Coming off the first loss of the season, Cardinalmaniacs™ are very focused on a few core issues to this football team right now:
- Where do we stand with respect to injuries?
- What adjustments are we making after the loss?
- Who is developing as we reach the midpoint in the season?
With those issues in mind, I managed to get down to practice on Wednesday with a watchful eye...
- Injuries are the top issue with this team, and I am able to report a mix of good and bad news. First the bad: Matt Leonard ambled on to the practice field late in street clothes, with the aid of a cane. Tyrone has as much of a chance of playing this Saturday as Matt. Major (maybe devastating) loss on the defensive line. The silver lining I can offer is that he doesn't really need the cane. He carried it as much as he used it to walk... Jake Covault is gone for the season, though he could possibly be back for a bowl game. MCL damage from Saturday... Trey Freeman was not in pads, and limped just a little. Yes, he left on a cart from the game, but that was out of caution more than need. Reportedly, he walked just fine back in the lockerroom and got a little raz from his teammates for using the cart as transportation. He didn't work out Wednesday, but should on Thursday and is expected to play... Anthony Gabriel and Matt Friedrichs both stood on the sidelines through most of practice, in pads. AG actually participated in the last half-hour or so, with the soft cast. He's good to go for Saturday, and Friedrichs is expected as well... Marcus Hoover is fine... Ruben Carter was not in pads, but that hasn't been unusual through the last couple of seasons in Tuesday and Wednesday practices. He's fine...
- On offense, Kerry Carter fully participated and is 100% for Saturday. His concussion was a mild one... Luke Powell is 100% and fully participated Wednesday. Beyond that, he looked awfully good. I expect Diedrick to really leverage Cool Hand Luke's quickness on the carpet in Eugene... Ryan Wells was the one receiver to not participate, but he's expected to go on Saturday... Up front, Zack Quaccia was healthy and taking all snaps with the 1st team OL...
- The injury-related shock of the week: Brian Head is back in practice this week. Tuesday was his first day. Remarkable recovery, though I do not expect to see him on the field this season. You feel good for Brian to see him back so soon, but there is also the potential to need him if we get ripped with more injuries on the OL. For the record, he worked out at right guard with the #2 offense Wednesday. Drew Caylor at LT; Edmund O'Neal at LG; Andy Clavin at C; Head at RG; Mike Sullivan at RT. Don't know where Tom Kolich was.
- A few adjustments and developments I noted Wednesday: Darin Naatjes is being used in a more diverse set of formations, including being split out wide. Not just in the redzone. I'd rather not divulge formations, but the use of Nacho and Teyo Johnson was demonstrated in an innovative and intelligent fashion... I saw option being run a little by both the offense and the scout team. I wonder if the two-point conversion we saw last Saturday will prove to be a harbinger more than a curiousity... Caleb Bowman and Brandon Royster, to my eyes, were exclusively on the scout offense... Plenty of attention to detail on special teams on Wednesday. An unusual amount in my experience watching Stanford practices, though curiously mostly on placekicking and not punting.
- Speaking of special teams, Grant Mason put on one of the best moves I've ever seen on a kick return, and it's notable that he did this against the first team kickoff coverage unit. The kick went to him on the left side of the field, with the wedge forming in the center. He made a sharp cut after the catch to go in behind the wedge, and then turned on a dime right back up the field away from the wedge. I don't know that was designed or improvisation by Mason. Would have been six points, except Justin Faust reacted and hit him from the side. Grant took a serious hit on that play because Justin laid him flat out. Beautiful.
- Sgroi still shows the stronger leg to me than Biselli on kickoffs.
- Interesting to me that Kyle Matter got significantly more snaps than Ryan Eklund on the scout offense. I don't have enough data points to say if this is a move on the depth chart, or if KM is felt to be a better replica of Hype Harrington.
- While some of the players I noted above who sat out are expected to play Saturday, it is worth noting who is stepping in as their replacements. No surprise that Travis Pfeifer and Craig Albrecht are playing the defensive interior, with Travis staying in on nickel and dime formations. Though a secondary effect is that OJ Oshinowo is getting a lot more work than usual now at the #2 NT. At linebacker, David Bergeron and Brian Gaffney got the work in the absence of Gabriel and Friedrichs. Bergeron is somebody we haven't seen much of yet, and somebody who would have a homecoming-type motivation to play like a crazed man in Eugene this Saturday. With Covault gonzo, DB is about to get his chances.
- Teyo looked very good in practice. One drop I didn't like, but otherwise excellent hands to grab high balls on the run. Running better patterns, and showing patience. He still has killer moves in the open field, including one right after a catch around the 10-yardline that shook OJ Atogwe out of his jock. Touchdown.
- Amon Gordon looked awfully good bltizing in the nickel package. For those who are hoping to see him move up the line, they will be disappointed to hear that even with Matt Leonard and Trey Freeman out, Amon is still at ILB. Similarly, those hoping to see Michael Craven step up in the midst of these linebacker injuries will be disappointed to hear him continue to work exclusively with the #2 defense.
- Alex Smith was Justin Peele on the scout team, and continues to impress. I said it a few weeks back and will say it again: Justin Peele may be the most dangerous man on that team Saturday. Forget Maurice Morris, Onterrio Smith or Keenan Howry. Peele will be difficult to cover, and a weapon Belotti will go to in the redzone.
- The noise simulator is coming out for Thursday's practice.
- I feel good about Trent Edwards' SAT retake and about his future with Stanford. There appear to be likely collateral benefits to come with a Trent verbal, as well...