I dubbed this freshman offensive line class as the Magnificent Seven some number of months ago to reflect their all-star breadth and depth, which was needed by Stanford football like water in the desert. But my evaluation of the seven kids was that Stanford had a bunch of guards and tackles. Where was the true center?
When you further consider that the only projected starter on the line today to not have starting experience is center Tom Kolich, the need for a center becomes more acute. Redshirt freshman interior lineman Brian Head is now healthy and ready for an important season of contribution for depth behind the starting middle three of Greg Schindler, Tom Kolich and Paul Weinacht, but Brian might have his best years ahead at guard rather than center.
So it might not be surprising that one of the first messages offensive line coach Steve Morton gave to his seven newcomers was that he needed centers. The young lads looked at each other for answers, but had none. None played any real minutes at center in high school.
On the first day the frosh practiced, I saw Jeff Edwards spend some time under center, but I have not seen him move back since. It appears the early decision from Morton is to use David Beall and Tim Mattran at center. Beall has not played center since his freshman year of high school, and Mattran has to go back to his grammar school days to his last snaps as a center. But both understand the need and are embracing their newfound responsibilities and roles.
When the frosh o-line worked out in their first four practices Tuesday and Wednesday, here was where each person played:
- Jon Cochran - exclusively at right tackle
- Ismail Simpson - exclusively at right guard
- David Beall - exclusively at center
- Tim Mattran - exclusively at center
- Jeff Edwards - exclusively at left guard
- Josiah Vinson - both left tackle and left guard
- Matt McClernan - exclusively at left tackle
As of this morning's first full practice with the entire roster, I saw almost no changes. These positions look pretty well set for now, though I will watch for any changes. The only shift was that David Beall also worked out at right guard. He in fact got some snaps with most of the first string OL, with Kolich at center and Beall at guard. Other times, Beall settled back to center.
The buzz I have heard is that all freshmen need to prepare to be able to play this year, but the likely number who will be needed would be two or three. Mike Sanford told me yesterday at the Media Day that he thought maybe one or two of the frosh linemen would be needed. It is very early to make a call on the abilities and readiness of these kids, especially since they are just getting their feet wet against the likes of Matt Leonard, Trey Freeman and Will Svitek.
Nevertheless, my early observation would be that David Beall is a near-lock to play this fall. His utility as a guard or center combined with Brian Head could really solidify the depth for the interior of this line. Out at tackle, Jon Cochran would be my next choice. He is a monolithic beast who moves well and looks like he can swallow a pass rusher. I am as impressed as heck with Julian Jenkins, but I saw Cochran put Jenkins straight down in a battle this week. He just looks like a wall on wheels. The other kids look really good on the line, but I don't know yet where you would pull a third one if you want to.
I hope Booties who come to the rail to watch practices this month and this fall watch this line group closely. We are seeing the very beginning of one truly special group in the history of Stanford football.
One additional line note: the search for long snapping continues on the Farm, and these frosh are being mined already. Both Matt Traverso and Tim Mattran have been tapped to take a crack and some snapping. Both stayed after practice this week to get some repetitions and familiarity. One exercise toward that end has another player stand behind them with hands outstretched, which the snapper reaches back to slap, as shown below with Tim Mattran slapping at Jon Cochran's hands.
Mattran and Cochran (left); Traverso (right)