"You can smell it, you can taste football. You wake up with the butterflies," Harbaugh said. "A lot of energy and a lot of enthusiasm, and that better be the case on the first day. I hope we can find a way to harness this energy."
The practice began with special teams walk-throughs. Then, the Cardinal went through individual offensive and defensive drills. After that, the offensive and defensive units came together and worked without the linemen. Then back to individual stuff, field goal and extra point practice and finally a concluding semi-scrimmage. All told, the first practice spanned from 3:45 to about 6:30.
"First and foremost evaluating guys, see who can help your football team," Harbaugh said of the goal of spring practice. "You try to uncover any possible person to help the team."
The Cardinal coaching staff appears to be seeing potential in Alex Loukas at multiple positions.
"I'm trying to get on the field at multiple positions. I'm just trying to do whatever I can to help the team," he said.
Loukas, who played some safety in high school but wasn't a starter, registered an interception on the final play of practice. The pass was a 25-yard frozen rope from Andrew Luck to the goal line, but Loukas made a leaping grab to snare it out of the air.
"I think Andrew didn't throw his best ball, but he made me look good on that one," said Loukas, who has been given full medical clearance for his knee.
"I was giving him a gift," Luck joked. "I just made a bad throw and he's a good athlete and he'll make me pay for my mistakes."
Luck was giddy after the first day of practice. He said there were no lingering effects of his finger surgery, but he still has not been given full clearance for it. His limitations on Monday were that he couldn't take any snaps under center. Luck began throwing the football again three weeks ago but looked extremely sharp in practice.
"I thought they did a great job – a lot of energy, fresh legs," Luck said of his receiving corps, which was nine deep. "I was talking to Whales [Ryan Whalen] and Doug [Baldwin] and they were saying this was the first time they've had more than four receivers in spring ball, so everyone can stay fresh."
It looked like Luck hadn't seen a pair of scissors since last season. His curly, black locks nearly covered his face, which resembled one of his teammates.
"Owen [Marecic] is my idol," laughed Luck. "No, I just haven't had time to go to the barber shop and my mom hasn't called me to tell me to cut it yet."
As Harbaugh mentioned during Thursday's press conference, Marecic was exclusively playing defense during practice. The Pac-10's premier fullback said afterwards that he will play where coach asks him to, and is excited about the possibility of going both ways this season.
Marecic, not Shayne Skov, was calling the plays in the huddle on defense, which actually looked more like a 5-2 base than a 3-4 as both outside linebackers were positioned on or right off the D-line. The two outside linebackers were Chase Thomas and Alex Debniak.
Another player that was seen in multiple packages Monday was redshirt freshman tight end Ryan Hewitt. He was catching passes, dropping off the line to block and even toting the ball a couple of times.
"I thought Hewitt did an excellent job as kind of an H-back, tight end, fullback today for having never done that," said Harbaugh. "That is something we can really build on with Hewey."
Whalen looked a little shaky returning punts. He muffed his first opportunity, though that could have just been first-day jitters. Drew Terrell was the first guy returning punts in drills; he looked very comfortable and didn't drop a single boot. Doug Baldwin also looked good fielding punts.
- Josh Nunes is clearly the No. 2 behind Luck. He is a little shorter, but stouter than Luck, and throws a nice ball. He did have more than a few passes sail on him and Harbaugh could be heard saying, "Bring ‘em down." Robbie Picazo is the third-stringer, but just didn't have the same velocity on his throws as the other two QBs.
- Amanam participated in the individual drills but was not present the second half of practice. Amanam broke his toe last year and Harbaugh said, "He's going to be doing a lot of the individual stuff but not the team stuff."
- Harbaugh reiterated that every position on the field, except quarterback and fullback, was wide open.
- Michael Thomas was primarily used as a second-string cornerback and Harbaugh said he didn't envision using him on the offensive side of the ball any this spring.
"I'll be the first to say, I had the easiest job in college football last year handing it off to Toby. It's exciting to maybe put a little more on my shoulders and the other guys shoulders." – Andrew Luck
"He viewed that as a better job, there's not a lot more you can say about that." – Coach Harbaugh when asked about Ron Turner's departure. He also mentioned they will start to bring in candidates to replace him at the end of this week.
"I saw him at Chipotle a couple of weeks ago, but I haven't really talked to him. He did pretty well at the combine, ran a 4.53 forty or something like that." – Owen Marecic when asked if he had heard from Toby Gerhart.
Are you fully subscribed to The Bootleg? If not, then you are missing out on all the top Cardinal coverage we provide daily on our award-winning website. Sign up today for the biggest and best in Stanford sports coverage with TheBootleg.com (sign-up)!