Tuesday is media day on The Farm and Stanford head coach David Shaw made the rounds to talk about his 3-1 football team. The biggest news of course are the injuries, and most of that news is as good as could be hoped.
Both defensive linemen Aziz Shittu and Brennan Scarlett had X-rays that came out negative. No broken bones, no torn ligaments. Both are sore but Shaw says both are expected to play.
Left tackle Kyle Murphy was "dinged" up but he's good to go. Kevin Hogan sustained no further injury to his hurt ankle and should be back behind center Saturday against Arizona. The plan will be to limit him at practice the first few days much as they did last week.
The only down news is Kevin Anderson will miss his second straight game with an undisclosed injury. Shaw says by sitting him out this week, and then the extra time off with the bye week, Anderson should be back for the UCLA game.
The loss of Scarlett and Shittu during the Oregon State game was a major cause for concern on a unit that does not have much depth. Shaw was pleased by what he saw by the two players who stepped up during the game.
"It is what you hope for. You hope your third and fourth and fifth guys are ready if called upon. I give Nate Lohn a lot of credit for coming off injury and preparing and being ready and giving us a lot of good plays. Jordan Watkins coming in and taking a lot of reps off of guys who played also. We had some long drives and guys were getting a little tired. So he had to go out there and play and did an admirable job. With Aziz and Brandon coming back who knows how many plays those guys will play, but at least as a coach, you know those guys are taking their jobs seriously and when they are called upon they will go out there and play."
With Lohn and Watkins doing the job, the conversation turned to what will happen with senior Luke Kaumatule. Right now it appears the plan is to not play him, have him redshirt, and have him be an experienced leader on next year's team that will be losing Scarlett, Shittu and Torsten Rotto. Shaw would not get into if he would return as a linebacker or defensive linemen and should injuries dictate, Kaumatule could still play this year. But it appears that is the direction they are leaning.
Injuries are a problem for the other team as well. Arizona linebacker Scooby Wright is out with a foot injury. Shaw says that won't impact the way the team prepares.
"Preparing for these guys, they have good players and it is a funky scheme. It is a different scheme. We haven't seen it in a couple of years. Running and pass protection, it's about making sure we have good rules. Make sure guys know what they are supposed to do. I think it is unfortunate also, you always want to compete against the best and he has been the best defensive player in our conference for over a year now. I feel bad for him. Thankfully it is not the season because he is an outstanding football player."
We also don't know who will start at quarterback for Arizona with Anu Solomon is day-to-day with a concussion suffered in the loss to UCLA..
"Once again, you're talking about a very versatile offense. Whoever plays quarterback is going to be an athletic quarterback that you have to account for which puts you in so many run pass conflicts, whether he hands the ball, whether he runs the ball, whether he starts to run the ball and throws it, whoever that is you have to account for what they do on offense. I'm sure they'll cater the offense to whomever does start at quarterback. For us it is really getting ready for the scheme and making sure our rules our sound. The last part of the puzzle which we faced last week, it's one thing to have your rules right it is another thing to get the guy on the ground. We have to tackle the quarterback better than we did a week ago no matter who it is."
There will be plenty of pressure on outside linebackers against a spread offense. With Anderson out, Joey Alfieri gets the start again. Shaw like what he saw last week.
"He played extremely well. You forget sometimes that this is his first year playing because he has made contributions in every game. He is very athletic and he is physical. You always worry about guys first time playing, being a little hesitant. Joey hasn't been hesitant. He's been decisive, he's been physical, he's been athletic, he's hit the quarterback, he's made some tackles for loss, he's doing a good job in coverage. I'm really excited about where he is right now."
Shaw was asked about playing Alfieri on defense. When he was in high school at Owen Marecic's high school in Oregon, he had five 300-yard rushing games in his career.
"Last time it came up, was the last time I was in the airport in Oregon. Guy passing by me gave me a parting shot that I have the kid playing out of position. What he did up there as a running back was outstanding. We think he has a very, very bright future as an outside linebacker. If worst came to worst, and we had injury and issues, we could put him back there and he has the ability. I think his natural skill set is on the defensive side."
Of course the running back situation is looking far from an issue right now. With Christian McCaffrey rolling for 207 yards rushing against Oregon State, Barry Sanders going for 97 yards and two touchdowns, and Remound Wright being a touchdown scoring machine, all looks good behind the quarterback.
"It starts up front with the offensive line. It starts with our tight ends. Both Dalton Schultz and Austin Hooper are doing a great job blocking. A guy that nobody talks about Daniel Marx, first time starter is having an outstanding year. He's and NFL prototypical fullback. He is doing extremely well and he is only going to get better. And now what McCaffrey has been able to do the last couple of weeks, breaking so many tackles, making so many guys miss, getting so many yards after contact. Remound Wright has had some outstanding runs. His last two touchdown runs were incredible. stopped at the line of scrimmage, spun out of tackles, gets in the end zone. And Barry continues to find his way. I challenged Barry and at the same time made him a promise. You show us special stuff and you will continue to get increased carries. He has shown us his special ability and he is going to continue to get increased carries."
Shaw was asked what Sander's special attributes are?
"They are the things you can't coach and teach. We can hand the ball to anybody who run to the line of scrimmage and get tackled. The guys with special ability have to show the special ability. He has to break tackles, he has to run through contact like he did that last play which was phenomenal. Barry is still growing. He is a fourth year guy but I think he is still growing as a football player. Everybody develops at different times. He has a lot of confidence right now. The guys have a lot of confidence in him. Now he has been able to get on to the field and not just for a play or two, but get out there for a series, get out there for a drive, be in on a pass play, good pass protection. Those are the things we have challenged Barry with and he has responded. I'm proud of him and I'm excited for him."
Another topic discussed involved when to get the young quarterbacks some game time. Shaw has said multiple times he wants to get Keller Chryst and Ryan Burns some meaningful snaps this season before they battle to replace Hogan next year. With a two touchdown lead, Oregon State could have provided that kind of opportunity.
"I want to do it smartly. I want to do it wisely. We had the opportunity to really get the game well in hand at one point late it would have been nice. But we had a late turnover and they went down and scored so that opportunity went away. We came back and scored again. then the variety of looks we were getting I didn't want to put a young quarterback in there still with a two score game, with the game sort of on the line. We have to be wise. We have programs for both those guys, but those programs aren't going to supersede the situation. The situation in each game is still more important. The situation needs to present itself before we put one of those programs in place."
Shaw was asked how many snaps he'd like to get the youngsters this season?
"Significant. I would love a significant number of snaps. I don't know if that is 20, I don't know if it is 40, I don't know if it is 15. As long as there is something on film to evaluate. Something on film that makes them feel like they got in the game and got dirty and i got into it. At some point by the end of the year we want make sure that happens, but I'm not going to sacrifice any game to do it."
It's been two years since Stanford has battled Arizona. Shaw was asked if he likes the current schedule rotation in the Pac-12.
"I do. The alternatives I don't think our good. The alternatives are not playing USC and UCLA every year. That is something that has not been acceptable to any of the four schools, Stanford, Cal, USC and UCLA. It's not acceptable to our administration or our alumni. I think this is the best of both worlds. You don't go four or five years without playing someone in your conference like happens other places. You have a rotation where you are going to play two years on and two years off. During the course of those four years every player on your team is going to play every team in the conference. So I think it is a good rule."
Stanford will rekindle the rivalry with Arizona Saturday night at 7:30pm. A coach Shaw lead team has never lost to the Wildcats.
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