Shaw previews spring ball

Former OC, new coach David Shaw

Most of it was proverbial coachspeak about competition and improvement. David Shaw wouldn't pinpoint differences between a spring practice run by him compared to one last year, only saying, "You tell me after Monday." Read on for more from Scott Cooley at a pre-spring ball presser with new coach David Shaw.

Spring Cleaning

Stanford fans will have their first shot at seeing Coach Shaw's Cardinal with their own eyes this Monday, as below are dates and times for the first half of spring ball, Feb. 21 through March 5. Note that this Monday's practice is open to the public:

Monday, Feb. 21 – 4:00 p.m. (Open)
Wednesday, Feb. 23 – 4:00 p.m.
Friday, Feb. 25 – 4:00 p.m.
Sunday, Feb. 27 – 2:00 p.m. (Open)
Tuesday, March 1 – 4:00 p.m.
Thursday, March 3 – 4:00 p.m.
Saturday, March 5 – 10:00 a.m. (Open)

All practices will take place at Elliott Field. The NCAA allows Stanford to hold 15 organized practices, which the Cardinal have broken up into two sessions. Session 2 will begin March 28 and conclude with the annual Cardinal and White scrimmage April 9 at Kezar Stadium.

"This is a big-time evaluation point for us. We've got 15 practices to see where we are before training camp," Shaw said. "Who are the guys who have improved, gotten stronger, faster and quicker since last season? Who was down on the depth chart that's making a push? The best thing about the spring is that it's pure competition."

Shaw did offer one area of focus heading into spring ball. The coaching staff is searching for new leaders.

With guys like Andrew Phillips and Sione Fua gone, the Cardinal is lacking a vocal leader on both sides of the ball. Andrew Luck's dedication on and off the field provides a good example, but he isn't a "get in your face" guy.

As an outsider might guess, Stanford is stuffed with heady players who work through problems judiciously. While that is all fine and good, the staff needs a few guys that can crack some helmets when times get tough.

"We've got some holes to fill, some leadership roles that need to be addressed, both playing- and character-wise," said Shaw. "We've got to have some young guys not act like young guys, they've got act like vets. Because there are some big holes that we need to fill from a leadership standpoint."

Injury Report MIA

For the time being, Shaw has unfortunately adopted the Harbaugh Injury Information Act of 2010. The statute states that no injury information shall be provided to the media by the coaching staff.

Shaw admitted that some players would not participate in spring drills but that divulging individual names was "unnecessary." He said during the regular season it will be a case-by-case basis but for the most part injuries will be kept private.

"We've got some guys who are injured and some guys we will hold out (of spring practice) for precautionary purposes," he said.

Levine Toilolo is expected to have a "limited" part in the spring. Shaw said the staff is pleased with his progress but that they will use extreme caution while bringing him back to health.

Staff Roundup

All but one of the coaching vacancies on the Stanford staff has been filled. The last open position is for tight ends/tackles Coach and Shaw said that he would take his time selecting a person for the job.

As many have speculated on The Bootleg's message boards, Mike Bloomgren has been hired as the team's offensive line coach. He will also assist in coordinating the running game.

Shaw and Bloomgren both trained under Bill Callahan. Bloomgren worked under him as an offensive assistant with the New York Jets during the 2008 and 2009 campaigns, before being promoted to assistant offensive coordinator last season.

"We sat down, started talking football and we spoke the exact same language," Shaw said of Bloomgren. "Mike is a between-the-tackles, play-physical, get-after-people-up-front kind of coach. And that's exactly what I was looking for. He's an outstanding teacher."

Mike Sanford has been named running backs coach for the Cardinal. Sanford is a former Boise State quarterback who has worked on the staff in previous years as a recruiter and offensive assistant.

"I was looking for guys who are teaches and motivators. Those are the guys who do well in this profession, as position coaches and coordinators," Shaw said of constructing the staff. "After each hire so far, I've gotten a great night's sleep. We've hired guys who are high-character, high-energy teachers, who are good at holding players accountable and care about their success both as players and human beings."

As far as offensive play-calling, everything will run through Shaw. Pep Hamilton will have a hand in the passing game and Bloomgren the running game, but Shaw said he will have the final say and veto power. Those are the three coaches who will be creating the offensive gameplan for Luck and Co.

Class and Cruelty

We heard it a million times from Harbaugh last year: We want to move forward with class and cruelty.

Shaw wasn't quite ready to give his team an identity before spring ball. The "class" part will be there, but you have to wonder if the Cardinal will lose some of that "cruelty" edge with the departure of Harbaugh and Vic "Lord" Fangio.

Shaw is definitely not as intense as Harbaugh from a character perspective. You don't get the same feeling that he wants to line up and pop an opponent in the mouth alongside the players like you did with Harbs. Shaw did offer this about the team mantra, more coachspeak.

"The one thing I'll say is that every single day, we're going to compete. We're going to compete with the guy next to us, against the guy in front of us," he said. "We're going to show up and compete with confidence. We don't look too far ahead; we're worried about what's going on today."

Offensive Line

Bloomgren has a tough task on his hands the second he arrives at The Farm. The lauded Tunnel Workers Union, which was arguably the best offensive line in the country the last two years, has disbanded.

Lynchpins like Chase Beeler, Phillips and Derek Hall are gone. David DeCastro and Jonathan Martin will return to their respective O-line positions, but three other spots are open for competition.

"As we look at our line coming back, from a personnel standpoint, we have a chance to be very athletic up front," Shaw stated. "The question is…are those guys going to be consistent? Ability-wise, we're going to be fine. But we get a chance now in the spring to see who's ready to step up. No matter what happens a lot of our success will be determined by how well we play up front."

Shaw said the center position will be a battle between Sam Schwartzstein and Khalil Wilkes. Both will receive equal reps during spring practice. The two remaining spots are open for anyone else on the roster with an "OL" beside their name.

Defensive Progression

Many fans are wondering how Stanford's vastly improved defense will continue to get better without Fangio leading the troops.

Shaw said that while Fangio put his footprint on the program, it was the scheme installed that really turned things around. He confirmed they will stick with "versions" of the 3-4 as the base defense.

"We found a scheme that fit our personnel. It was a perfect fit for guys like Shayne (Skov) and Chase Thomas," he said. "And I think we've got guys coming in that fit those roles as well."

Musical Positions

During the spring sessions last year, Harbaugh experimented with a handful of players at different positions. Alex Loukas was playing on both sides of the ball and Michael Thomas saw time at just about every position in the secondary.

When asked specifically about Blake Lueders, Shaw said that he will see reps at the outside linebacker position, but will move around to a couple of different spots to see where his talents can be maximized. But for the most part, the coach doesn't expect as much experimenting during the spring compared to last season.

"We've got some new coaches and some tweaks on schemes, so we want guys to get settled into their roles," he said. "There may be a couple guys that play right guard and left guard, but for the most part we want them to get comfortable in their roles."

Freshmen Infusion

Stanford hasn't shied away from using youth on the field. And with a talented class of freshmen arriving this summer, including guys like James Vaughters, Wayne Lyons and Kelsey Young, coach Shaw isn't about to buck the trend.

"I think the philosophy we've had here has held pretty true. We've played as many freshmen as anybody over the last couple of years," he said. "The way we've recruited these guys, some of them have the ability and mentality to play as a freshman."

About the Author: Bootleg Senior Writer Scott Cooley has worked in the sports media industry throughout his professional career, including serving as a writer for an ESPN production house and a professional football franchise. His work has been published in multiple print and online platforms including ESPN.com. He currently writes for yours truly, as well as BookMaker, Covers and Red Hott Locks. Cooley specializes in football, baseball and basketball with an emphasis on sports betting. Cooley and his wife reside in California, contact him at scottwcooley@gmail.com.

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