Monday was another practice in shorts for the men in Cardinal and White. About 80-85% of the time was spent with drills, and the final portion with the guys going at it 11-on-11. The good news is that during the drills, there is an awful lot of teaching going on. The bad news is that it's tougher to report when guys don't go head to head. There's only so much you can say when linebackers are hitting the sled and running backs are trying to strip the ball from each other.
But I found some substance worthy of your Boot-digestion...
- Coach Mark Banker took his DBs aside for a good chunk of time and worked without receivers on coverage schemes. Now that the defense is being more aggressive than the past, the DBs have a lot more responsibility. A lot of this spring has worked on the individual responsibilities in single coverage, but the integration of where the safeties and corners should be is increasingly important. My observations were that there is a long way to go for this unit to handle what Banker wants them to do. Beyond just instincts, when a receiver breaks off his route, you have to know whether to release him at a certain spot on the field or not. They don't have it yet.
- Later, Banker and Coach David Kelly resumed their regular workouts together with the DBs versus the receivers. The chemistry with the two coaches is very good - they are both persistent and demanding teachers. Regardless of whether you totally blew a play or drew yelps from your teammates, there's something you're going to hear. They don't tear into guys to break them down though, but the teaching and talking is non-stop. I like it. I like it a lot.
- The receivers got the best of the DBs one-on-one Monday. The best moves came from Teyo Johnson, Nick Sebes, Justin McCullum and Brandon Royster. Teyo is getting more and more physical against his defenders off the line of scrimmage, and I do wonder if the zebras would ever call him for it. Nah. But he's almost swatting his man away like a small pet off the snap. It's almost unfair. The receivers are also getting better at cutting off their routes, which is a big part of how they're getting open. Royster had a really sharp cut that drew some hearty praise from Coach Kelly.
- The running backs worked on hitting and blocking, and Coach Wayne Moses really encouraged them to start popping some shots. As is a theme for all coaches across all positions, the new style of Stanford football wants to see guys really fly around the field.
- Later, the backs worked with the linemen on running drills. The OL and DL worked only half the line at a time. A couple notes: Kerry Carter got some runs (non-contact) and looked good. I haven't seen him hardly run all spring, but he's big and moving fast. Also, I watched Brett Pierce and Michael Lovelady go head-to-head. I've been impressed with the progress Lovelady has made, and he has a reputation as a very hard worker. He's got speed off the edge with explosiveness, but Monday showed a big area of need for him - strength. Brett Pierce flat-out dominated him. He drove him 4 or 5 yards back and put him on the ground. More than once. Lovelady needs to keep getting stronger, though I also take this as a huge credit to Pierce, who is an outstanding run-blocker.
- When the running game was on display at the end of practice mini-scrimmage, once again JR Lemon was the main man with the #1 offense. Saturday was no fluke, folks. By the way, David Bergeron made a nice play to get in the backfield and take down JR for a loss.
- Recruits were once again in attendance, this time a pair from San Leandro. QB Dennis Dixon and WR/DB Sam Cheatham were at the Farm, and Dixon caught me by surprise. He's one of the more notable QBs in California in this junior class, but he hasn't said a peep about Stanford previously. I'll make sure to get ahold of both at the upcoming Nike camp in May at Stanford.