With young players making pushes at a number of positions, we expect to see depth chart moves a-plenty during this Stanford preseason camp. To help keep track of the movement on offense and defense, we have to set the table for how August has started for the Cardinal. After carefully watching the repetitions and rotations through the first three days of this training camp, here is the two-deep at all offensive and defensive positions for Stanford
Those Cardinalmaniacs™ who know and follow the roster and depth chart most closely will have some immediate questions after perusing this information. Please allow me to answer some of them...
What's with the "slash" designations at cornerback and outside linebacker?
Those are the positions where there currently is the most competition for a spot on the depth chart. The second team "Sam" outside linebacker looked like it would be manned exclusively by redshirt freshman Will Powers, but redshirt junior Emmanuel Awofadeju is not on the strong side of the field full-time. The competition between those two is a good one this fall, and both can push starter redshirt junior Udeme Udofia. Maybe more surprising is the cohabitation by redshirt juniors Nick Sanchez and Tim Sims at one of the starting cornerback spots. The two classmates and fellow Belle Glade (Fla.) products had very different seasons last fall. Sanchez started all 11 games at cornerback, while Sims played early as the Cardinal's third corner in their nickel package but was swiftly demoted after being scorched by Oregon in Stanford's 44-20 beatdown. Sims has made great strides thus far in 2006, which is partially responsible for this surprising competition. The coaching staff may also want to keep the heat on Sanchez and push him, so that he does not rest on his laurels as a presumptive starter. Regardless of the motivations or what result comes of this battle, we believe the old adage that competition is good. Improvements for either or both of these players is needed for Stanford's suspect secondary.
Where is Matt Traverso?
He is practicing, and the repetitions are spread among the five tight ends currently. After missing the spring, he is starting at the bottom of the depth chart, but his physical and mental abilities will have him move up soon enough. However, it is not an easy path to the top. Patrick Danahy is also a senior and also very experienced. Danahy is maybe not the blocker that Traverso is today, but he is a talented receiver. James Dray has tremendous ability running routes, stretching the field, and hauling in passes. And Erik Lorig is also seeing a lot of repetitions. His athleticism is remarkable, while he could be before long the most explosive and punishing run blocker of the group.
If Richard Sherman is such a good bet for the #3 receiver spot, how is he not listed in the top four?
The simple answer is that all of the freshmen are starting at the bottom of the depth charts, as they must not only prove themselves but also must learn much of the techniques and playbook for this level. Sherman looked scintillating during the summer in Stanford's unofficial practices, but with the broader breadth of the playbook thrown at him and more demands in every aspect of his game, he has much work to be done. There are obvious challenges for him right now in making this transition. Based on his speed and athletic ability, Sherman still projects to be a contributing part of the offense this year and the Cardinal's third best wide receiver. But if the season opened today at Oregon, I would not put him on the field. There are still 24 practices remaining in this training camp, plus "game week" practices leading up to the Oregon game. Sherman is being coached heavily by both Walt Harris and Tucker Waugh to bring him up to speed by September 2.
Where is Chris Marinelli?
Running third team at right tackle. We expected the redshirt freshman to make a move in 2006 and shake up offensive tackle for the Cardinal. Marinelli is a good athlete and is a towering presence, at 6'7" and 320 pounds. He was locked in a tight battle with fifth-year senior Jon Cochran at right tackle, behind returning starter and fifth-year senior Jeff Edwards, in the spring. Thus far in these few first days of fall camp, Marinelli is clearly behind Cochran on the depth chart, rotating along with redshirt junior David Long to join the second-team interior offensive linemen to form a "third team" line absent the new freshmen. We will have to ask the coaching staff if Marinelli has taken any step backward, but we did see a strong commitment from Cochran throughout the summer that should pay dividends on the field this fall. Some observers hope for Marinelli to emerge this season, given the uneven success of Edwards and Cochran the last three years. Even if you are not in that camp, Marinelli needs to come along quickly, given that those fifth-year seniors will graduate this year, leaving Marinelli as a primary player and likely starter in 2007 and beyond.
Why does Alex Fletcher remain at guard, given the current situation at center?
The answer is three-fold. First, Fletcher is playing so well at guard that it would hurt the position to move him away. He has potential All-American ability at the position, where his athleticism can shine. Second, the differing demands between guard and center in the Pac-10 arguably make him more valuable for Stanford off the ball. While we see every day during Stanford's fall camp the center wrestle with a nose tackle in his face, no other team in the conference runs a three-man defensive front. It is the guard who has the more difficult blocking responsibility against a four-man front, against the elite "three-technique" defensive tackles of the conference. Finally, the combination of playing a Preston Clover at center and Fletcher at guard may be better than the alternative of Fletcher at center and promoting a reserve guard, when you look at the current Cardinal roster. If fifth-year senior Ismail Simpson were enjoying better health in 2006, that might be a statement to be reconsidered, but it has been a rough year in the training room for the veteran guard.
Other News & Notes
- Maybe 20% of Booties have remembered and kept straight the nomenclature for Stanford's linebackers in the 3-4 scheme. It is worth understanding so that you can visualize where players are on the field when they are described as playing a certain to position. This year, there has been a change in the names for the inside linebackers, for which you will want to take note. The ILB playing toward the strong (tight end) side of the offense was previously known as the "Mike" linebacker, but that position is now called "Ted." The weakside ILB was previously called the "Will" and now is the "Mike." In Stanford's current starting lineup, Mike Silva plays "Ted" while Michael Okwo is the "Mike." The two outside linebackers remain "Sam" and "rush," with the former playing over the tight end and the latter playing on the weak side. Udeme Udofia is Stanford's starting "Sam" while Clinton Snyder is atop the "rush" depth chart today.
- Previous to the start of this fall camp, we heard that Carlos McFall's move to safety would put him at the free safety position. However, the redshirt sophomore is working at strong safety and already looks to be the backup to fifth-year senior starter Trevor Hooper.
- Yesterday we talked about the unusual group of five scholarship freshman wide receivers with Stanford in camp. That could be a dizzying group to track and evaluate, not just for the coaches, but also for The Bootleg! As it turns out, two reported injured, and that was no big surprise given that we saw them already on the sidelines while they were at Stanford briefly in July. Now two more have been knocked from the ranks of the healthy, however. Stephen Carr went down on Tuesday, while Austin Yancy pulled up with an injury Wednesday.
- Freshman specialist Leon Peralto came onto our radar as a Stanford recruit back in the winter, and he turned down other Division I opportunities and scholarships to walk-on at Stanford. Peralto earned most of his acclaim at Kamehameha School in Hawaii as a placekicker, and we thought that would be his niche on The Farm. However, we have observed him thus far in camp punting. Peralto may provide some depth behind redshirt junior Jay Ottovegio at the position. Currently the Cardinal's only backup punter is quarterback T.C. Ostrander.
- Speaking of special teams duties, we have on several occasions watched freshman Tyrone McGraw taking numerous repetitions at punt returner. It is not unusual to see frosh experiment early at kick and punt return positions. These practices are the first ever opportunities to coach the freshmen and evaluate their abilities. However, the amount of time McGraw is spending thus far fielding punts, including work after Wednesday's practice with Ottovegio, looks to be a little more serious. McGraw is fast but small. When Stanford offered him the evening before Signing Day last February, it was not only with the idea that he could provide an extra dimension at running back (or wide receiver or cornerback), but also provide an explosive dimension on special teams. Stanford has big holes to fill with its return duties this year, and McGraw as an answer is not so crazy. Redshirts have been burned for less, and McGraw might ultimately be most useful to Stanford Football on special teams. If so, his athletic abilities ought to have a chance to contribute now and arguable not be saved for some fifth year in 2010.
- Freshman Jerome Jackson was a recruited athlete out of Kansas City (Mo.) Rockhurst High School, with Division I attention and scholarships, ultimately committing to Kansas State in January. It was a surprise for Stanford fans to see him on the roster at the start of this training camp. Another unexpected note has been watching Jackson in the Cardinal defensive backfield through three days... at cornerback. Jackson was projected as a safety out of high school and has been officially listed by Stanford as a strong safety.
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