The drizzle turned to some heavy rain just as the players walked off the field Tuesday. Lucky for the players the practice concluded about 15 minutes early or they may have been drenched by the downpour. But Stanford practiced what would normally be a lighter Thursday schedule with some emphasis on the red zone.
Of course with two weeks to go before the actual bowl game, Stanford hasn’t done a lot of “game week” preparation. Head Coach David Shaw says game planning for Maryland will start on Thursday. So far the focus of practice has been getting everyone’s legs under them and getting a lot of extra playing time for the youngsters.
“It has been great to see our two young quarterbacks (Keller Chryst and Ryan Burns) get even more reps,” Shaw said. “Both have made some good plays, both have made some bad plays which is what you want.”
Shaw is very excited to get those extra reps in the offensive line as well for the younger guys. Shaw also mentioned on defense guys like Harrison Phillips, Noor Davis and Kodi Whitfield as some guys that haven’t played too much during the season who have stood out with the extra playing time the past week.
Freshman defensive lineman Solomon Thomas is a younger player that both Shaw and Defensive Coordinator Lance Anderson singled out as getting better.
“He has been doing a great job with the practices with the young guys,” Anderson said. “He has been showing some glimpses of burst the last week.” Shaw added you could see both Thomas and Phillips just get a little bit better every day.
Anderson had a long list of young defenders that have looked good the past week.
“Linebackers Kevin Palma, Noor Davis, Mike Tyler, Jordan Perez, those guys that don’t get a lot of playing time or redshirting, they are talented kids that are going to make some significant contribution for us next year. Some of the young secondary guys, Brandon Simmons, he really flashes in practice. Alijah Holder, Denzel Franklin, those guys have some talent. It has been nice this past week getting Kodi Whitfield and Dallas Lloyd some reps. They are still learning the positions after moving over from the offense. I expect them to make some major strides in the offseason and be significant contributors for us next year. There are some good guys to look forward to. They’ll emerge and find their roles next year.”
Extra practice time is one of the main benefits to making it to a bowl games. It sets them up well for spring and usually helps boost a young program. But starting on Thursday the emphasis will shift toward a little more game planning for Maryland before the kids are turned loose for a short Christmas break.
There is no way to sugar coat the fact that this is not a “BCS” bowl where Stanford has spent the last four holiday seasons, but Shaw says the team is excited to be playing at Levi’s Stadium and to be hosted in San Francisco.
“I told our guys, most of them don’t go to San Francisco very often anyway,” Shaw said. “So we get to go spend five days in San Francisco, hang out, see the sites, go to Alcatraz, and spend some time on Pier 39. They are excited. They understand what this is. They understand that this is something that we earned by how we played, both positively and negatively. Now is an opportunity to go back and play one more game in a great stadium, hopefully in front of a large home crowd.”
The field at Levi’s Stadium has been an issue for the 49ers all season long. The turf has been replaced five times already in its inaugural season. Shaw says he’s not concerned.
“We try to take the approach that it doesn’t matter what the conditions are. We had a couple of games a few years ago. Notre Dame three years ago was really a sloppy field. It is no excuse. Both teams will have to play on it whatever it is.”
The 49ers will play their final game of the season just two days earlier on the same turf, but Shaw holds out hope that the field will hold up.
PEAT WINS MORRIS
Andrus Peat was named the winner of the Morris Trophy along with Utah’s Nate Orchard. The Morris Trophy is given to the best offensive and defensive linemen in the Pac-12. The unique aspect to the award is that the players actually vote for the award, with the defensive players voting for the offensive winner and vice versa.
Shaw is not a big fan of all the awards out there but he does like this one.
“The ones that are voted on by the players, by the guys that are in the trenches, by the ones that respect each other, that is a huge amount of respect by a bunch of 18-22 year olds looking at another guy and saying that guys is the best in our conference. To say that we’ve won that trophy two of the last three years, both extremely well deserved. I think Andrus, with all those expectations, has really reached them and we all know his ceiling is even higher.”
David Yankey won the award in 2012 for Stanford.