Spring Football Press Conference

Both Spring & football are in the air. Must be time for Stanford Spring Ball! Daniel Novinson took in Monday's FB press conference and got the latest word on the 2008 version of the Varsity from second-year head coach Jim Harbaugh, who doesn't seem to have lost any of his trademark EUTM ("Enthusiasm Unknown To Mankind").Read on for a few surprises as the Cardinal readies to take the field Tuesday.

Coach Jim Harbaugh addressed the local media Monday afternoon, on the eve of 2008 spring practice. 

Who will be missing some of the spring? (unfortunately, it's a long list) 

Who has the inside track for the starting quarterback position? (allegedly everyone!) 

And who needs to prove their place? (everyone!)

Jim Harbaugh's Opening Statement: 

"Our team, our coaching staff has a monumental task ahead of us this spring practice in determining the 2008 football team. I feel like we've established, after one year, a core leadership group and we have another group that we feel very confident in what they can do and where they fit in  - and then a much, much bigger group, a huge group, I would term them 'jury's out.' They've not quite done enough to show what they can do for our football team. There'll be lots of evaluations and those names continually opened up for reevaluation. There are positions to be earned, positions to be learned. It's an exciting time for our football team. One thing is the group of younger guys who haven't played much, especially the freshmen last year. I believe the most progress you can make is December your freshman year to August or September of your sophomore year and so I'm excited for those guys tomorrow. With a pro-style offseason, there's a lot of benefits we'll pick up, we'll win on a lot of levels. It hasn't been done before by anyone I know of. We'll kind of be pioneers in that regard."

On how this spring is different for him than 12 months ago... 

"You feel like you know the job better and understand our football team, our coaches and somewhat where the potholes are, as with any new job you take. Going into this spring, I asked myself, 'am I as committed and enthusiastic as I was when I first took the job on Dec. 19, 2006?' and emphatically, the answer is 'yes I am' and I'm ready to get this started again."

On whether the team can make major improvements in its second offseason under Harbaugh... 

"I believe the entire football team will show the most improvement it can have. It doesn't mean it's going to, but you can get lot of gains in the culture of your program from year one to year two, the same as a freshman football player."

On whether the defense is starting over with new leadership... 

"Not at all starting over. What we did - I was really pleased with our defense, I felt we really formed an identity on defense, an attack mentality that our players really bought into. I felt that our D probably was further along than I had hoped after one year. I think what we did in one year sometimes takes a D two or three years before they get how far we've come. So I wanted to keep continuity in the mentality, the scheme and terminology and Andy Buh's promotion to co-defensive coordinator helps ensure that. I felt like the linebacker position was the best-coached position on our football team last year, and it showed on the field. We also bring in Ron Lynn, an experienced person not only in the secondary, but an experienced game-caller and game-planner who brings a lot of experience and football knowledge to our staff. Ron will call the game."

On whether he'll start at a more advanced level in spring ball given the year of experience with the team: 

"We've got to go back to the basics of forming the huddle, how we call the plays. We talk about the cadence. You always go back to basics: how to line up in the huddle. There'll be a lot more recall, starting as early helps with recall from the previous season. The agenda is first and foremost to identify players, who they are: starters, contributors, guys who're going to play on special teams and where they fit in on the kicking game. Just roles for each player. It's got to be an evaluation of every single guy on the team, any possible guy that could contribute and help in this '08 season has to be given a chance to do that, and then we've got to identify 'Can count on them?' or 'don't count on me', or 'they're a mistake and shouldn't be on a football team.' As players, they will tell you if you listen, observe and watch them closely enough."

I know Harbaugh tries to speak to the team through the media and scare them into working hard, but that's two references now to guys he's not sure can help the football team. Maybe he's referencing some of the 'Plan B' recruits of the last several seasons?

On the quarterback position... 

"The guys that we have, I'm going to roll them through the first week and give them equal reps, one right after the other, until they separate themselves. I feel like I know Tavita Pritchard, I know what to expect from Tavita. We can count on Tavita. It will be in some senses his job to take the bit and run with it. Alex Loukas, Jason Forcier are definitely going to have the opportunity to move up the ranks. Same with Nicholas Ruhl and L.D. Crow: those are our five guys."

On whether that's too many quarterback contenders... 

"I would like all our cups to runneth over. I would like all them to play well. It's not like a piece of pie where you can only have two or three good quarterbacks. I want to coach them all and show them all that they can play here."

On whether the number of would-be starting quarterbacks creates a sense of urgency for a candidate to have a hot start...

"I hope so. I really do. I hope every player on the team feels a sense of urgency, because it's always open for reevaluation. It's a constant thing. There were guys who could prove they could play last year who have to reprove it. There are guys I can tell who are anxious to get into the fight right now. At the quarterback position, I don't want them sitting back waiting their turn. I want them to jump up with a quarterback's demeanor, wanting to lead with a quarterback demeanor. Of those, we'll find who the best one is, but all those guys I'm going to give a chance."

On whether he'd like to winnow the potential QB starters to two or three by the end of spring ball... [It's the third time this question's been asked in some mutation, but journalistic persistence is about to pay off.] 

"I think that'd be good. I foresee that the cream will rise to the top, that the best guy will show himself and I'm sure we'll come out of spring ball with a definite starter and then when we start summer camp in August that person will have to hang on to his job and usually the cream rises to top."

On Jason Forcier... 

"He's quick minded, got very good leadership skills. Guys rally around him. He competes, plays tough. I feel like he's a guy who could lead our team down the field. He has more of a dimension running the ball, as do all our quarterbacks. Look at them now, Tavita, Loukas, Jason give us the dimension of a quarterback who can run and we have to make that more of an emphasis in our system."

On whether any positions are exceptionally thin... 

"DT. Spring ball we'll be very thin at DT. Derek Hall will be in there. Matt Bentler has been moved from offensive guard to DT and Matthew Masifilo are your only three healthy DTs right now. It proves right now there's no DT we can count on. I would say same for the wide receiver position. We need somebody there as a consistent performer who can be a starting wide receiver and the guys in that mix are Richard Sherman, Ryan Whalen, Doug Baldwin, Nate Wilcox-Fogel, Coby Fleener and Marcus Rance, and Chris Hobbs will be moved over there. But right now I couldn't tell you who best, second-best receivers are or who our two starters are. Jobs can be earned in the spring, no question about it."

Think someone wanted to light a fire under Richard Sherman? Just a little bit?

On whether he expects any position switches to stick... 

"I think Hobbs and Rance coming back to offense will stick and also Tom McAndrew from MLB to DE to now playing TE will stick in the spring. Gustav Rydstedt is going from DT to OG."

On the kickers and punters... 

"We have two kickers, Aaron Zagory and David Green. They'll battle it out in the spring. The only punter right now is Alex Loukas who'll go out there with strong leg and every now and then gets off a good one. Zags will punt in spring too. That's why we scholarship-ed a punter this year, Daniel Zychlinski will come in and compete for the punter job right now. Those are the guys and we'll take some auditions." [Smiles.]

On the defensive philosophy... 

"Same base defense. A 4-3 defense on lead downs, and you'll still see Okie in nickel situations."

On Ron Lynn... 

"Ron's been here since Signing Day, or two days after, and is going very well. We've got tremendous coaches on this staff. If I could say, 'Gosh, look at all of them and whom would I have hired again?' if I could go back, I'd tell you I'd hire them all again. We got tremendous football coaches who work very hard. Ron's a true professional who has meshed very well on the defensive side."

On the move to the Shady Side... 

"The Shady Side is good for day games. I believe there's an advantage. It takes a lot more out of you sitting over in the sun. The students, band, Dollies, cheerleaders - we can't move without our 'wall of support'. That's the students you really saw in the Cal game. I think the students are excited about it too. Great stadium, beautiful press box. I believe the home team should be on the same sideline as the big press box. The home team's supposed to be on the side of the press box. Have you ever seen anything like that? I just feel like in terms of building a home-field advantage that's putting yourself on the best side of the field, on the side of the press box, on the side of the season ticket holders. It's where we should be."


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