Weds. Aug. 11 Practice Report

Although the start of fall training camp is usually a time of great enthusiasm and excitement, there has been an air of sadness around the Stanford football program these past few days. As most Cardinal fans know by now, Bill Phillips, father of starting senior guard Andrew, passed away in a plane crash two nights ago.

Coach Harbaugh addressed the tragedy after practice today:

"Sudden, tragic, deaths are the toughest to grieve. His dad, Bill Phillips, lived a life any man would be proud to have lived. His sons that he raised, that legacy will live on through them. They have leaders, studs, they have the DNA of that kind of leadership… All the qualities that are really good that you look for in a man - Bill had it and so did those boys."

Harbaugh added that Andrew Phillips is back in Alaska now and there is no timetable for his return. He also discussed a few other details of the accident.

"Maybe the story has come out but the 13-year-old, Willy [Andrew's younger brother], it was a real blessing he was delivered safely. But he broke his ankle and was one of the survivors most able to walk on a broken ankle. He ended up running up the mountain that the plane crashed into flag the helicopter to rescue them. What a stud."

Kevin Danser played the majority of snaps at Phillips' vacant left guard position in practice today, but Harbaugh said that James McGillicuddy could also be in the mix at the position.

Other Practice Notes

-Former Stanford quarterback Tavita Pritchard was at practice helping out.

-Talking to the media, Harbaugh gave a short update on the closed practice.

"It was very blue collar, I can tell you that," Harbaugh said. "We were working this thing in shifts. Very much unity of effort going on. Ton of reps, just a ton of reps. I think the defense is ahead of the offense right now but we're coming along."

- Several questions directed at Harbaugh concerned his protégé, Andrew Luck. Harbaugh said that he met with Luck after last season to discuss a few adjustments Harbaugh wanted Luck to work on.

"The top of his drop which would allow him to get the ball out quicker and production in the red zone and making the tight throw that needs to be made in the red zone. Things happen faster and quicker. He's made the changes over the summer in his drop that we were looking for and he's really looking good."

Harbaugh further complemented Luck when asked to compare his skills as a college quarterback with Luck's. "I hate making comparisons, but that one really is an easy one," Harbaugh said. "He is much better, there is no question about it. He's stronger, stronger arm, stronger stature. He's at 235, I was 195 pounds. He's better…smarter." Following the media's session with Harbaugh, Luck was made available and took questions for about ten minutes. The redshirt sophomore, who confirmed he weighed "somewhere in the 230 (pounds) range," appeared much more at ease speaking with a group of reporters than he has in the past.

Below are the highlights of the interview with Luck:

How are you a different quarterback now than you were heading into camp last year?
I think a lot more confidence definitely. I think playing a year is a whole world of experience that you can't practice or simulate. So that's a big part of it. I've tried to be a little more vocal and maybe guys listen to a little more of what I say, I don't know [laughing].

Can you talk about the experience you had at the Manning Camp as well as your visit to ESPN over the summer?
It was a great experience. First, the Manning Camp was awesome. There were a lot of college guys and we got to talk not just about football but everything and make a acquaintances and friends with a lot of the guys that you watch every Saturday, Friday, or Thursday night. The Mannings are great players, obviously, but are great teachers of what they know. They really helped me out so it was awesome. The ESPN stuff was an honor to represent Stanford on a national scale like that. It was neat to meet the other Pac-10 quarterbacks as well.

Who has a tougher job, you or your dad?
[Laughing.] I should probably stay away from commenting on that.

You ran for over 1,000 yards in high school. Do you think that's part of your game that you're going to showcase more this year?
I don't know. Coach Harbaugh really stressed in this offense that the quarterback will have to pick up a first down at some point in the game with his legs, be it on a designed run or a pass that breaks down. He really stresses it in practice as well, quarterbacks finishing runs. I don't know if it will be a little more focused, but I'll just try and help the team out when I can.

Do you practice your sliding a lot?
I probably should. I might be the worst slider in America.

At the end of the season when you decide what you're going to do regarding the NFL, obviously you're going to think about how well you did and how high you might go but are there any other considerations in your decision?
I'm sure there will be lots of considerations. I haven't thought about it all.

Does your dad want you to graduate?
I'd love to graduate. There's a reason you come to Stanford. I think getting a degree is worth its weight in gold. I don't think about it, but getting a degree is a huge part of coming to Stanford.

Was that part of your thinking when you took the redshirt year?
No, I mean that was not my decision. That was the coach's decision. I left it up to Coach Harbaugh. We talked and he consulted with me, but ultimately it was his decision. Whatever he decides I know will be best for me. He has the team's and my best interest in mind, so just go with that.

How long after this year will you have to get your degree?
Four total years.

How do you deal with all this attention? Do you like it, do you care about it, how do you feel about it?
I guess one part it's great because Stanford's name is getting out there a little more. I guess any time my name is mentioned, Stanford's name is mentioned maybe in the sentence before or sentence after. I try not to pay attention to it too much. I understand that I honestly haven't done squat on the football field so I have to take care of that. And when and if I do get a big head, my teammates will keep me well-grounded. They won't let me get away with much.

One of the things Coach Harbaugh said he wanted you to improve on is red zone passing. How do you look to improve that?
Seeing the defense and being able to make a decision a lot quicker, maybe during the drop as opposed to at the top of the drop. Coach Pep Hamilton is a new coach who came from the Chicago Bears, and we really worked hard in the spring on that. Coach Shaw, Coach Roman, Coach Harbaugh, all the offensive coaches. The red zone is a constricted field so you have to make decisions a little quicker. If you make a bad decision you're going to have to pay for it in a much more costly way than maybe out in the open field. So just trying to work on making those decisions quicker and with a little more decisiveness.

Andrew, is there any way in the offseason that you can prepare yourself for the challenge of leading the team and all the attention?
You can get away and relax. We had a great summer working out and running and throwing and I got to go home for five days, clear my mind, get ready for the season, and come in rejuvenated and refreshed ready to focus on football and nothing else. Just try not to get caught up in it. And that's easy when you're hanging out with your buddies and everything is alright.

So you went home to Houston recently?
I did before camp.

Did you play football, throw the ball, or did you totally stay away?
I worked out and stayed in shape. Unfortunately it was like 110 on the heat index scale so I had to stay inside a little more than I wanted to but I threw a couple of times but I wanted to get my mind mentally prepared to focus on football without any distractions.

It's probably easy for you when you're asked about the NFL to just say I'm concentrating on this year and not looking at it beyond that, but are your parents getting besieged by agents?
If they are, I wouldn't know. They won't tell me. And that's probably for the better. Again, they have my best interests at mind. They're my parents, I love them, they'll do whatever they need to do and we'll leave it at that.

What's it like to have your sister up at school with you?
Oh, it's awesome. I'm really happy. I think my parents are a little happier that her older brother is out here to take care of her and maybe give her a ride to In-N-Out every now and then. She's enjoying it. I got to talk to her, her mind is all in a whirlwind I think with volleyball training camp starting, but I think she's really happy.

When you guys were little kids, was she ever a better athlete than you?
She beat me once, I think. We set up like a mini-tennis game in the living room in Germany and she beat me and I got really mad [laughing].

Stay tuned to The Bootleg for more practice reports and interviews, and the start of the second annual "We Walk" series early next week.

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