Fridays aren't good days if you're hoping to see scrimmage action or players making a lot of plays. The schedule Buddy Teevens has instituted for this spring has Fridays as the lightest days of practice, with shorts and light hitting. This give a change of pace to guys and helps keep them rested and ready for the biggest scrimmage action of the week - Saturday. That means you see more work on Friday in non-contact drills by position, with a lot of teaching going on. Some that I watched:
- Peter McCarty worked with his defensive ends on technique to get off on a blocker's shoulder. Stanford has a good group of athletes in this group, but they look like they all have a long way to go in understanding how to really play the position. Simple things like which foot to get off on, getting leverage underneath the blocker and the punch needed to finish him off. The nice bonus for lighter work on a Friday is that some of the guys who are out of contact like Mark Anderson and Louis Hobson could participate. Given how much more the ends are asked to do this year to attack, Coach McCarty will play a pivotal role in getting this group ready.
- I've noticed the past few practices that Tom Williams is focusing more and more on the pass coverage needed from his linebackers. Again returning to the greater attacking nature of the new Stanford defense, guys need to be able to shoot the gaps and get to the ball in a hurry. Still, Tom looks intent on making sure his guys can fall back and bolster the play in the defensive backfield. This is another part of Michael Craven's game that has jumped out this spring and impressed the heck out of me. He has shown great instincts and field awareness to read the QB and react like a panther. Then you add in his closing speed, which might be at or faster than Coy Wire's. Don't be surprised if Mike Craven leads Stanford's linebackers next fall in INTs and pass breakups. And kudos come here to Coach Williams, who is excelling as a teacher.
- The QBs worked with the WRs and DBs yet again, with a focus on running routes. Teyo Johnson was the clear stand-out, proving pretty close to impossible for any DB to stop. He is too big and strong to get jammed off the line of scrimmage, and his underrated speed is getting him open on deeper routes this spring. Oh, and he flashed a couple one-handed grabs in the back corner of the endzone to boot. I've said it before, and I'll say it again: Teyo Johnson is becoming a true receiver this spring and has shed his "Mr. Jump Ball" niche role. The teaching he's receiving this spring has him running very good routes now instead of just moving to a spot on the field and using his natural athletic abilities to go up and get the ball. And in talking with Coach David Kelly, I received confirmation on this point. Though Grant Mason has made huge strides in his first spring, Teyo is the guy who is tearing it up and looking unstoppable.
QB Trent Edwards, OL Jeff Edwards and DB Trevor Hooper were all in attendance at the Friday practice, representing the incoming freshman fall class. This weekend at Stanford is also "Admit Weekend" where hundreds and hundreds of kids from all over the country are visiting the Farm to help decide if they'll come to study this fall. Junior recruits in attendance included TE/DE Steve Hogan (Strake Jesuit Prep - Houston, TX), QB Richard Irvin (Muir - Pasadena, CA) and the Ting twins - QB/DB Brandon Ting and WR/DB Ryan Ting (James Logan - Union City, CA).
Steve Hogan (left) and Richard Irvin (right)
On a somewhat related recruiting note, perhaps the most important junior basketball recruit in the country for Stanford was also visiting this weekend. Yes, David Padgett was on campus for a very big visit, and the early reports I gathered from the guys on the hoops team were very positive. Certainly, the weather couldn't have been any better for Padgett or the football recruits - bright, sunny skies with a light breeze and comfortable warmth in the 70's.
Now, jumping to Saturday, I'll go ahead with more recruits. Steve Hogan (and his family) and Richard Irvin were their again, and they spent a lot of time with Trent Edwards on the sideline during the scrimmage. Trent is already taking a role similar to what we remember Chris Lewis did three or so years ago, working hard to bring in quality recruits. He's working it. Additional recruits Saturday included a familiar QB in the area, T.C. Ostrander from Menlo-Atherton. Also FB/LB Kevin Zaccardi from Freedom HS (Oakley, CA) and WR/DB Zack Rockwell from Concord were in attendance.
TC Ostrander (left) and Kevin Zaccardi (right)
Now, on to the scrimmage. Here are some players and plays that stood out:
- The overwhelming new of the day was J.R. Lemon. Recovering from his off-season shoulder surgery, the freshman running back has spent the first two weeks of the spring out of contact with the yellow jersey. He removed that yellow jersey just earlier this week, yet he gobbled up the lion's share of snaps with the #1 offense in Saturday's scrimmage. Wow - talk about a jump. I have to believe his shoulder still isn't 100% right now, given the gasps I saw Friday and Saturday when Lemon was flipped over or took a big hit, but he showed some great cutbacks and flashes. He even powered one-on-one through Brian Gaffney near the goalline for a touchdown. J.R. just looks like the smoothest and most instinctive of the backs to me, and the coaches appear to be of the same mind. Lemon is surely an important player to watch in this final week of spring ball. Note that Kerry Carter is still sitting out.
- Justin Faust got a lot of running work when Kyle Matter took the field, which incidentally translated into the fewest throws for Ryan of any quarterback. But Justin seized his opportunities with some great runs. He again showed great speed hitting the holes in the middle of the offensive line, one of which led to the longest running play of the day. Justin does have some problems when he tries to make big cuts behind the line of scrimmage. Kenny Tolon made a great cut downfield on one run, coming from right to left for a nice touchdown.
- I mentioned Chris Lewis' beautiful play-action in a previous set of practice notes, but he put on a real show Saturday. I and several others in attendance bit just as hard as the defense on some of Chris' fakes, which resulted in big plays downfield or some razzle-dazzle. It looks like Buddy and OC Mike Sanford have identified this strength and are ready to take advantage of it in the offense. You just don't see guys in college master play-action like Chris is showing.
- A couple of the big plays in pass coverage came on a nice Colin Branch interception, and a pass breakup deflected to the air where O.J. Atogwe picked it off on the run and went all the way to the house. The pass rush looked very strong from the inside and outside, with Will Svitek causing problems play after play, and both Casey Carroll and O.J. Oshinowo getting great pushes inside. All three of these guys recorded sacks, though the fact that most came against the second-string O-line tells you something. Svitek did get a lot of work with the #1 defense, though.
- Ryan Eklund had an up and down day, making a few bad decisions throwing into multiple coverages, but also showing some picture-perfect passes down the field. Two of the best came from 25 or more yards out: one was a touch pass to Brandon Royster down the left sideline in the endzone; the other dropped softly into Caleb Bowman's hands in the right front corner of the endzone.
- I think this receiving corps is as deep and dangerous now as any I've seen at Stanford, but there are still some concerns with the depth in the defensive backfield. Hopefully Garry Cobb will add some depth when he gets healthy, but I stick with my prediction in February that cornerback T.J. Rushing is the one incoming freshman with the greatest opportunity to play this fall - both in ability and need at the position.
- Leigh Torrence continues to be the best playmaker in the secondary, and had a lot of aggressive plays Saturday. He also is showing me that he can tackle better than I've seen from him before. Kevin Schimmelman made some plays, too, and continues his strong push this spring into the mix at safety as well as the nickel back. The coaches really like him as well.
- Additionally, Jason White is starting to push Calvin Armstrong in nickel and dime situations as an extra DB on the field.
- Teyo had several nice plays, mostly connecting from Chris Lewis. Alex Smith may have had the toughest catch of the day, though, grabbing a ball out of the air with one hand in the midst of a sea of tacklers.
- The weather was beautiful, but the atmosphere got the real lift from all of the Stanford football alumni in attendance on Reunion Day. A small fraction of the names included Steve Stenstrom, Jon Ritchie, Garin Veris, Mike Dotterer, Rob Moore, Pete Swanson, Kevin Miller, Milt Vucinich, Steve Frost, Greg Baty and Jon Volpe. A few player parents were there as well, including Lola Oshinowo, Leigh Torrence Sr. and Bill Eklund.