Alex Fletcher Q&A

The biggest changes when Stanford moves to full pads in practice can be found in the trenches, so we thought it timely to talk with redshirt junior right guard Alex Fletcher. He discussed the status this spring of the offensive line's play, his new line coach Chris Dalman, the breakout by Allen Smith, the standouts on the defensive line, T.C. Ostrander taking over the offense and much more.

John Elway opened today's practice by addressing the team.  What did his words and his presence mean to you?

"John Elway hit on three key points during his talk.  The value of teammates, the magnitude of the Stanford degree and competition.  He obviously has made the right moves on and off the field, and he is a role model to us all.  He is a proven winner, and the winning attitude that he has I'm sure rubbed off on his teammates.  That's what made an impact for me.  He reminds me a lot of Coach Harbaugh in terms of his confidence and vision, and we definitely have a John Elway type leader in Coach Harbaugh."

First day in pads is a good first test for the linemen and the team.  What did you judge of the day?

"I think today was a good day, on both sides of the front.  You have to keep in mind that they have two healthy interior bodies.  They have Chris Horn and Pannel Egboh taking every rep, so that's tough to get a good judgment of how we actually did.  I think we're doing well.  We're coming off the ball.  And I think the attitude is different on this offensive line.  I like this attitude.  Allen Smith has come out of his shell and is really, really confident.  I think a lot of guys are really confident.  I can't wait to have Chris Marinelli back.  I know he's a Northeast attitude guy."

What are the core philosophies that you are drawing from Chris Dalman?  What's important to him on the offensive line?

"Obviously we know that the Atlanta Falcons led the NFL in rushing last year.  It's inside and outside zone, and we're going to work it until we can't work it anymore.  We're going to practice it until we can't practice it anymore.  It's really hard live because we can't cut our guys, and we need to draw really good pictures for our running backs.  But with how fast we're running it and the tempo of practice, I think we're getting a good idea of where the holes are going to be."

What is his personality as an offensive line coach?

"He's a teacher.  I've learned so much from him.  I go up to his office and try to pick his brain so much.  He's been at Stanford; he's been in the NFL.  I'll do whatever he says because he knows everything.  I'll do whatever it takes.  I know he has great experience.  He's been at the NFL level, the college level and the high school level.  He's a great, great teacher, and he's a great motivator.  He's not a yeller.  He's not a screamer.  He really knows how to motivate.  Whenever he says something, it really hits me hard because I have that much respect for him."

This is your third offensive line coach here at Stanford, and I know you draw different things from each guy.  After just this third practice, is there anything yet that Dalman has already given you that is helping you out?

"He's given me some great tips, especially playing the guard position.  Short sets.  How to set on a three technique.  Blocking backside.  How you want to cut off linebackers.  A lot of the tips, he'll coach me up right before a play, and they're things that really hit home for me."

I know it's very early in the spring, but what is encouraging on this offensive line so far?

"I think our tackle play is really good.  With Tim Mattran back at center, he's a big-time brain in there.  He knows everything that's going on.  He sees defenses and read defenses really, really well, and it helps everyone around him.  I think our guards are very solid, and I like our tackle play.  I like our tackle play a lot, and that's something that we've had trouble with.  If you remember last year against Washington State, we were rotating tackle after tackle.  That's something that I don't think is going to happen this year."

Can you elaborate on what you're seeing Allen stepping up and doing?

"Allen is just confident.  Allen has come out of his shell.  Allen is one of the most confident guys.  [laughs]  Usually I'm the biggest trash-talker, but Allen is talking more trash than me.  That's unreal."

Does that get you fired up?

"That gets me fired up.  I love Allen."

What is your challenge and focus at right guard right now?

"After playing center last year, my challenge and focus is obviously just getting the steps back.  They're coming naturally; I've had a lot of guard time before.  I really just want to do anything I can to improve myself and have a big-time year.  Have a big-time year as a unit and a big-time year individually and get this thing going in the right direction."

Any early impressions of the guys you're seeing across the ball on the defensive line?

"I love Udeme Udofia.  He comes so hard and so fast.  He's extremely impressive.  They've moved Pannel Egboh inside, and I think that's going to be tough with how long he is.  As a three technique, I think that's a really good place for him.  When 'Battle Tank' - Ekom Udofia - comes back, that will really help solidify that defensive line.  Chris Horn is very good as well."

I don't think the defensive line has put in any stunts or twists yet, but have you had any battles with Erik Lorig?

"I've tried to catch him under the chin a couple of times running downfield, but that's about it.  Erik Lorig is a high-motor guy, and once he learns his technique, he's going to be a helluva player because he wants to be a helluva player and he refuses not to be a helluva player.  That's the type of guy Erik Lorig is.  That high-motor stuff is going to be great on the defense.  I wish we could have him as a blocking back, but certain things have to change."

The offense is typically going to start the spring slowly, but what do you think this offense is doing well right now?

"I think this offense is passing the ball pretty well right now.  It's hard to say if we're running the ball well right now because guys have to actually tackle Anthony Kimble, and that's a pretty hard thing to do, as we saw last spring.  I think we're passing the ball well right now.  Some guys are surprising.  Chris Hobbs is catching deep balls.  Richard Sherman obviously didn't practice much today because he had a track meet, but with guys like that, and then you throw Mark Bradford and Evan Moore into the rotation?  Forget it."

You guys have a new leader in T.C. Ostrander.  How does that change the personality of this offense?

"T.C. is a really fiery guy.  He's a really tough guy.  He's a really nasty guy.  Sometimes I think he's a middle linebacker playing there - in the huddle and going crazy - but he's a quarterback.  He's throwing the ball, and he's not getting hit.  I love the new identity, and I love T.C. Ostrander's attitude."

When we see so many rollouts with T.C., what does that ask if you on the offensive line?

"When you have a rollout like that, we're just faking a zone play to the left, and the quarterback will roll out to the right.  We ran it three or four times in a row today because Erik Lorig was chasing down the running back, and he was just giving it to us.  I think they might make some adjustments and take that away on Monday."

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