The key word for Monday's practice was "injuries." Like a scene deleted in the final editing for the latest rendition of The Sopranos, I witnessed a disturbing number of yellow-jersied bodies piling up on the sidelines. I felt like I was in the back room of the Bada Bing, and I couldn't help the nervous looks over my shoulder for Tony, Christopher or (gulp) Furio. Sheepishly, I have to admit the excitement at the thought of catching a glimpse of Meadow, but she too was not to be found...
Departing from that tangent and cutting to the chase, here are the battered bodies of note right now:
TE Matt Traverso - hamstring, though says hopeful for
WR Greg Camarillo - sprained ankle (looked very gimpy to me and unlikely to return for several days, if at all this week)
WR Evan Moore - shoulder - ** new injury on Monday
WR Marcus McCutcheon - ankle - ** new injury on Monday
WR Mike Miller - unknown
RB David Marrero - shoulder, though might be good for Wednesday (banged it up again very late Saturday)
RB J.R. Lemon - unknown
OG David Beall - muscle spasms
The wide receiver corps is of course the most decimated. By the end of Monday's practice, with the new injuries to Moore and McCutcheon, there were literally just four healthy receiver bodies able to participate in the live 11-on-11 scrimmaging: Mark Bradford, Justin McCullum, Matt Buchanan and Chris Ryan. One sliver of good news is that Ryan tore off his yellow jersey early in the practice and participated in drills and live work for the first time in more than two weeks. The walk-on's development in his two years at Stanford has been seriously hampered by an unending string of injuries, and you really have to root for some extended good health for him. If other bodies don't get well, Ryan will be seeing a tremendous amount of work this week and could help make up for time he has lost.
One other receiver on the mend is Gerren Crochet. The sprinter hurt his hamstring in late March, just before the start of spring ball, running track. He has worn a yellow jersey all month and has not run a single route on the turf - until Monday. Whie he kept on the yellow jersey and did not participate in the 11-on-11 sessions, he did run routes in passing drills for the first time. Better late than never - it would be great for him and the offense if he could get some work this last week of spring.
With so many skill players out of action, I admit it was difficult to pay much attention to the offense. One important take-home note, though, was the promotion of T.C. Ostrander. He acquitted himself very well in Saturday's scrimmage, and it was an important event for him. To be honest, the freshman quarterback had struggled previously this spring - showing little development and a lot of inconsistency in his throws. But with a strong scrimmage performance, he has now moved up to the #2 position, with Ryan Eklund dropping to #3.
Over on defense, we have much better injury news, with not a single new injury this day or apparent from Saturday. In fact, one new body was added to the playing mix who has been out almost the entire spring: strong safety Trevor Hooper. He took part in position drills and 7-on-7 skeleton work, though I did not see him in the final live scrimmage that closed the practice. He says he is feeling physically better but has "to be conscious" of the injury as he works his way back. It will be interesting to see how fast he works his way back, with just three practices (including the Cardinal & White Spring Game) remaining, as well as how he competes against Brandon Harrison and Calvin Armstrong.
Hooper's return was one surprise on defense. Another was the first appearance of the nickel package this spring. The team actually did a little bit of skeleton work on the nickel in Friday's walk-through, but nothing came out in Saturday's scrimmage. This Monday practice was the first time they really worked on the package in earnest. It doesn't take a TheBootleg.com to figure out who is the nickel back on this team, given the talent and depth at the cornerback positions. Whichever two CBs are already on the field, the third from the Leigh Torrence - Stanley Wilson - T.J. Rushing group comes off the sideline as the fifth defensive back.
But the substitution is different from what we have known with the old 4-3 defense. In years past, the fifth DB would replace one LB. From what was shown Monday, though, the player to go off the field is the nose guard from the defensive line. The two outside rushers (who are a blend of the old weakside DEs and strongside LBs) put a hand on the ground in a three-point stance, giving you a four-man front line. It effectively looks like a 4-2-5, though you have to realize that the "defensive ends" in this four-man front are very mobile players who can drop back into coverage. If you don't make more substitutions in this nickel package, you would have Jared Newberry and Jon Alston playing those spots. That gives the defense the ability to send a pass rush or drop guys into coverage. I'm sure this package will be tweaked this week and then again in August, but that is your best first look at Stanford's nickel defense.
- Speaking of the defensive front, Julian Jenkins saw a lot of work Monday with the first team DL. He's coming on and earning more and more time. As had been hoped, this new position (four technique - head up on the offensive tackle) is a nice blend of inside play and pass rushing that may well suit his body and abilities.
- The top defensive play of the day goes to Nick Sanchez, who made an acrobatic diving snare for an interception. It was a helluva quick reaction and an athletic play to get to the ball. Defensive teammates ran from the sideline to congratulate him - it was that impressive.
- Best offensive play came on a long hook-up between Trent Edwards and Mark Bradford on the right sideline. Showing the form that thrilled us in the fall, Bradford leapt up to attack the ball and grabbed it over his defender.
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