Training camp is over. It's time to get this football season going for real.
"I'm really excited to go out there and play someone else at this point," fullback Daniel Marx said on Friday. "We've been banging around for three weeks. It feels good. Body is feeling right. Can't wait for next Saturday."
The final practice of training camp was on Friday. The coaches shortened it by about 20 minutes due to the heat and the hard work the Cardinal have put in. The players now have the weekend off for mental and physical recovery. Monday starts game week as Stanford gets ready to travel to Northwestern for the season opener next Saturday.
Head Coach David Shaw said the team had some weary legs, so they had cut things down a bit for a couple of practices. While the players get the weekend off, the coaches do not. Shaw said the coaches will hold discussions over the weekend on who will be in the starting lineups and how to divide up the playing time rotations and one would assume redshirt discussions will be held as well.
Health wise it appears the Cardinal have escaped camp fairly unscathed. Devon Cajuste is considered day to day. Shaw said he can run full speed straight ahead and his conditioning is pretty good but he wouldn't be ready for a full game yet. "He's close. He's closer than we thought he would be at this point. We'll see," Shaw said on Cajuste playing Saturday. Whether he does or not, look for a big role for Francis Owusu who had a great camp according to Shaw.
Kodi Whitfield is healthy and will likely team with Dallas Lloyd at safety, but look for rotation from Brandon Simmons and maybe both true freshmen Justin Reid and Ben Edwards.
"I think they have a chance to be good," Shaw says of the secondary. "We're going to be a little inexperienced but I think we have a chance to be good. Kodi is back to full health right now and looks really good. Dallas is having a really good camp. Our two young safeties have done really well. Brandon Simmons has come out and played really well the last half of training camp. So I feel really good about where we are at safety. At corner, Alijah Holder and Alameen Murphy have been battling back and forth and they are both going to play at corner for us. It is great to see Terrence Alexander come and make some plays and settle into that nickel position as well as being able to go out and play corner for us. I like the group of guys we have, the young guys have a chance to help us out at some point. But the inexperience is the one unknown. We have athleticism. We have guys who really, really want to play well."
Lloyd will try to continue the successful tradition of Stanford players moving from offense to defense. He likes what he sees as the quarterback of the defense now.
"It's is going really well. I'm still new to this position. I've only been playing safety a year and a half. Kodi and I and Ronnie Harris and all the defensive backs have been working hard every single day to communicate and to give it our 100% in the playbooks, out here in the field, in the meeting rooms, no matter what we do. We work our hardest so we can be prepared when that time comes against Northwestern on September 5th. It is a moment we've all been dreaming of and we've been working for ever since we were little kids so now we're excited it is finally that time. We have a lot of confidence in our coaching staff. In each other as teammates, we trust that everyone will do their jobs. We're just excited."
Lloyd is getting tired of answering the question about what the hardest part of the transition is from offense to defense, partly because he gets asked it a lot and partly because he really isn't sure how to answer.
"I haven't played defensive back since my sophomore year of high school so that is six years without back peddling. It has been awhile but it was really cool to see how the information that coach Shaw and all the offensive coaches have instilled in me, how that is able to translate to the defensive side. Whenever I talk about that, I tell people about what Richard Sherman and John Lynch both said to me. Take all that studying, everything you learned on offense about what offenses like to do and just flip the coin and use that to your advantage on defense. It has also helped having coach Akina come in right when Kodi and I made the switch. Because he has in his past dealt with a lot of quarterbacks who have converted to the dark side."
Shaw likes what he has seen so far. "You love former quarterbacks because they can conceptualize things. It has been a pretty smooth transition for him. It's not easy the first day and the first week trying to learn all the calls. But as far as feeling the game of football he knows where he fits. he recognizes things on the off sides on the offense. Run or pass, route combinations, 'ohh I know what goes with that flat route, here comes the 7.' So he brings all that. So just that knowledge of offensive football has helped him play the game from the safety position."
Part of the advantage to moving to defense is being able to hit rather than getting hit. Lloyd looks forward to that.
"It's a lot of fun. I always loved with Coach Shaw, when I was a quarterback, when he would say I was live at practice. I always look over to the defensive side, and whenever he would say I was live, I would see all the defensive guys start moving around and getting really excited and pin their ears back. So now it is fun to be on that side of the ball and be one of the defensive guys and plays loose and just go and hit people and make plays."
Lloyd has heard the inexperience comments before but he is not listening to any of it.
"We don't listen to people that say we're inexperienced or if they were to say that we're incredible. It doesn't matter what they say. Coach Akina tells us that if you listen to people and they tell you you are really bad that is poison. If you listen to people and they tell you you are really good that is also poison because you can get complacent. We don't really listen to what people say, we just put our heads down and we just work. We come out here and we see each other make plays. Each guy works the hardest to earn confidence within the group of guys. Now I'm honestly excited to go out and play with my teammates and see them make big plays. I know they're going to do a great job."
His chance to make plays is just a week away. He knows Northwestern will be a challenge "We've definitely started breaking them down. We see a very, very talented group of players all over the field. We see a group of players that are very well coached, we know it's going to be one heck of a game. That is what we're looking for too."
Shaw says the team has started doing some Northwestern specific preparation the last few days of practices but the game plans won't be handed out until next week as Stanford goes into full game week mode.
"They are a high effort football team like we are. They are well coached," Shaw said. "They know their schemes very well. They play extremely fast, they play extremely hard. the biggest unknown for all of us is the quarterback. Who is going to play and what is their style. Beyond that they are multiple. They'll spread you out. They'll go quick tempo. They'll run it inside and outside, throw quick screens to the outside but at the same they will throw the ball down the field. They beat some really good teams last year and took some really good teams to the 4th quarter. We know we are going to have our hands full.
In a battle of academic powerhouses, Shaw sees the importance of scheduling schools like Northwestern.
"I think the biggest thing for us is we want to win every game we play. But I think it is good for us to schedule these games. I think it is good for us, to a certain degree, to be a united front. I respect what they do at Northwestern. I respect Pat Fitzgerald as much as anyone who coaches in this business because he does his job the right way. I think schools like us should play each other and should play at a high level. But at the same time there is an academic component to this game which I think is special."
One camp standout is the sophomore fullback. Marx has received praise from his head coach and his offensive coordinator on his development from year one to year two. He is chomping at the bit to show that improvement during the games.
"I feel great. I feel a lot more confidence in the playbook," Marx said on his second year. "It is pretty complex. So that extra year to dive into the playbook, getting the extra reps under my belt has really been a great thing for me. Last year I learned a lot from Lee Ward and Patrick Skov. Both guys knew the offense extremely well. I learned from them. I developed my own kind of style and just going out there and having fun."
And what would that style be?
'Kind of smashmouth football. That is what I've always been told growing up. That is how I play. Kind of throw a little bit of finesse in there. Kind of getting out on the routes, they let me catch the ball, do whatever I can do to help out the team. So it is a little combination of both. That's why I'm here. Doing the best of both worlds."
Fullback is a thankless job for many, but not at The Farm where the tradition of the power run game has required many great lead blockers. Marx isn't concerned about if anyone outside the locker room notices him.
"That's all the joy I get right there, putting someone on the ground and doing my job knowing that my teammates are doing well. If they get in the end zone they are giving me props. We have great teammates out here. It makes me feel great. Publicity is publicity but I just feel great when I hit someone and get them on the ground, get a block and do my job."
Marx knows next week will be a challenge and he can't wait.
"(Northwestern has a) Great defense, great team. Really looking forward to a pretty physical style. We're getting ready. I'm getting antsy. Can't wait to go play them."
One thing that traditionally plagues west coast teams going east is an early start time. The 11am Central start time means a body time of 9am in California. Many a team (across multiple sports pro and college) have struggled with that.
"It's all about mindset. I think we'll be ready going into the game. We've been waiting to play them this whole camp. So I don't think it will be too bad. We'll get our minds right and we'll go out and play."
Lloyd agrees that the time will not be an issue. "I think we had plenty of 6am this winter, we were wide awake so I think we'll be okay."
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