earlier in the play.
  • Special teams got quite a bit of work, which I was very encouraged to see. We need that commitment. The placekicking was strong, with Biselli and Sgroi combing for a high percentage of field goals, including a few past 40 yards. Biselli missed one at long range, and Sgroi put one off the left upright. Stanley Wilson also got through and solidly blocked one attempt. FG work included speed drills, which Biselli nailed and Sgroi handled OK. The long snapping was less encouraging, with several Drew Caylor snaps coming very low (or skipping) on punts and a PAT. Anthony Gabriel was #2 at long snapper, and performed better to my eye. The punting game had its moments, with Greg Davis appearing to get better boots off than Eric Johnson. The punt of the day was a 52-yard bomb (Davis) on the fly, which forced Luke Powell to catch the ball running toward his own goal line. Luke should be the unquestioned punt returner, though kick return duties are up in the air. Luke, Leigh Torrence and Ryan Wells teamed up this morning, while Wells and Brian Allen were back in a different formation this afternoon. And FYI, Coy "Live" Wire and "Breakaway" Brian Allen are the gunners on the punt coverage team.
  • As somewhat of an aside, Sgroi appears to me to have possibly the stronger leg of the two primary placekickers, and will be the better bet for touchbacks on kickoffs. For accuracy and proven game-speed performances and nerves, Biselli should still project for field goals and PATs. If my estimations prove true, would you let Sgroi take kick-offs as a specialist this year, or preserve his redshirt for four dominant years of placekicking? How much do you value touchbacks?...

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