Stanford ramped things up noticeably on Saturday’s open practice, with a spirited and sometimes salty effort that gave both offense and defense much on which to chew heading into the final week of spring ball.
For much of the day, Stanford’s defense had its way with the Cardinal offense. Stanford was stymied in its first series of goal line and short yardage attempts, situations on which Coach David Shaw informed us during the week that the Cardinal had been focusing. Ryan Burns had his day with the ones, and the initial pre-scrimmage part of practice saw the quarterbacks getting a bunch of reps running read options.
Burns looked far better than K.J. Costello, who forced a badly thrown deep ball into double coverage at one point during the scrimmage that Treyjohn Butler, one of many Stanford defenders to have a good day, was able to intercept. The pass was intended for tight end Scooter Harrington, who showcase his skills run-blocking, route-running and catching for most of the day.
Costello just didn’t seem to have as much accuracy and conviction in his throws as Burns did on this particular day. And while he was operating with the second string offensive line (which featured Devery Hamilton at left tackle and Jack Dreyer at right tackle), he did get plenty of chances to throw to the top available receivers. J.J. Arcega-Whiteside was not one of those receivers, as he got his right ankle stepped on early in the session and was held out as a precaution. Coach Shaw confirmed that Arcega-Whiteside was fine after practice.
Burns helped spark the offense’s late resurgence with the best ball of the day, a deep post corner route to Trenton Irwin over Frank Buncom. Irwin looks better every time we see him out on the field. His route running, hands, and even speed all seem much improved. He’s usually the last guy off the field, and he stayed after practice to catch passes from Burns on Saturday.
Stanford’s starting offensive line went David Bright, Nate Herbig, Brian Chaffin (Burkett held out as planned), Brandon Fanaika, and A.T. Hall left to right. They got some payback in teh final goal line sequence of the day, although two of their three consecutive touchdowns came against the second-string defense. Cameron Scarlett flew in successfully over the pile, Costello did complete a nice play action corner touchdown to Kaden Smith, and then Reagan Williams blasted through for a touchdown against the first string defense to punctuate the day.
Both offensive and defensive coaching staffs were fired up today, celebrating every nearly every big play with some EUTM. Bobby Okereke had the biggest highlight play of the day, with a perfectly timed Shayne Skov-esque goal line leap over the pile to blow up a Reagan Williams carry in the backfield. Curtis Robinson also had some good moments coming off the edge. Finally, Brandon Simmons was all over the field, breaking up passes and laying the wood on any offensive player (regardless of size) who came anywhere near him.
The coaches’ “What Me Worry?” approach to the quarterback situation seems to have brought some peace and focus to the squad. Players in each position group seem focused on their jobs, and Coach Shaw has repeatedly emphasized there have been nothing but good vibes coming from Burns and Costello. For what it’s worth, Costello spent a good amount of time after practice talking to the Pac-12 Network’s Ashley Adamson and Yogi Roth.
If there was one blemish on the day, it was the kickers. Neither Jet Toner nor Colin Riccatelli distinguished themselves, as both missed 33-yard and 43-yard attempts and simply didn’t appear sharp on the day. As one distinguished Bootleg subscriber reminded me, however, Conrad Ukropina had a similar spring showing prior to his junior year, and that worked out pretty well.
So Stanford is 75% finished with spring ball, there have been no major injuries, and both Keller Chryst and Daniel Marx are reportedly still on schedule to return for summer camp. That’s about as much as can be asked of the squad this spring. With so many variables awaiting summer camp, the Cardinal continues to grind on through April seemingly content with the knowledge that most of its questions will work themselves out in time.