9/1 (Sunday) Practice Notes

After a tough Friday and day off Saturday, the Stanford Cardinal returned to action Sunday with the first of their week of game preparation practices. The two-a-day schedule is now behind them, but so is cooler weather. The heat was pounding on Sunday, but so was the pressure to get the passing and special teams games in order.

The first thing that jumped out at me from Sunday's practice was the work that the quarterbacks received, in contrast to the last practice Friday afternoon.  Chris Lewis was more involved in this practice, taking a full complement of repetitions alongside Kyle Matter and Ryan Eklund, whereas on Friday he took a knee and played the role of quarterback coach more often.  Additionally, there appeared to be a bigger separation in the work that Matter and Eklund took.  Kyle for example ran the hurry-up offense, while Ryan did not.

The next note on QB rep's is that Trent Edwards and David Lofton are still squarely behind the triumvirate.  Though there were some drills were all five threw together (e.g. with the tight ends early in practice), there was also a segmentation where Trent and David left to work with the running backs and linemen while Kyle, Ryan and Chris ran the passing drills.  I had a thought that this one game would present an early chance for Trent Edwards to jump up and push Ryan Eklund, but I do not yet see an equivalency in the work between the frosh and any upperclassman.

Next to the QB work, the most unusual note on this practice was the format.  Every practice prior to this that I have seen this year - be it spring or fall - has had a break at the midpoint.  This practice contained no discernable break, and it concluded a little early.  The inference is that with Sunday's great afternoon heat, Buddy Teevens wanted his guys finished with practice and in the showers as early as he could.  The long run of practice with no break may also be a move toward game preparation, but we will have to watch upcoming practices to verify that theory.

The other notable note was the great depth of special teams work.  You have to hope it all pays off, but any shortcomings on special teams this year will surely not come from a lack of preparation.  I can't ever remember seeing Stanford work for example on the punt kicking, coverage and return that occurs after a safety.  A lot of repetitions were given Sunday for onsides kicking and receiving, including the small detailed coaching of when to let the ball go, how to fall down with the ball, and how to protect the man who catches the ball.  Details go right down to the stance of the 'hands' guys on the front line, hunched over with their fingertips brushing the grass.  For what it is worth, Eric Johnson was booming the post-safety free kicks (punts).  Nothing shorter than 50 yards, most close to or at 60 yards.

I noted that the three deep on punt returns now goes Powell, Mason and Camarillo.  Greg is certainly not like the first two in quickness and ability to break a long return, but his placement there underscores the emphasis on hands the staff wants at the punt return position.

Some additional notes:

  • Kyle Matter has shown the last several practices a great comfort level with checking off and calling audibles at the line of scrimmage.  Doesn't take an inordinate amount of time, and the plays don't get mucked up.  Pretty good stuff for a redshirt frosh.  I also noted after a play where the snap count was mistaken on the O-line that Kyle got vocal with his guys.  This was one of the first demonstrative signs of leadership with the offense that I have seen from him.
  • Good looks Sunday with the running game.  Kerry Carter, JR Lemon and Casey Moore all looked good.  Though with Sunday's heat, the team did not go in full pads with full tackling, so it remains difficult through this training camp to gauge just how well Stanford can run the ball.  On the flip side, Buddy Teevens is doing a spectacular job of keeping guys healthy.
  • Speaking of health, Justin McCullum is getting more and more integrated in the passing drills, and he does not physically show any signs of weakness moving and cutting on that knee.  The doctors still are in control with the orders for when he could join full contact work, but Justin looks ready.  And despite what he missed early in camp, boy does he look good.  He adds the second 'size' option in the receiving corps alongside Teyo Johnson, but moves so quickly and smoothly for his height.  Good hands, too.
  • Freshman guard Josiah Vinson was on crutches last week after knee surgery, and is miraculously off those crutches already.  I originally heard a longer timeframe for his return, but Sunday heard he could be back in action in 2-3 weeks.  Wow.
  • I still see Amon Gordon and Julian Jenkins as the #1 defensive ends in the nickel package.  Louis Hobson gets some work here and there, as well with the base defense, but the true freshman Jenkins is holding his ground against Hobson and Lovelady a week after their return to contact work.

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