Thursday brought none of the depth chart moves or novel formations that we saw Tuesday. The offense continued to mix some shotgun into its work. In long yardage situations, the offense spread with empty-back or single-back personnel, while the defense continued to answer with some extra defensive backs.
What was more noteworthy was the absence of Stanford's top receiver. Evan Moore was nowhere to be found on Thursday, after he was up all the previous night with a horrendous stomach virus. No word on when he will be able to return to the practice fields. Without the 6'7" redshirt junior, Stanford saw a hint of what they might endure in the fall if they ever lose Moore or senior Mark Bradford to injury. The Cardinal had available in practice just two scholarship wide receivers, only one of which has caught more than three balls at Stanford. The remaining complement of wideouts was a group of walk-ons who have never caught a pass in college. And one of them (redshirt sophomore Nate Wilcox-Fogel) left mid-practice injured on Thursday.
Redshirt junior Mike Miller filled Moore's shoes for this practice. Miller is the #2 "X" receiver for Stanford behind Moore. The "Z" wideout depth chart currently has Bradford starting, backed up by fifth-year senior Marcus McCutcheon.
As we have seen throughout this spring, however, the tight ends and backs are a big part of the passing game and help alleviate some of the strain that this wide receiver depth creates. Senior tight end Patrick Danahy has been the most productive of those receiving targets, and he made perhaps the best play of the spring so far on Thursday. Danahy got behind the defense during an 11-on-11 session, and fifth-year senior quarterback Trent Edwards lofted the ball just ahead of him. Danahy laid out for the ball spectacularly and caught it, holding on as he crashed to the ground. The play went for over 30 yards.
Over on defense, Stanford has been without nominal starting inside linebacker and fifth-year senior (migraines). That position group took another hit with senior Michael Okwo donning a yellow jersey and out of action on Thursday. That leaves Stanford scrambling in the middle of its linebacking corps. The silver lining to these incidents is the opportunity given to younger and less experienced players. Redshirt sophomore Pat Maynor is the inside linebacker who has best performed this spring behind the projected starting duo of "Mike and Michael." Maynor runs well and loves to hit. He has good football instincts and each day is showing us his nose for the ball. Of the other inside 'backers, redshirt junior Landon Johnson is the most senior. Redshirt freshman Fred Campbell is pushing him however. Campbell is not running as well as he should be capable, still laboring after his 2005 spiral fracture injury and lengthy recovery. Redshirt junior Peter Griffin is brand new to the position, switching this off-season from safety. The competition is even between these three, and one needs to emerge in the next two-plus weeks.
And now for some play-by-play from the live scrimmage action near the end of Thursday's practice:
1st team offense vs. 1st team defense
1st & 10 @ own 43: Run by Anthony Kimble to the right for two
2nd & 8 @ 45: Run by Nick Frank up the middle for seven yards
3rd & 1 @ opp. 48: Run by Frank for five yards (nearly caught in the backfield, made two nifty cuts to get upfield), tackle by Pat Maynor and Trevor Hooper
1st & 10 @ 43: Trent Edwards pass complete to Mike Miller for six yards, tackle by Maynor
Offense given up-downs by Walt Harris for not breaking huddle correctly
2nd & 4 @ 37: Edwards pass intended for Patrick Danahy, grabbed with one hand and then knocked loose, intercepted by Matt Kopa and returned to the 42-yardline
2nd team offense vs. 2nd team defense
1st & 10 @ own 41: T.C. Ostrander pass complete to Ray Jones in
the flat, catch and run for 12 yards
1st & 10 @ opp. 47: Run by Jones for no gain
2nd & 10 @ 47: Ostrander pass incomplete, intended for Kelton Lynn 20 yards downfield by broken up with perfectly timed hit by Aaron Smith
3rd & 10 @ 47: Ostrander sacked by Fred Campbell for a loss of four yards
4th & 14 @ own 49: Ostrander screen pass complete to Ben Ladner, cuts behind Ismail Simpson block for 13 yards, tackle by Clinton Snyder
3rd team offense vs. 3rd team defense
1st & 10 @ own 46: Run by Jason Evans for 14 yards behind big
block from Josh Catron, tackle by Kenny Long
1st & 10 @ opp. 40: Tavita Pritchard pass incomplete at the goalline, intended for Kelton Lynn (appears to have been interfered but no call)
Garrett Moore in for Tavita Pritchard
2nd & 10 @ opp. 40: Run by Evans for nine yards, tackle by Blaise Johnson, but play called back for false start against Chris Marinelli
2nd & 15 @ 45: Moore pass incomplete, intended for Marcus McCutcheon 20 yards downfield, well short
The 3-on-3 battles we saw at the end of Tuesday's practice were repeated at the end of Thursday. The offense on Tuesday lost the first three rounds, but finished winning the final two. That offense built on that success Thursday by dominating the defense. The offense scored on every series, and only once did they require more than one down to do so:
The offense appears to have "figured out" this drill, which mitigates the intense level of competition we saw on Tuesday. Will the coaches continue with this drill and challenge the defense to step up, or will it fade away? We will see on Friday...
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