Stanford Football wrapped up Week 1 of Summer Practice with an open to the public event, so the Cardinal was sure to showcase the full breadth of its offensive playbook and to resolve all positional battles as well. And if you believe that, I have some Glengarry Highlands property in Florida you might be interested in acquiring.
The Cardinal did take steps towards rounding into form for its September 2 opener, but truthfully there hasn’t been much to glean from the first full week of practice except that the coaches’ perspective on the aforementioned positional battles might be a little bit different than that of the fanbase.
Coach Shaw emphasized on Thursday that far more important than establishing starters was establishing a group of guys they felt comfortable sending out on the field. Coach Lance Anderson echoed that sentiment today (8.13.16) when I asked about the battle for playing time at linebacker. The modern college game is such that more of the roster is necessary to contribute on defense, especially in the Pac-12. So we are still in the phase of camp where what we’re seeing is a revolving door, especially at linebacker.
Coach Anderson essentially had the inside backers working as pairs and rotating constantly from play to play. There were some extended 2-3 play sequences in the 11-on-11 where tandems got to stay on the field, but overall everybody got time to showcase their games. Kevin Palma and Jordan Perez were a duo, and if the season started today, would likely be the first guys on the field for Kansas State.
That being said, the duo of Mustafa Branch and Sean Barton saw plenty of time. Barton got in a little dust-up with Brandon Fanaika that extended a bit past the whistle, but Anderson acknowledged the coaches like to see some of that saltiness. Barton clearly has a motor, so the real issue is how acclimated and comfortable he get with the defensive playbook by the time the season starts. It’s clear between Anderson and Shaw’s enthusiasm that they’re going to be looking for chances to get him on the field come the fall.
After a long, winding road of a college career, Luke Kaumatule may finally have found a home on the defensive line. Kaumatule made a number of big hits and on more than one occasion held a one-man party in the backfield. He was also very vocal and energetic, perhaps a sign that he knows just how great a season may be in store for him.
Hardly a day goes by where Harrison Phillips isn’t signaled out by the coaches. Factor in their health and the fact that the defensive line actually has some depth to utilize this season, and Stanford could be looking at a truly dominant year from Phillips and Solomon Thomas.
If there’s a question mark so far, it’s Peter Kalambayi. There’s nothing preventing him from realizing the potential so many saw for him as a Freshman, but in the brief time we were allowed to watch today, there wasn’t a lot happening when #34 lined up on the edge. It’d be foolish to make any snap judgments on him or anybody else at this point, but it’s just to say that he is the kind of athlete who can make a good defense very good and a very good one a great one.
Another lesson the Cardinal is re-learning is that football is a violent game and injuries are going to happen. Dalton Schultz was held out of Saturday’s practice. Coach Shaw said it was just standard “bumps and bruises” and that there were no long term concerns at all. However, watching Stanford operate without any of its presumed top three Tight Ends (Taboada is recovering from surgery and Kaden Smith is also recovering from an injury) was a stark reminder that Stanford’s going to have be resourceful because injuries are an inevitability, even for a program that takes great care of its players.
With every passing day, I am become more and more convinced that September 2 is going to be part of the quarterback competition. Feel free to lean one way or the other based on what happened Saturday, but neither Chryst nor Burns did much to distinguish themselves. We some poor passes from both, some nice deep balls, and a lot of running both by design and by choice. Freshman K.J. Costello, who physically is already where he needs to be, also had some struggles with his fastball.
Bryce Love continues to seize attention. Coach Shaw wasted no time after practice once again singing #20’s praises, and based on Saturday, it wasn’t hyperbole. Love had some very good football players struggling mightily to even get a hand on him for most of the day. With That Other Guy contributing only some late arriving on-field yoga poses due to a final exam, the stage was Bryce’s, and he continues to inspire flights of breathless fancy.
Stanford turns the page on Week 1 with no major injuries, no major decisions made save one, and no particular rush to form a depth chart. A.T. Hall appears to be locked in as the starting Right Tackle, pushing Casey Tucker over to Left Tackle, which means “Salty Dave” Bright may have found a landing spot at Left Guard. Shaw has praised Bright all through the spring and into summer, and if Stanford has set its line, that’s a big mark on the preseason checklist. The most important to thing to say about Week 1 is that it got us seven days closer to September 2, when life for the Cardinal Faithful finally begins anew.