No Boredom In This Bye Week

If you thought you could sit back and take a big Boot-breather this bye week, then think again. The news came rapid-fire today, both in the morning press conference and at the afternoon practice. Read on for all the latest developments, including a shuffle at the safety positions, a position switch in the freshman ranks, comments on the altitude challenge at BYU, quotes on the QB decision and more!

We already knew from earlier in the day that strong safety Timi Wusu would be held out of practices this week with his strained knee, which delivers a significant blow to the depth at that position.  But today also dealt another shot, with starting free safety Oshiomogho Atogwe turning his ankle and sitting out most of the practice icing it.  While not good news, it is at least intellectually interesting to see what the coaches do when they are faced with the loss of a starter.  Injuries will come throughout the year, and mastery of personnel is one of the most important skills for a coaching staff.

Absent both Wusu and Atogwe, we saw two primary safety combinations employed today.  Both kept Trevor Hooper at strong safety, with the permutation coming at the free safety spot.  Not only did second string FS Marcus McCutcheon get a lot of work, but so too did nominal SS Brandon Harrison.  Turns out not only does the staff feel so good about Harrison that they are playing him this year as a true freshman, but also they are using him at both safety positions.

"You have a lot of the same responsibilities at both positions," the Baton Rouge freshman says.  "And it's good to be able to know what the other guy does on the field."

Harrison ironically was the one freshman who has had his redshirt year "burned" by playing in the UC Davis scrimmage but did not play Saturday night in the season opener.  He takes that in stride and believes it a prudent move by the coaches.  "Defensive back is a really complicated position," he comments.  "If the older guys are playing well, I don't see a reason to put me into the game.  I have a lot I'm still learning.  I'll get there."

But the humble Harrison was for one week of training camp running as the #1 strong safety on this team.  He has the talent, which has surprised more than just the coaches.  "I think most freshmen expect to redshirt, and I was going to use the year to get bigger and stronger," he admits.  "But I surprised myself a little with how I did in camp.  After I got through the initial adjustments, I let myself go and just started making plays.

Now we know that he is a player who could be called upon as a playmaker at either strong or free safety...


The big news of the day was the appearance of freshman Tim Sims on defense.  The move from wide receiver to cornerback was not unexpected - at some point in his Cardinal career.  But for the switch to occur in early September was a surprise.

"Coach [Teevens] and I sat down and he told me that he wanted to test me out on defense," Sims tells.  "My dad was in town this weekend, and he and I talked with Coach Christoff Saturday night after the game.  Coach Christoff told my dad the expectations and goals he had for me as a defensive back.  My dad and I talked, and he said the switch was the best thing for me to do.  I've played a lot of years at wide receiver, and I won't forget how.  But I can do a lot if I learn defense early like this.  Defensive back is a tougher position to play, and I'll get better recognition for playing well there."

Position switches are a delicate business, as both player and coach look to strike a balance best for both the team and the individual.  But it's hard for a coach to suggest a position move without rubbing the player the wrong way.  Is Sims not valued at WR?  Do the coaches want to move him because they evaluate that he can't cut it on offense?  Is this move contrary to any promises of offense made in high school?

"I'm fine," Sims answers.  "It's a new position for me, and it will be tough.  I have a lot to learn.  But this is going to bring out even more of my competitive nature."

This is somewhat of a risky move by the Stanford staff, given that they are bringing an athletic talent like Sims out of his natural element and putting him somewhere they have never seen him play.  You might assume that a receiver played defensive back in high school as well, but Sims played only offense at Glades Central High School.  Well, almost exclusively on offense.

"I did play one game on defense in high school," the affable Sims says with a big grin.  "I had one deflection.  But this is really like starting from scratch for me.  Today was kinda shaky at first.  I honestly don't have a clue what to do out there.  I don't know the plays or techniques.  Coach Christoff wouldn't instruct me for this play or that; he'd just tell me to play inside or outside.  I did have two breakups today, though and almost got another!"

So why make a move like this without the benefit of some empirical evidence of his defensive talent?  Christoff has seen Sims move around on the field while on offense, and there are some inherent attributes he believes can translate wonderfully to cornerback.  "Coach said he thought I had good feet," the player explains.  "He liked my side-to-side motion he saw in one-on-one drills.  I really don't know, though.  I never did it before."

My final question for the grinning Sims was the length of this experiment.  When Teevens said that he wanted to "test" the freshman at cornerback, that implies a finite timeframe, followed by some evaluation of whether to keep him there or move him back.  Turns out the answer came when Sims and Teevens jogged off the field together.  "I'll be here for a while," Sims says - again with a big smile on his face.  "We just talked about that.  Coach says he likes what he sees and wants me to give this a shot.  But in the future he'd like me to go both ways."

Of course, watching a cornerback backpedal with #84 on his jersey just won't do.  Expect a number change to come this week, with Sims picking up the now-vacant #8...


This first full practice of the bye week also saw some other players out of action.  Starting middle linebacker David Bergeron sat out almost the entire practice as he tends to a hip pointer.  He says he'll be fine and did not flinch at the question of readiness for the BYU game.  This is one example where a bye week helps players recover in the midst of a season.  Fifth-year senior Brian Gaffney had a huge load of repetitions at MLB today and filled Bergeron's spot without missing a beat.  Losing a player like Bergeron is never a welcome event, but Gaffney is hardly second string in ability...

Starting right tackle Mike Sullivan was nowhere to be seen at practice, which mean that redshirt freshman Jon Cochran had to fill in and take the first team snaps at the position.  Again, not such a bad thing.  Cochran is the future of this position, and that future could be sooner than next year.  With Cochran moving up, now two true freshman are the reserves at the two tackle positions.  Amir Malayery worked out all practice with the second team OL at left tackle, while big 6'10" David Long took the right tackle.  It was Long's first work with the second team this year...

Today was of course the first day that redshirt freshman Trent Edwards worked out as the first team quarterback.  He and Chris Lewis had both taken a lot of repetitions previously, and now Edwards has a small edge in practice.  But the more significant difference is that Edwards works out primarily with the first team offensive line.  He previously spent more time with the second string beefcake, which is now the case for Lewis.  Of note, both QBs ran the two minute drill at the end of practice.  Edwards moved the offense successfully for a score on a high arching toss to Luke Powell at the goalline.  Lewis found himself in a 4th and 16 situation with his first set of downs, but was bailed out with a pass interference.  The two-minute drill was concluded at that point...

Many observers may be concerned that the fifth-year Lewis could lose focus and motivation, with a player three years his junior seizing the reigns.  Buddy Teevens says that he expects no such lapse from his senior leader.  "I believe Chris is a competitor and will push to improve himself for his next opportunity on the field," he offers.  Though Teevens does not know when that next chance will come.  Judging by the hits Edwards took late in Saturday night's game, though, the opportunity could come sooner than later when the redshirt frosh gets his bell rung - or worse.  "On occasion Trent held onto the ball a little bit," the coach observes.  "He needs to identify his target more rapidly."... 

You may have noticed a more reserved Teevens on the sidelines in the San Jose State game.  Rather than running the whole show in a heavy-handed fashion, the head coach kept himself at a safe distance from much of the detailed coaching during the game.  "I had a chance to see more from a distance," Teevens comments.  "My opinion is helpful, but I will help from a distance.  I'm really happy with the job being done by our coaches.  That's pretty much what I'll do going forward."...

Mondays this year are off-days for Stanford Football, which made this the first push of the week.  It's a good thing, as many players were reported to be dragging during their day of rest.  Fans can't appreciate this, but four weeks of camp followed by a season opening game has taken its toll.  Buddy Teevens sees this and is giving the team Friday and Saturday off.  He knows his boys have been through the ringer, and have also been in close quarters for a long time.  Some of the West Coast players will take the two-day pass to go home, while others are expected to make recreational road trips.  That leaves just Wednesday and Thursday for full practices this week.  The team will report to action on Sunday for film review and a light workout...

How much will altitude play into Stanford's next game at BYU?  The team has two weeks to prepare, if that is even possible, but Teevens is downplaying the impact of playing a three-plus hour football game at 4,500 feet.  "The difference will be negligible," the head coach professes.  "It's an in-and-out shot for us.  I've talked with pro people, and they tell me too much is made of the elevation.  I know we are a well-conditioned football team, and that was borne out on Saturday.  I do believe that hydration is important, and that's something we will watch closely in the game."


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