So we've all been booted out off the Warner Brothers Lot, having failing to secure a six-picture deal, an Instagram with George Clooney, or even a mug from Central Perk. Nevertheless, let's take a look back at some of the questions I hoped to get answered before this two-day swag-fest kicked off.
Questions for Coach Shaw:
1. Setting aside physical attributes, compare the level of mastery of the Stanford offense of Kevin Hogan and Andrew Luck at this stage in each's career. How much ground would Hogan have to gain to get a game like Andrew did against UW where he calls the plays?
Coach Shaw gave plenty on this, most of which I "para-quoted" in the Day 1 Diary. Here I will give Shaw's full response to the question: "It's just you know, we're talking about rarefied air. To the point with Andrew that it's an unfair comparison with Andrew, and anyone outside of John Elway or , you know, that is rarefied air that Andrew was in to the point where we have-Kevin is really, really close, I believe, to mastering our offense. I think his spring, I thought was phenomenal. We're so excited about it. We can give him two or three plays in the huddle , the audible package, and he's been great. Andrew got to the point where we could call three or four plays in the huddle, and he might choose a fifth play on his own."
2. Has the playcalling procedure changed in any way headed into this season? Will it still be you calling the plays in the Red Zone?
"Coach Bloomgren and I, we work together on the play calling and kind of run/pass to a certain degree. Although I make run suggestions and he makes pass suggestions. Coach Tavita Pritchard is intimately involved in the passing game with me as well." Umm, yeah, I'm gonna let that one breathe for a second. Ok, so this system probably seems a bit convoluted and it certainly has not been a popular one, but Coach Shaw is not wrong in pointing out that it's worked in the past. In the three seasons previous to 2014, Stanford finished 5th, 2nd, and 1st in Pac-12 games. Last year they were 12th. As he did during the year, Coach Shaw took responsibility for the Red Zone struggles calling the Cardinal "unbelievably inefficient" last year. I expect them to improve significantly this year, and the reasons for Stanford's success at the conclusion of last season will be the catalysts for the ascent. As Coach Shaw put it, "I think with Devon Cajuste and our tight ends down in the red zone, those guys are tough one-on-one matchups." He cited Hogan's running and decision making as well as the offensive line regaining the physicality of the past as further pieces of last year's success available to the 2015 team.
3. You mentioned being comfortable with Christian as a full-time running back. From the standpoint of the running game, to what extent will the run game be customized for his strengths as compared to a %%MATCH_11%% or a %%MATCH_10%%?
Didn't get to the customization aspect of the question, but Shaw did have plenty to say about using %%MATCH_6%% and the rationale behind his minimized workload. Bridging the gap between last year's needs and this year's expectations, Shaw said of Christian McCaffrey, "He's bigger. He's stronger. He's more physical. Had an outstanding spring. He's a dependable pass protector now, which early on in his career, a lot of freshmen, it's hard to ask them to do that. We've got %%MATCH_8%% blitzing through the A gaps that can stand up and pick those guys up. He can do that now." I neglected to confirm this with Martinez himself, but we'll take the coach at his word and assume that it's all go for Christian the Lion this year. Coach Shaw also used versatility in describing the many ways that the Cardinal intends to deploy McCaffrey. "We're going to use Christian all over the place...he's a guy that can line up 7 yards behind the quarterback, and run the ball between the tackles....run outside, run inside, be part of the gun run game....return some punts and kickoffs." I think I speak for all Stanford fans when I say, "Yes, Please."
4. How committed are you to finding consistent time for whoever wins the backup quarterback job?
"I would say beyond committed, because it's going to happen." Not too much equivocation here, but probably the most intriguing part of his answer here was the fact that he seemed fine using both Chryst and Burns in games if neither gained enough separation to win the back-up job outright.
5. Can you identify which of the incoming freshmen has the best chance of playing substantially this year on both sides of the ball?
%%MATCH_13%% was the answer here.
6. What is the best case scenario for working out the kicking situation and how deep into camp will that competition go?
"I don't want to stretch him too thin as a true freshman (are we sensing a pattern here?). But if he can handle competing in all three, that's great. I also think we have an in-house candidate and a freshman coming in also." This is a critical issue for the Cardinal that hinges a great deal on a true freshman. With Stanford being all but destined to play in close games this year, the fate of the season hinges in a very real way on getting this decision right.
7. Who is the departed Senior you'll have the most difficulty replacing?
Never got to this one. I'm gonna say.....%%MATCH_14%%.
8. Replacing only one O Lineman this year vs. four last year. Talk about your expectations for this offense from the start.
Reflecting on the O Line last year, Coach Shaw said "Last year, and one of the things that I kick myself for , I probably put them up on a pedestal way too early. I was so excited about that group...I didn't recognize, which I should kick myself later, that you start four new starters on the offensive line and put pressure on them to be great? That's not fair." This year, Stanford replaces only one player, though Shaw emphasized the idea of a legit competition for that and the rest of the spots on the line. Shaw said, "the best times we've had on the offensive line (is) when guys earn spots. We can't hand them out." So from the group of %%MATCH_12%%, %%MATCH_9%% (setback because of injury, Shaw said), or %%MATCH_7%%, the winner of Right Tackle Derby will have earned it. It seems unlikely that the other positions are in any real jeopardy, but Shaw said "there's going to be competition in a couple different places in there, and we'll see how those competitions bear out." It goes without saying that Stanford will be far ahead of where it was to kick off the season last year, but I said it anyway.
9. Stanford had the second-most fumbles in the Pac-12 last year after finishing in the top half in ball security the year before. How much emphasis do you anticipate putting on not fumbling during camp?
This is my biggest whiff. Wanted to get to this one but didn't. I will take this opportunity to remind that the issue is fumbling, not losing fumbles. That may seem counterintuitive, but the point is that fumble recovery is essentially a 50/50 proposition. There are no teams inherently (or through practice) better at recovering fumbles, be it their own or those of the opposition. Stanford just didn't hold on to the ball. The Cardinal put it on the ground a whopping 28 times, and lost 46% of them. They lost fewer fumbles by percentage than Cal, %%MATCH_19%%, and %%MATCH_18%%, but those teams all fumbled less. ASU had fantastic luck this past year, losing only 27% of its fumbles. Expect that number to fluctuate this year. What matters to the Sun Devils and to all teams, is that they fumbled the least, so even if the ball doesn't bounce their way in 2015, it won't be nearly as costly as it was for Stanford in 2014.
10. Your reaction to the implementation of stipends that vary from school to school and the O'Bannon Ruling.
Could have got to this one, but found Shaw's answer on graduate transfers far more interesting than I think his stance on O'Bannon would have been. In response to the transfer question, Coach Shaw replied "I think the rule is great. I have no problem with it." This is coming from a coach who lost %%MATCH_17%% and %%MATCH_16%% (two potential starters) this season to graduate transfers. Shaw says that any player who fulfills obligation to the program by staying four years and getting his degree deserves the chance to go somewhere where he feels he can play.
Shaw loosened up at lunch enough to dish on his famous former employer. Of Coach %%MATCH_15%%, Coach had this to say among a number of interesting snippets:
"Everyday there's a twist. Every day there's excitement. You walk in every single day and say 'OK what's it gonna be today? The bottom line is that he's always in competition mode. There's no 'off.' Some guys turn it off. There's no 'off' for Jim."
"...we had pick-up basketball games where you'd think that there was either money or someone's life on the line.That's just the way it was. There are still stories of racquetball games, when guys lost, they didn't know if they were gonna get fired or not (laughs)."
"But it produces an environment where you're gonna either sink or swim....It's wild, but it's fun to be a part of. Because everyone that we'll be playing, they're going to have a fight on their hands, because we're gonna fight them first."
During the week before Stanford's 24-23 upset of USC in 2007:
"Jim and I shared 45 minutes of nearly absolute silence watching these [USC] guys run around and crush people."
After the Cardinal's Shocking Victory:
"So we stop, the doors open, I'm about to grab Jim, and he just takes off into the middle of the mayhem. I thought he was gonna get trampled. I still to this day don't know how he did it. He found a wooden box to stand on, and he found a bullhorn. How'd he find a bullhorn [laughs]? So here he is, just getting the crowd even more excited, giving this unbelievable speech. It was unbelievable."
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