The pressure is on the Stanford offense this season. With nearly an all new the defense, the Cardinal will need more production from the offense this year than they got last year. After the scrimmage on Saturday, offensive coordinator and line coach Mike Bloomgren gave me a few minutes to talk about the offense.
The Bootleg: How was the scrimmage today?
Mike Bloomgren: Initial thoughts are it was nice to see some of the explosive plays, nice to see some of the home runs downfield, nice to see us running the ball not only efficiently but also powerfully against any of those defenses out there. There is still plenty to fix. I can't wait to watch the film. The thing I will say is that we have to address the protection to some degree. It has to be better for number eight then it was today.
TB: How is the offensive line coming together? I know you have some competition on the right side, you've had some injuries, how do you assess the line as a whole?
MB: I love the way they are working. I love the way they are coming to work every day. They are taking what we talk about in the meeting room and see on the film and come out here and working on their craft. They are doing things exactly how I want them to be doing. You wish you could speed up time a little bit and get them to where they will be in maybe two or three weeks down the road. But they're working their butts off and they are a much better offensive line than we were last year to be quite honest with you.
TB: The left side is pretty set, what do you see happening on the right side?
MB: The left side first off, both guys are playing at an All-American level. They're phenomenal. I think they are our next two guys (to go to the NFL) as long as they stay healthy and keep working the way they have been. It's going to be fun to watch them.
The right side, it is hard to get enough reps for those guys, especially the ones that missed some of training camp early on. But we did a really good job of dividing up the reps today and it's hard for me to comment on it without seeing the film. The battle at right tackle between Casey Tucker, Nick Davidson and David Bright is a good competition and a healthy competition. It makes it so nobody can relax. Everyone is continuing to grind and work the way we want them to every day. I'm happy with how the competition is going. I would love for someone to reach up and snatch that job and hold on to it and never let it go.
TB: Talk about how you are mixing people in, you have Bright working at tackle and guard, Caspers is at guard and center, you are trying to develop the competition but it seems like you are really working on the depth to try and get everyone involved?
MB: Certainly. I think that may be the biggest difference. At this point last year we may have had six or seven offensive linemen that we thought could play. Now we probably have nine that could go into a game and look like Pac-12 football players which is really nice. That allows us to do anything we want to in terms of the jumbos, the six, seven, eight offensive linemen when we want to or need to, but also just the shear depth knowing that if Graham Shuler breaks a shoe string, Johnny Caspers can jump right in there to center. We can throw in David Bright at guard, or Brandon Fanaika at guard. All of those guys are really progressing really well.
TB: Caspers struggled today with three fumbles. Just a bad day or has that been a problem?
MB: Very disappointing. Very disappointing to see that happen because the kid has had a fantastic camp. He has been a very consistent center for us in terms of his shotgun snaps and his under centers snaps. For him to have an under center snap (fumble) today, honestly, really surprised me. But it happened. So we have to continue to address it. It's hard to start an offensive play without the C-Q exchange.
TB: One guy who really impressed me today was Daniel Marx. The drive after halftime he had a couple of devastating blocks. How is he developing from year one to year two?
MB: Astronomical development. Exactly what you hope from year one to year two from a player that is going from playing some roles to being "our guy" at fullback. I'm really happy with the steps he is taking. I really don't think we have seen how good a fullback he will be. That is the most exciting part, yes, he is turning into a pretty consistent player and a physical force, but man, he has a chance to be unbelievable at that position.
TB: How about the rest of the running backs? You have the big three, and now you have these freshmen that look pretty darn good out there also.
MB: As you talk about the running back position everybody knows about the three we have talked about for years, beyond that you have Pat McFadden who is Mr. Consistent. He does everything right in terms of protection and running proper courses and really falls forward and has good runs. Then you get to those young bucks, watching those threes vs threes...it is so fun for us to watch the offense have a big explosive run and then the defense hits you for a three yard loss. What that means to me is that we have a lot of talent on both sides and the future is pretty bright around here.
TB: Looking back at last year, we are in a place of higher learning, as the OC as you look back and now look forward, what did you learn from last year? What are you trying to improve on yourself moving forward?
MB: I'm just holding myself accountable for the research we had to do this offseason. Really putting in the time, not just on ourselves, but on the NFL studies we did, and studying other college programs. That is something I had to do. As much as we stress our kids about making a better person of themselves every day we have to do the same as coaches. So I'm not sure it is my individual development, we all as a staff worked hard to take strides. The nice thing is we kept everyone on the staff intact. When you can do that you really know each other one year better and you are really thinking the same things and I think it is really healthy. It is a fun, exciting environment personally.
TB: In terms of NFL studies you are talking about going to the NFL teams and seeing what you can bring back here?
TB: Obviously you won't get into details, but can you give me a general example as to what you were looking for in the NFL?
MB: The big thing is David Shaw and I are very fortunate for the NFL ties that we have and the fact that people will open the door and let us come in. So when you get an opportunity to spend three days talking with Pep Hamilton about what he is doing with (Andrew) Luck in Indy and how they're packaging things. Or whether it's me getting to go spend a couple of days with one of my mentors in Bill Callahan and just talk about "hey, how are you handling this? What are you seeing?" We not only talk about offensive trends in the NFL and what people are doing, but we talk about defensive trends and how you are handling things differently. I just think it is really neat that we still have that NFL connection here at Stanford and we are able to take advantage of it.
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