* The first new injury in fall camp for Stanford took just one day. Redshirt junior cornerback Wopamo Osaisai was dinged up Monday night (knee) and sat out all of Tuesday's practice. No further information is yet available, though Osaisai's status is given as "day to day".
* With fifth-year senior cornerback Nick Sanchez still out (hamstring) of practices, that subtracts two of the Cardinal's putative starters at that position. Fifth-year senior Tim Sims is the lone wolf still standing, and hopefully he continues to stay healthy. Sims is returning from a serious hamstring injury that held him out of the spring and hampered him into the summer. With no alarms yet flashing that the health of Sanchez or Osaisai is threatened for the start of the season in September, the silver lining to their time spent on the sidelines is the opportunity afforded to the Cardinal's younger cornerbacks. Redshirt sophomore Kris Evans, redshirt sophomore Chris Hobbs and true freshman Corey Gatewood are all benefiting from the increased time in practice and seeing a marked increase in their repetitions.
* Gatewood continues to captivate our attention among the freshman class. He snared an interception in Tuesday's evening practice and then flashed his athleticism and playmaking ability with the ball on the runback. The two-way prep standout was an acclaimed wide receiver/running back at the Belmont Hill School in Massachusetts, scoring 17 touchdowns and amassing 1,100 yards rushing and receiving his senior year.
* Another freshman more under the radar, but who we like through two days of practice, is fullback Owen Marecic. It is hard to evaluate this position in practices without pads, but we can already see how much he loves contact the way he pushes the edge of the envelope of physical and aggressive play in "non-contact" work. Marecic also moves well laterally and doesn't play like a stiff, which is ultimately the case for many would-be fullbacks coming out of high school. Marecic is also taking a lot of second-team repetitions at fullback behind redshirt freshman Sam Weinberger, with fifth-year senior and starter Emeka Nnoli currently out of action.
* Freshman outside linebacker Johnathan Frink is someone we had penciled to compete at the middle "Mike" linebacker, and push for early playing time. The 6'2" 225-pounder is the only freshman in the two-deep on the linebacker corps at this point, running with the second unit. We did not expect him to play outside, however. Frink so far is working at "Sam" outside linebacker behind redshirt sophomore and starter Clinton Snyder. "It's a new position for me," Frink says. "I have a whole lot of space to cover now." Fifth-year senior Peter Griffin, incidentally, is the second-team outside linebacker on the opposite side playing the "Will" position behind redshirt junior and starter Pat Maynor.
* Not in the two-deep at safety is newly switched freshman Kellen Kiilsgaard. Despite an injury to redshirt sophomore and starter Bo McNally that greatly opens the opportunity at strong safety, Kiilsgaard has been taking strictly third-team repetitions so far these first two days. Though his offer sheet and accolades coming out of high school as a quarterback have raised fan expectations sky high for an early impact in college, Kiilsgaard will take patience as he grasps this position at the college level and learns to play faster. "The challenge is feeling confident because of all the things I don't have down," Kiilsgaard explains. "There are so many things to master... It's going to be a process."
* Freshman kicker/punter David Green has been cleared to work his way into practices, which is excellent news following his battle with a bulging disc in his back. He has not kicked or punted in a month-plus. Ranked #1 in the nation coming out of high school and a record-breaking kicker at the U.S. Army All-American Bowl, Green has a world of expectations to compete and contribute in some fashion of special teams this fall. First, he has to practice. Green is hoping to kick his first balls at the end of this week or early next week. "I'm inching my way back," he says.
* Speaking of kicking, we watched quite a few field goals attempted by fifth-year senior Derek Belch. He missed a couple early and was visibly disappointed in himself, but we also saw tremendous height and distance as he hammered several through the uprights from long range. Redshirt junior Aaron Zagory, who kicked very little in the spring, is apparently healthy and back kicking again. He also took his turns kicking field goals and should provide decent competition for Belch this camp. We still hold Belch out in front of this race, the same as we concluded in the spring.
* One effect of the broken hand injury to Bo McNally we did not conceive at first was visible Tuesday. During the field goal repetitions, McNally was missing from his duties as the holder. Fifth-year senior punter Jay Ottovegio is also an experienced holder, and he rotates in that mix. Filling McNally's void was redshirt junior wide receiver Kelton Lynn, who was soaking up instruction like a sponge Tuesday on the finer points of holding.
* Ottovegio of course is best known for his punting, and that also was on display during extended special teams work Tuesday evening. He had a very good summer, and that showed when he was launching some of the highest and deepest balls we've seen come off his leg at Stanford. When talk turns to the impact and importance of the seniors on this Stanford team, Ottovegio is probably the very last of the starters to come to mind. But he has the capability of enjoying a monster year and his best season in college.
* Who was on the receiving end of those punts? Incumbent Chris Hobbs is in the mix. We also saw sophomore wide receiver Richard Sherman and redshirt freshman running back Tyrone McGraw field punts. Nick Sanchez would be in the mix if healthy, and he was standing with the group during this session of practice, chomping at the bit.
* Redshirt sophomore tight end Ben Ladner was a revelation in the spring, and he received our enthusiastic vote as the biggest breakout story anywhere on the roster. Injury unfortunately cut his April short, but the bowling ball of a pass catcher has immediately resumed his big play performances already in the opening two days of camp. Ladner has also totally revamped his body, which has been fascinating to watch from the spring to the summer to now. He finished both the winter conditioning and then again at the end of spring practices "dragging" and out of shape. When he went home to Kansas City for a brief break after the spring quarter and before summer practices began in late June, Ladner made a decision to get serious about his body and nutrition. He cut out the late-night snacks. "No more breakfast burritos," he adds with a smile. Ladner's body became much leaner, dropping to a ripped 238 pounds at the start of the summer. He has added lean muscle and at the start of training camp is an impressive 250 pounds. "This is the best shape I've ever been in," Ladner proclaims.
* Speaking of revamped fighting weights, fifth-year senior defensive end Udeme Udofia is the biggest and baddest rendition we have seen since he arrived on The Farm. At the end of a difficult 2006, Udofia finished the season playing between 220 and 225 pounds. Three factors to consider: 1) he was playing outside linebacker; 2) it was a tough season; and 3) he started the season at a disadvantage, having his jaw wired shut through part of the off-season and unable to eat and train like he needed. Now playing for the first time in college with his hand on the ground, thanks to the coaching staff's switch to a 4-3 defense, Udofia is a fast and fit 250 pounds.
* Ekom Udofia, a redshirt sophomore nose tackle, is anxious to play alongside his brother but has been held out of most of these first two practices. The 310-pound wrecking ball hurt his hamstring on the second-to-last run of the summer conditioning workouts, a frustrating bout of bad luck. There are two pieces of good news, however. First is the fact that Udofia has participated in some light drills which count for the start of his NCAA-mandated acclimatization clock. All players must start their season with two practices out of pads, followed by two practices in shoulder pads and only on the fifth day in full pads. Udofia will be able to don shoulder pads today and is on schedule with his teammates. Second, he is supposed to be cleared to participate in one-on-one work today, which is a step up from the individual-only drills of the past two days. If that progresses well, we could see him in full participation, including team (11-on-11) periods, by the end of this week.
* The most confusing part of watching the first two days of Stanford's preseason camp has been the interior defensive linemen. The lines were already a little blurred in our minds between who is a nose tackle and who plays as a three technique (defensive tackle). Players flip-flopped heavily between both positions on Tuesday, which makes us very reticent toward delineating definitively who plays which position. Or naming a depth chart for this group.
* Sophomore defensive tackle Levirt Griffin was absent Tuesday night after running as the first-team at his position in Monday's opening practice. Fear not, though. Griffin came down with the flu and a bad fever and stayed away from the practice field Tuesday.
* Sophomore running back Toby Gerhart saw a lot of work Tuesday night, including rotation with the first-team offense during one team period. Keep in mind that this camp marks the first full practice participation for Gerhart with this new coaching staff. Baseball kept him away for all but just a few practices in the spring. In those opportunities, he was limited to only light drills while protecting his broken forearm (a baseball injury). Gerhart looks quicker, stronger and more cut than what we saw in the spring, evidence of a serious summer of work he put in. While training camp is a hard grind, 6'1" 228-pound hammer says he is having a ball so far. "It's been great. I haven't had this much fun playing football since my high school days," Gerhart offers. "Everybody is having fun this camp. I look forward to the next day. Last year, after a day or two it feels like a week." As for what Gerhart will show this fall, look for his improved quickness and athleticism to make him more elusive in the open field, rather than his tactic as a freshman of trying to run over any defender in his way.
* There was a stretch with a few too many fumbles and botched center-quarterback exchanges during one nine-on-nine running game period. Admittedly, there were a number of newcomers either carrying the ball or handing it off. The three quarterbacks were true freshman L.D. Crow, transfer Jason Forcier and redshirt freshman Nicolas Ruhl. On the other side of the ledger, we have to give credit for some alert play by the defense to react when the ball was on the ground. Redshirt sophomore Tom McAndrew, who newly switched to defensive end this week, had one great play finding the ball behind the line of scrimmage.
* As we described previously in our "Cardinal Injury Check-Up" article, the ranks are thin for Stanford at offensive tackle with both redshirt sophomore Chris Marinelli and redshirt freshman John Kyed held out of action. Both were missing in the spring as well, but the two-deep is a little safer to start this fall because of the return of redshirt freshman Joe Dembesky. The 6'5" 280-pounder had two shoulder surgeries that cost him all of his first year on The Farm, but he was cleared after the spring to begin chest presses in the weight room. In July, Dembesky was cleared for the bench press. He is a full "go" this week and has been working at both left tackle and right tackle.
* To wrap up this report, we'll follow the theme of Dembesky and try to describe as best we can the depth chart on the offensive line through the first couple days of fall camp. The first-team is pretty static, but there are some rotations on the second and third units we have seen several times:
|left tackle||left guard||center||right guard||right tackle|
|#1||Allen Smith||Mikal Brewer||Tim Mattran||Alex Fletcher||Ben Muth|
|Bert McBride||Andrew Phillips||Preston Clover/
|#3||Tyler Mabry||Matt Bentler||Andrew Phillips/
|Brad Hallick||George Halamandaris|
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