Preseason Camp Day #14

The big news Tuesday was the return to full contact for two critical offensive linemen. Ismail Simpson and Josiah Vinson are coming along very well, and this day marked their full integration into the OG rotation. Read on for their latest, plus the ever-changing safety search. Also, some visitors from the University were in attendance, at the invitation of Buddy Teevens...

As had been predicted with Monday's practice notes, a rest and recovery from that day's heat helped to put several players back on the field Tuesday in good health.  Returning back to action were David Lofton and Babatunde Oshinowo.  Two of the notables on defense who sat out Monday and again Tuesday were Julian Jenkins and Jon Alston.  Jenkins is a hulking freak of a physical specimen, so it will come as a surprise what body part has been ailing him:  his toe.  Jenkins has been holding out of running and cutting while he rests the toe.  

Alston says that he held out of the practices to start the week as a precaution.  "I felt something in my hamstring like it was going to pop," the SAM linebacker explains.  "So we decided to lay off it before it happened.  I feel fine and will be back in practice tomorrow."

Jenkins similarly pledged that he would toss aside the yellow jersey for Wednesday's practices, and both players are anxious to return for a very important reason.  "I want to play Thursday," Jenkins says of the approaching joint practice with UC Davis.

Two more players making big strides Tuesday in the return from injury are redshirt frosh offensive guards Ismail Simpson and Josiah Vinson.  While Simpson is recovering from a mild knee injury earlier this camp, Vinson is at the tail end of a four-plus month rehab after breaking a bone in his leg early in spring ball.  It is not surprising then that Simpson is on a faster integration path than Vinson, though the latter actually took part in some one-on-one drills earlier in practice last week.  Both took giant leaps forward Tuesday by lining up for full pads live contact during 11-on-11 scrimmage situations.  Simpson is at left guard, while Vinson is playing the right side.

As you adjust your mental depth chart, the return of these two redshirt frosh means that true freshmen Mikal Brewer (right guard) and Preston Clover (left guard) return to the third team line with the rest of their class.  The first two teams of the offensive line are now exclusively manned by the 2002 class, with Jeff Edwards and Vinson on the right side; David Beall and Simpson are on the left.  Vinson worked out consistently with the second team Tuesday, but Simpson was more rapidly promoted.

"I felt like I hadn't missed a snap," the Oklahoma product professes.  "I was a little tired at first, which is a cardio thing - I was a little winded.  My legs feel just as strong as the beginning of camp.  But mechanically, I didn't miss a beat.  That felt good because I had missed 12 practices, you know?  That's a whole lot of time to miss."

Simpson showed off a wrap the trainers put around his knee, which he says makes a big difference for him.  "You might see me limping around off the field, but I actually feel better when I get this wrap and play some football," he grins.

The redshirt freshman guard was holding down the starting spot on the left side before his injury, running every snap with the first string OL.  He started Tuesday's drills with the second team, but when 11-on-11 time came, offensive line coach Steve Morton rotated Beall and Simpson every play that the first team was on the field.  "Coach says that you can't lose your starting spot due to injury, so I don't feel anxious about that," Simpson comments.  "But David Beall did an awesome job while I was out.  He's closed the gap, and we're going to have some great competition from here on out."

The fiery Simpson has been an incredible addition to this football team in his 13 months thus far at The Farm, and his abilities have been a great surprise to those who live and breath with recruiting services and their rankings.  Simpson was the least heralded of six scholarship OL that came in his class, but even just one day back in action is the greatest probability to start this fall.  But more than his talent on the field, he has grabbed attention because of his frequent skirmishes on the field.  He is a nasty player who has raised the ire of more than one defensive linemen, with pushes and shoves quite common from both sides after the whistle last year.  "Ish" (as he is known to all his teammates and coaches) had gone through this fall camp without any such incidents, save one brief tussle with Oshinowo late Tuesday, and that is a big change.

"I let my temper get to me too much last year," Simpson admits.  "I'm a nice guy off the field, but for whatever reason I play angry on the field.  I had to take anger management this year, to be honest with you.  It's helped me to keep myself composed, and I also am now more focused on the field than in the past."

Another change for the OK O-lineman is a little more bulk, as he has put on 15 pounds in the last year.  Now a solid 290 pounds, he feels he has the mass to go with his trademark quickness.  "It's all good weight," he declares.  "I was really concerned at first that it would slow me down, but I see that I'm pulling as quick as I ever have."

A lot could shake up at those two guard spots in the next week and a half, but it is also interesting that Drew Caylor has been running second team at center in almost every series for the last several days.  He had made a move up last week to the first string spot, with Brian Head sliding over to either guard spot.  But Caylor took ill with a virus and slid back.  It is a little surprising that with Caylor's return to good health, he has not made a return appearance with the first team OL.

The other position group still in great flux is the safety spots.  Brandon Harrison is still playing strong, but there is a more fluid rotation of safeties between the first and second teams.  Some of the lineups Tuesday included Oshiomogho Atogwe (free) with Trevor Hooper (strong), Atogwe (f) with Harrison (s), Atogwe (f) with Timi Wusu (s), Wusu (f) with Harrison (s), and Marcus McCutcheon (f) with Harrison (s).  Even the nickel back position is up in the air, with several different packages being attempted.  One included three safeties on the field, with Atogwe playing the nickel position up near the line of scrimmage.

There is no question that defensive backs coach A.J. Christoff is shuffling the deck and aggressively exploring all of his options to settle his safety positions.  We'll keep watching this and keep you updated with all movements and developments.

Tuesday was also Faculty & Staff Day, if you were at practice and wondering about all the observers on the field with name tags.  The football staff invited all of the faculty advisors for the 30 members of this freshman class to attend the afternoon practice, plus other faculty from various departments who have been involved with the program in some capacity.  Also in attendance were other vital members of University staff, including the good folks from Student Services, Religious Life, Residence Deans and the Admissions Office, who all work closely with the staff and student-athletes.  After the practice, all of the attendees went to dinner with the players and coaches.

Some of the notables included William F. Sharpe (winner of the 1990 Nobel Prize in Economics), Bobby Robbins (Medical School), Sepp Gumbrecht (Comparative Literature), George Foster (Graduate School of Business) and Julie Lythcott-Haims (Assistant Vice-Provost and Dean of Freshmen).

When you hear about faculty and admissions personnel, likely your first thoughts run to various machinations.  A day with decision makers on admissions and University policies - what a great chance to push Stanford Football's agenda in an informal setting!  Quite to the contrary, though, the afternoon was one big "thank you" from the team and coaches to the people that support them throughout the University.  Agendas will wait for another day.  This was a feel-good event that reinforced the strong bonds between Stanford Football and many arms of the connected campus community.

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