"The Lance Anderson Sessions": Part I
His might not be the most visible face on Stanford's coaching staff, but ask anybody close to the Stanford Football program and you'll hear the name Lance Anderson surface in conjunction with the Cardinal's recent remarkable success in recruiting. Anderson, Stanford's designated recruiting coordinator and outside linebackers coach, made the time to sit down with The Bootleg's Andy Drukarev last Monday, July 12, 2010 to discuss the upcoming season. Read on for all the juicy details from our opening session!
The Bootleg: How would you
characterize the "vibe" around the program when you first got here, coming off
that difficult 1-11 season, compared to the current
Lance Anderson: There has definitely been a change, there have been some definite improvements since that point. I think the biggest impact has come when we are out on the road and interacting with recruits or high school coaches, whomever it might be. When we first got here coming off 1-11 that's all the people really knew about Stanford football. 1-11 – we had struggled. It had been a while since Stanford had been to a bowl. They still knew it was a very good school academically, great degree, all that kind of stuff, but they didn't know much about the football program and what they did know wasn't real positive.
Now, there are a lot of positive things. People talk about Toby Gerhart, they talk about Toby and the Heisman. They talk about the bowl game. They talk about Andrew Luck. They talk about national rankings, those kind of things, and the direction of the football program in addition to the academics, the prestigious degree, a great place to go to school, perfect location, all that kind of stuff. So that has definitely helped and certainly made recruiting a little easier.
TB: But even coming off some losing seasons you guys were able to pull in some solid recruits. How were you able to sell the program when the wins were few and far between?
LA: First off, I think like always, there was a strong emphasis placed on the academic offering, the kind of degree you are going to get, the kind of education you are going to get, and the opportunities it will provide you with down the line. But then Coach Harbaugh is so energetic, so optimistic. We knew that the future was going to be bright, that we would get this thing on track, and that we would get Stanford Football back to where it needs to be. So we just had to convince a lot of those kids of that eventuality - that they would be part of building the Stanford football program and returning it to its rightful place and we got a lot of kids to come and buy into that and they've done a lot to help us turn it around.
TB: So there's obviously a difference in your message now, but how has recruiting in general changed compared to how it was when your staff first took over?
LA: I think obviously winning and some of the notoriety with Toby Gerhart, Andrew Luck, and things like that. We've attracted a higher caliber football player. Still, the academics eliminate a lot of kids and makes our pool a little bit smaller. But the winning and the success and some of the individual accolades and honors - those kinds of things probably have combined to help us attract a better football player.
TB: Because of that progression, has there been a shift within the staff's mentality that maybe there's a type of kid who you might have gone after a few years ago, that you pass on now?
LA: I think that's definitely been the case a little bit. Our standards have become a little bit higher where maybe when we first got here three or four years ago you could maybe say "Well yeah, this guy may be not quite as good as we'd like, but he's better than a lot of the guys that are here". We can't always say that anymore. If a new prospect is better than the guys who are here already, then he is a little bit better football player than a prospect would have been three or four years ago. The overall talent within the program has definitely improved.
TB: All right, so changing gears for a second, you're well known among Stanford fans for your role as recruiting coordinator, but you are also an active position coach. What's it like balancing those two duties?
LA: Definitely the recruiting takes a lot of time and is a lot of work, but it's all part of college football and coaching college football. There has to be that balance between football, the X's and O's and position groups and recruiting. I happen to love doing both. You have to put in a lot of time, a lot of hours, and balance your time well, but I love doing both.
TB: The reconstitution within the defensive coaching staff saw you move from coaching defensive tackles to coaching the outside linebackers. Is that a difficult adjustment for you?
LA: It's not too difficult because I've coached linebackers before. When I was at Utah State I coached the outside linebackers in a 3-4 defense very similar to what we're doing here. The systems are very similar so there are a lot of things that have carried over. I like it, it's allowed me to get back involved with some more of the coverage aspects of the defense so it's been a positive move and I am enjoying it. Coach Fangio does a great job with the defense. I work really closely with him with the linebackers. I've learned a lot from him already and I'm excited about the move.
TB: While we're on the topic of the new 3-4 defense, do you think there any specific players, within the linebacking corps, that may benefit most from the transition?
LA: I think so, that's a great question. We feel too that there are some kids in the program that are really going to benefit from the change of defense. Chase Thomas, who was a little bit undersized as a defensive end, was still a good player for us and still productive, but you watch film and there were times that teams may have targeted him a little bit as a guy to run at or they might trade the tight end and design plays where they would try and run at him. Because he is a guy where if you have an offensive tackle and a tight end blocking you, you're a little bit overmatched (at his weight). But now, he's a guy who can really flourish in this defense. He can drop in coverage and he can play in space. Having him at outside linebacker, we also can utilize that great pass-rushing ability that he possesses. He will be on edges more, going against a fullback or a tight end or a tackle in space where he can really use his speed, his quickness, his ability. So there are some guys like him. I think Alex Debniak will benefit. Thomas Keiser…I feel like there will be a number of our players who should benefit from this new scheme.
TB: That said, Keiser and Thomas will be transitioning from playing with their hands on the ground to standing up. Do you think that will be a particularly difficult move for them to make?
LA: The transition in the spring was pretty smooth for those guys. For Keiser it's been perhaps a little bit more of a transition because he hasn't really played out of a two-point stance, played on the edge very often, and hasn't been involved in coverage very often, whereas Thomas did some of that in high school and he's got a lot of athletic ability so it was a little easier transition for him. But Thomas Keiser did a good job with that and he's just going to get better as he gets more reps. There will be times where you see both of those guys and even others like Alex Debniak play out of a three-point stance as well. When we get into our nickel packages on third down, we're going to have some packages where we have four down linemen and we'll put our four best pass-rushers on the field and you're going to see Tom, you're going to see Chase and you're going to see Alex and some of those guys in those situational packages.
TB: A few years ago, it seemed like the linebacking corps might have had a few strong pieces, but generally lacked depth. With some of the 2010 linebacker recruits, headlined by Blake Lueders, joining emerging stars like Shayne Skov, What is your opinion as to the state of the Stanford linebacker group moving forward?
LA: Coach Fangio and I have talked a lot about that going into this year and we feel really good about the depth that we have there. We feel like what it has allowed us to do for the next few classes is that we can target some really top-notch linebackers like some of the guys that are committed to us this year. Because having guys like Owen Marecic there, Shayne Skov, Chase Thomas, Alex Debniak, and Thomas Keiser… you mentioned the guys coming in like Blake Lueders, Alex Turner, Joe Hemschoot. We have a lot of depth there and that is going to help. We can be more selective with the linebackers we bring in the next few years but we can also load up more on the defensive line and with defensive backs where we need to continue to strengthen those positions.
Stay tuned for Part II of "The Lance Anderson Sessions"
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