Preseason Camp Day #1 Practice Report

You can breath a big sigh of relief now that the first day of fall football practices has come. It was a surprising day in that the offense showed less rust and more productivity than you would expect to start off camp; typically the defensive dominates early. But there were playmakers on both sides of the ball to report...

The first thing people want to know when you start up fall camp is the injury report.  Did everyone report OK?  Anyone hurt early?  Well, there was mostly good news on the first day of full practices for 2003 Stanford Football.  The only player I saw on the sidelines, unable to go through workouts, was OG Josiah Vinson.  But that was a known situation, as he is still recovering from his broken leg.  He has been cleared for some running, though, and should join practices during this preseason camp.  Vinson's progress is encouraging, and he is ahead of schedule.

The other broken leg from the spring you will remember belonged to WR Greg Camarillo, and I expected him to lightly participate in only a fraction of the drills.  But he surprised me and others by fully participating in the entire practice.  Another gutty player who is keeping himself on the field is senior OT Mike Sullivan, who was in bad shape Sunday with a virus, but delivered no complaints or excuses during Monday's first practice.

The one early casualty came in the freshman ranks, with OG Merlin Brittenham rolling his ankle in the opening moments of practice.  He wore a brace the remainder of the practice on the sidelines and will likely be day to day

Subtracting Vinson and Brittenham from the offensive line equation, you would think that OL coach Steve Morton would be forced to make a bunch of changes, but he has not.  With two solid years of OL recruiting now on campus with this staff's recruiting efforts, there is starting to be respectable line depth for the first time in years at Stanford.  Here was the rotation of the three deep as I saw it Monday:

  1. LT Kirk Chambers; LG Ismail Simpson; C Brian Head; RG Jeff Edwards; RT Mike Sullivan
  2. LT Matt McClernan; LG David Beall; C Drew Caylor; RG Tim Mattran; RT Jon Cochran
  3. LT Amir Malayery; LG Preston Clover; C Mikal Brewer; RG Tim Mattran; RT David Long

I also noted that at the tail end of practice, Cochran took a couple of repetitions with the first string at left tackle.  Coach Morton has been deliberate about keeping the big 315-pound youngster on the right side as he continues to get a better feel for the speed of the college game, so this caught my eye.  Either Morton is starting a little experimentation, or he sees progress from Cochran that might allow him to spend some time on the all-important left side.

Two players were missing from practice, and several onlookers asked me with fright and concern about the whereabouts of OLB Michael Craven and CB Stanley Wilson.  Never fear - they are both in the last week of the summer academic quarter and are finishing projects, papers and finals.  Ironically, they are also two players who missed all or part of spring football due to injury and recovery.  While they both participated in summer practices, it will be a welcome sight to have them in full uniforms with helmets, back in the mix of things.

With that pair out, OLB Kevin Schimmelmann and CB T.J. Rushing ascended the depth charts to their respective #1 positions.  Depth at the linebacker positions looks solid right now, but the absence of Wilson reveals the same concerns we saw in the spring.  When you have Leigh Torrence and Rushing running first string, that leaves you with Calvin Armstrong and Nick Silvas as the backups, not to mention the nickel and dime packages.

But on a positive note, both Torrence and Rushing had great days.  Torrence picked off a pair of passes right on the sideline in seven-on-seven drills, and both were aerial acrobatic wonders.  Rushing stuck on his receivers like glue, including one streak pattern down the right sideline where he went step for step with the elusive Luke Powell.  The Oklahoman is playing with a little more physicality and toughness jamming receivers off the line, too.

Speaking of receivers, there is little question that Powell is back.  He doesn't just look as quick as he did in 2001, he looks stronger and more powerful coming out of his cuts.  He showed his acceleration down the sideline on a great hookup for a touchdown, but also caught balls in traffic and then exploded up the field.  The big question, especially now with the loss of Grant Mason, is who will step up for the #2 starting WR spot?

On this first day of practices, Greg Camarillo and Nick Sebes looked like the top dogs.  Both are stronger in their breaks, and both made plays after the catch for gains.  Some of the younger guys had up and down days, including some inconsistent performances from David Lofton and Justin McCullum.  McCullum, to his credit, did score on a beautiful deep throw from Chris Lewis.

Noteworthy was the dropoff for several freshmen in their first practice with the upperclassmen.  It's way too early to write any of these guys off, and first day jitters is a real thing.  But I saw a notable increase in dropped balls by the young receiving targets, including WR Evan Moore and TE Michael Horgan, and fewer plays made elsewhere on the field.  The one exception I saw was WR Mark Bradford, who looked like a veteran with his playmaking ability.  He snagged at least a couple balls from the clutches of defensive backs, and he makes it look easy.

Without full pads and the ability to run meaningful running plays, there were a lot of passes going to the running backs.  J.R. Lemon was clearly the top performer, and showed more explosiveness running in the open field than I had seen in the past.  He had several big gains downfield.  Gerald Commissiong also made a big impact receiving and as a halfback.  His frame has nicely handled a lot of weight, yet he still has that quickness and shake in his running.

You may want to know that the first string defensive line on this first day was Will Svitek and Louis Hobson at the defensive ends, with Casey Carroll and Babatunde Oshinowo inside at the tackles.  I think that Svitek is legitimately ahead right now, though most fans would assume that Julian Jenkins would start.  But I'll be surprised if Amon Gordon isn't starting alongside big Baba inside.

A couple big plays made by the LBs:  MLB David Bergeron had a nice breakup defending against TE Patrick Danahy, while MLB Brian Gaffney tipped a pass at the line that OLB Jon Alston pulled in for the interception.

I caught only a little bit of the one-on-one drills between the OL and DL, which are some of the most fun of any part of practices.  I saw Oshinowo put Caylor back on his heels a good six or seven yards; Beall handled David Jackson; and Taualai Fonoti muscled through Amir Malayery.  I'll try to catch much more of these Tuesday.

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