We first present The Bootleg's unofficial statistics from last Saturday's scrimmage. Unable to keep a very consistent count of the defensive statistics (i.e. tackles), we can only offer offensive numbers. The play-by-play we gave you earlier this week does provide some color on some of the defensive playmakers, including several breakups and deflections in addition to interceptions by Nick Sanchez and David Lofton. On the offensive side of the ledger, several stars from the scrimmage are evident:
Trent Edwards stood head and shoulders above the other quarterbacks, though only T.C. Ostrander saw meaningful opportunities beyond the fifth-year senior starter. Edwards' throwing for 57-plus percent while averaging 8.8 yards per attempt is efficient. Several of his incompletions were intentional throw-aways and he was not picked off, highlighting his decision making. Ostrander had a similar completion percentage but was less sound in his decision making, twice throwing for interceptions. He also had more difficulty than Edwards getting the ball down the field. Of course, one component of that disparity comes with the skilled playmakers who lined up with Edwards relative to those accompanying Ostrander. The big-play threats in the passing game that racked up a good deal of yardage for Edwards were Evan Moore and Nick Frank.
Frank only played a portion of the scrimmage but was excellent in his limited duty, picking up big chunks of yardage catching the ball out of the backfield. We were amazed last spring in his very first practices as an offensive player that the converted fullback was so smooth catching the ball out of the backfield. Frank amazed again with his ability to make plays after the catch on Saturday, cementing his role as a multiple-threat playmaker for this offense. For Moore, it was a successful scrimmage in his ability to convert the big play - twice going for 30 or more yards in the air. On the other side of the coin, I would have expected him to catch more than four passes when he took every snap with a first team offense where Edwards made 15 completions. 94 yards in a scrimmage where you see 40 or so snaps looks very good on paper for a normal college football team, but Stanford in 2006 is not at all a normal college football team. The Cardinal receiving corps is truly a two-man show, Moore and Mark Bradford, and Bradford was on the exercise bike with an ankle sprain he suffered Thursday. Moore could and should have better dominated. When the day comes this fall that Bradford is injured, Evan Moore will need to dominate in the receiving game for Stanford to have any chance of putting points on the board.
Bradford's absence provided a window of opportunity for Marcus McCutcheon, who was elevated to Bradford's spot as the second first-team wideout opposite Moore. In his biggest spot this spring, the fifth-year senior caught one ball all day. That was a clear disappointment. On a more positive note, Mike Miller had a very solid day with four catches for 64 yards. But take note that three of Stanford's top five receiving totals on Saturday came not from wideouts, but from backs. That is a positive for the running back corps, but a black mark of shame for the receivers.
On the flip side of the coin, Stanford's cornerbacks graded out well in the scrimmage. It was a very good day for Nick Sanchez, not just making plays on the ball but also in his coverage. It was a better than solid day for both Carlos McFall and Tim Sims, who are battling for the second starting cornerback spot. This is a good competition for Stanford, with both players making visible strides. At the end of the day, however, McFall came out on top. On Tuesday, McFall moved ahead of Sims to become the first-string cornerback opposite Sanchez.
There were other places where players moved up the depth chart following the scrimmage, as seen in Tuesday's practices. At inside linebacker, we have started the fourth and final week without fifth-year senior Mike Silva. But the players behind him are gaining very valuable repetitions and improving. Redshirt sophomore Pat Maynor held down that first-team spot the first three weeks of the spring, and to our eyes he has looked like a playmaker. He is fast; he plays fast; and he plays hard. But Maynor must have made some miscues on Saturday because he was passed on the depth chart Tuesday by redshirt freshman Fred Campbell. Campbell is not physically 100%, still regaining his quickness from a spiral fracture of his ankle nearly a year ago. But he wrapped up in Saturday's scrimmage and was a very physical presence.
One other "new look" on defense Tuesday was the absence of redshirt freshman Clinton Snyder at outside linebacker. He was missing not from any demotion or depth chart shift, however. Snyder was (at least) the third Stanford player this spring to miss a day of practice because of a nasty stomach virus that is making its way throughout the area. Even The Bootleg was hit Tuesday night by this ugly bug!
Back on offense, there were some changes on Tuesday that followed from Saturday's scrimmage. Redshirt junior running back Jason Evans had his second straight strong scrimmage, this time leading the rest of the tailbacks by a wide margin running the ball. The most remarkable change in Evans I notice is that he is now both willing and able to make plays running through the middle of the line of scrimmage, whereas in his younger years he would more routinely bounce plays outside the tackles. Some of that credit goes to an improved offensive line, which is doing a better job this spring than we have seen in several years at opening holes. While the running back competition is still wide open, it looked Saturday like Evans really helped himself. He and Kimble are the two top dogs today, and it looked Tuesday like Evans is moving ahead of redshirt sophomore Ray Jones. I would in fact argue that during the scrimmage on Saturday, Evans made a visible move up that depth chart when he lined up with the first team offense late in the scrimmage.
Redshirt freshman tight end Erik Lorig also made a surge in Saturday's scrimmage, despite his absence in the receiving stats above, with his strong blocking. Lorig missed the previous Saturday's scrimmage with a hamstring injury, so this was his first big test of the spring. He may not have the receiving component of his game together yet - able to consistently execute his routes - but he is an athletic and powerful force when he fires off the line of scrimmage into a linebacker. Lorig really helped himself... but also hurt himself - literally. The first-year tight end injured his (right) MCL in the final series of the scrimmage, and he arrived onto the practice field Tuesday with a brace and crutches. People have given conflicting reports as to whether he has a partial tear or a sprain, but the good news for anybody suffering knee ligament damage is to have it happen to the MCL. Lorig is done for the spring, but should be back for fall camp.
Two more offensive players who helped themselves and fortunately did not injure themselves were offensive tackles Ben Muth and Chris Marinelli. Both were rewarded in the latter half of the scrimmage with a series playing on the first team offensive line - a sight that went unnoticed by most observers. Their improvements this spring are welcome news, given the great desire for better competition at the tackle positions on this offensive line. Marinelli is pushing Jeff Edwards at right tackle, and now Jon Cochran is working his way back into action after a foot injury he suffered a week ago - leaving that position wide open in a three-way battle. On the left side, Muth not only pushed Allen Smith but moved past him on Tuesday. That gives us our first shake-up at a starting position on the offensive line this spring. Moreover, Edwards is seeing spot action at left tackle.
Finally, we have to comment on the kicking battle. In one of the biggest surprises this spring, redshirt sophomore Aaron Zagory has moved ahead of redshirt junior Derek Belch in the battle for field goal kicking. Zagory had such a weak leg when he walked on two years ago that he looked to have truly no chance at every seeing the field. The gains he has made in leg strength are some of the most remarkable I have seen from any player at any position in recent years. Zagory hit a 46-yard kick on Saturday, showing that he has a leg no longer any sort of liability. Would he kick from 50 yards in a game? Not today. But he has comparable leg strength to Belch, while exhibiting better accuracy and consistency. Zagory was 4-of-4 kicking on Saturday, while Belch was 2-of-4.
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