New Pads, New Faces, New Looks

As the clock struck 4 o'clock on Friday afternoon, you undoubtedly were starting to wrap up your work week at the office - with the stresses and deadlines in your rearview mirror. Over on The Farm, Cardinal Football was just kicking into high gear with the first practice of the fall with any pads. Two new faces joined the team, and the action on the field got a little more physical.

On a picture perfect Friday afternoon in August, the Cardinal took the field for Day Three, the first day of Fall practice conducted with players in upper pads. Naturally, was there with binoculars in hand to confirm immediately that for which we had all been hoping. Yes, redshirt junior LB Michael Craven (#42) and fifth-year senior RB Kenneth Tolon (#26) were in uniform and practicing with the team. This positive news, which we reported eagerly as Hot News on the website within minutes of the start of today's practice, comes at a time when a major blow would have been disheartening if not devastating to the Stanford team as they prepare for the critical 2004 season. The welcome presence of the talented twosome, each of whom had been awaiting clearance from the university today following submission of "academic updates," came as a great relief, significantly lowering the blood pressure of many of the red-hot railbirds in attendance!

Stanford athletic director Ted Leland spent a few minutes at the start of practice chatting privately with enthusiastic head coach Buddy Teevens (hopefully about the increasing likelihood of a significant renovation of Stanford Stadium! Hint, Hint!) Unfortunately, technical difficulties resulted in a malfunction of our electronic eavesdropping efforts so we are unable to provide a transcript of the conversation.

Friday's practice was pretty routine. It did not yield any notable position changes or any significant injuries, although redshirt sophomore running back Gerald "Commish" Commissiong (#22) did limp off the field with a bum leg at the end of practice. Redshirt freshman WR Mike Miller (#18) dinged his ankle running into defensive coordinator & secondary coach A.J. Christoff, but appeared to recover quickly. With the addition of upper pads, things got a little more "up close and personal" than in the first two practices of the week. Surly sophomores highlight the shoving highlights. OG Josiah Vinson (#59) and NT Nick Frank (#93) exchanged pleasantries not long after Vinson jumped offside. Redshirt freshmen OG Mikal Brewer (#72) and OLB Udeme "U2" Udofia (#90) had an "animated discussion", possibly discussing the Fed's recent decision to raise interest rates.

While the offense did not provide any jaw-dropping plays, the overall play was encouraging. Too many interceptions were tossed, but fortunately not by our main meal-ticket, redshirt sophomore QB Trent Edwards (#5).  While admittedly possessing no professional scouting skills, I already like what little we saw today of freshman RB Ray Jones (#34), WR Anthony Kimble (#80), and CB Wopamo Osaisai (#10). It is impossible not to be impressed with the raw athletic ability among these newly-arrived skill position players. They could help, maybe even this year. The larger of the newcomers may not be able to have as immediate an impact, but watching them drill as a group, Cardinal fans should be looking forward with great anticipation to the eventual, inevitable contributions of our "future fab five" crop of new offensive linemen: Alex Fletcher (#60), Bobby Dockter (#68), Allen Smith (#67), Ben Muth (#76) and Michigan transfer Jeff Zuttah (#63). Big and strong. As good-looking a group as we have seen in some time. Their future in the Stanford football program is so bright, they might have to wear shades!

Plays of the Day: Senior co-captain OLB Jared Newberry (#17), who frequently found himself lining up right at the line of scrimmage, snared a tipped ball for an interception and took it back for a defensive score. Second place to CB Leigh Torrence (#29) for a heads-up pick off QB David Lofton (#6) when a sideline pass came up well short. Honorable mention is awarded to any of several tackles involving sophomore LB Michael Okwo (#55). Kimble made a terrific catch before Okwo lowered the boom with an "ooh-aah"-inspiring hit. Not sure what it is, but Okwo has that hit-through-people physics-related thing that Ronnie Lott had and John Lynch still has. We pity that fool that isn't aware of where #55 is on the field.

Kibbles & Bits: Observing Garrett Moore (#18), a low recruiting profile freshman QB from Arizona, in action, you get the sense that he could indeed possess Pac-10-level talent. After seeing him get some reps, it sure looks like he has potential to be a legitimate college quarterback. Ryan Eklund had another sub-par day, getting picked by Nick Sanchez (#40) early in the 11-on-11 sets… It is abundantly clear that senior TE Alex "A-Boy" Smith (#81) can get it done against the Stanford defense, which means he should have a heck of a year. Strong, smooth, great hands, focus, confidence.  The sky is the limit!... Well-earned props to Mike Silva (#58) and Landon Johnson (#53), who showed serious hustle in kick coverage drills conducted by coach Tom Williams… The offense tried a "special play" twice, each time unsuccessfully. Needs work, but it's likely to be used. Sorry for the lack of further detail, but early opponents could be lurking… You have to like redshirt freshman Mike Macellari (#66) toughing it out with his leg in a walking boot, listening intently and being an active part of the practice without being able to participate. Love the school spirit demonstrated by the presence of a bright red Stanford Block "S" decal on his boot!... Glancing at the new 2004 Football Media Guide, Goliathon redshirt freshman offensive tackle David Long (#77) appears to have gotten a tad shorter, as he is now listed at 6'9" instead of 6'10"… Locally-based families were out in numbers today: Camarillos, Ostranders, Edwardses (Trent) and more… the back of a young staff member's Nike t-shirt stated what all of us were feeling as we took in another August afternoon down on the Farm: "Sure, there's more to life than football (but not much)."

Farm Fashion Review:  Over the years, close-watching Cardinal fans have been subjected to a wide variety of curious fashion statements made on the football field. None is more notorious than the "high sock" look. It used to be more of a hoops thing. Still gaining converts twenty years after Los Angeles Laker 6th Man Michael Cooper revitalized it during the shining days of "Showtime," the "high sock" look has proven surprisingly persistent. Within Stanford's basketball program, high socks have been around for quite a while, more recently exhibited by the likes of hoops heroes Arthur Lee and Nick "Pops" Robinson. One-time Cardinal Leon Vickers tried hard to bring the "high socks" look to the gridiron in the mid-1990s. We were never quite sure why. It's hard to believe that wearing one's socks knee-high gives one a palpable advantage over one's competition. Arguably, it may protect against minor scrapes and scratches, but clearly these cats are attempting to look "cool." Current members of the "Stanford High Socks Entourage" ["The SHSE"] include WRs Greg Camarillo (#23) and Marcus McCutcheon (#30), RBs Jason Evans (#33) and Kris Bonifas (#31), CB Stanley Wilson (#2) and free safety Bryan Bentrott (#43). Linemen don't seem to go in for high socks. Maybe it has something to do with of the elaborate mechanical knee braces so many of the big boys are sporting these days. These are not the knee braces of old; they look like they were designed by NASA. Some players wear them to prevent injury, some to protect prior injury. Today, I counted no fewer than six of our offensive linemen wearing protective black knee braces on each leg: Josiah Vinson (#59), Mikal Brewer (#72), Ismail Simpson (#79), Amir Malayery (#73), and Brian Head (#71). FB Kris Bonifas (#31) was wearing just one, obviously to protect the knee that caused him to miss the entire 2003 season.)

Speaking of fashion statements… as Chief Bootie Mike Eubanks previously reported, "Bone" Bonifas has begun Fall Ball sporting a full-on Mohawk haircut. Always a fun-loving look for Autumn. Going a step further, freshman Floridian LB Pat Maynor (#54) is sporting a "No-Hawk" (a fully-shaven head). According to the newly-released 2004 football press guide, Bonifas' favorite actor is Australian-born Mel Gibson, which is fitting since it appears he must have lobbied fellow fullback (and fellow Gibson fan) Patrick "P-Diddy" Danahy (#82) to recreate a surreal scene from Gibson's memorable apocalyptic action-flick, Mad Max. How can I describe young Danahy's current hairstyle? Well, it's sort of a semi-punk double-Mohawk. I am not sure if one of the scrappy Scotsmen in Braveheart served as inspiration, but it's a wild guess. His head & hair package has that same disconcerting, unnerving quality that weird-bearded Scott Pollard used to bring to the NBA. Kind of rough n' tough, but more just plain old crazy! Here's predicting it's gone within a week. Were he still around, The Sheriff of Willingham would have already had "P-Diddy" in for a nice chat. As far as we are concerned, Danahy should keep it, provide he agrees to run like Tommy Vardell, block like Casey Moore, and catch balls out of the backfield like Phil Francis. Is that too much to ask? 

The Cardinal will be back at it this Saturday afternoon at 4:00PM, the first day of full pads! Come on out and catch some Fall Fever.

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