Spring Kickoff Part I: News and Notes

Owusu (above), Howell dressed but didn't practice

The field was wet. The air was cold. Spring, this was not, but the first practice of football's first session arrived regardless. The Cardinal is back and Stanford, as coach David Shaw never fails to mention, has unmet goals. Shaw called Monday's outing a good start, but would not go further than that—it was not "great," he was quick to clarify, but the seeds for such status were planted.

Back Again

Jeremy Stewart, he of Orange Bowl fame, was not listed on Stanford's spring roster, but he was out on the field on Monday, splitting second team running back reps with Anthony Wilkerson. It was later confirmed that Stewart had received a medical redshirt, presumably for the 2009 season.

Who sat?

Delano Howell and Matt Bentler were at practice, but were not dressed. The same goes for Levine Toilolo, who spent nearly the entire session doing individual stretches and exercises on the sidelines. Noticeably absent from the field was Chris Owusu, who is still battling back from injury. Shaw noted that Howell and Owusu have "nothing to prove" to him and that he wants to be as cautious as possible. Shaw said that he hopes Toilolo can get in some practice time before the end of the second session. Also absent was Robbie Picazo, but the indication was that he had some form of conflict; he has not left the team. Tyler Gaffney was also not at practice, presumably for baseball-related reasons.

The players in yellow jerseys, but practicing, were Coby Fleener, Warren Reuland and Michael Spanos.

The New Guy

There was an addition to the practice field: Stanley Fich, a junior, who is practicing with the team on a tryout basis, but is not technically on the roster. Fich, formerly a member of the Cardinal baseball team, played football in high school. He donned the No. 59 jersey—without a nameplate, in contrast to his teammates—and spent his time at outside linebacker. He got into the action, and saw some time with the second team during scrimmages.

Position Switches

After years of seeing multiple players switched back and forth between sides of the ball, 2011 had relatively few moves. In fact, there was just one big change: Usua Amanam. He was in white, the defense's color, and spent practice at cornerback. There has been talk of moving Amanam to defense since before he got to the Farm, and Shaw said that they will find a way to utilize him and have him appear in many different spots, be it on offense, defense or special teams. Simply put, he's too talented to keep on the sideline, and Stanford's running backs corps is about as stacked as it can get—and that's before you consider incoming freshmen like Remound Wright and Kelsey Young.

As for other switches: while not a total position change, it does appear that Ben Gardner is picking up another role: he appears to be the backup long snapper, behind Andrew Fowler.

And one guy who is not switching positions: Corey Gatewood. He is listed as a cornerback on Stanford's roster—the position where he has spent much of his Cardinal career—but Shaw said that he will be exclusively a wide receiver this season. He was switched to offense before the 2010 campaign.

Notable Plays and Happenings

There's a lot more in Part II, but here's enough to whet your appetite:

  • During tight end drills, Coby Fleener let a deep pass bounce off his hands. Let's just say his frustration was perfectly audible from 60+ yards away.
  • On the first play of the first scrimmage, Andrew Luck used a hard count and got both Chase Thomas and Trent Murphy to jump offsides.
  • Griff Whalen made an excellent, leaping catch on the sideline despite some tight coverage by Barry Browning. Luck put it where only Whalen (with Ryan's eligibility all used up, we no longer need to modify which one) was going to get it, and he made the play.
  • Hide your shock: Shayne Skov was the loudest player on the field.
  • Brian Polian spent a good amount of time with the defensive backs. That's his second billet but he seemed to be more with that group than with the special teamers.
  • While he did not appear to see time during scrimmages, Conor McFadden held his own in drills. He was matched up once with Matt Masifilo, a daunting task, and the two split their success; neither consistently got the better of the other.
  • Derek Mason was in Browning's ear about staying with his man rather than trying to constantly read the quarterback.
  • Doesn't matter that it's day one: Mason chewed out Alex Turner for not hustling downfield on a running play.
  • Zach Ertz had a clear case of "hearing footsteps" on one play. He was open and fumbled a pass while Ed Reynolds closed in from behind. Ertz would make up for it by making a nice adjustment on an underthrown ball by Darren Daniel.
  • Josh Nunes overthrew Roberts on an out, but the play was notable for Quinn Evans's ups—the throw sailed and seemed to be instantly uncatchable, but Evans soared and actually got a finger on the ball.
  • The "Our QB is better than your QB play": Luck hit Ertz on a seam route with Bergen in blanket coverage. Luck put the ball on a rope right into Ertz's outstretched hands. No other QB on the team can make that throw; not many other QBs in the country can, either.

Here is the GoStanford.com recap of the practice, and check out our Part II for a breakdown of the depth chart and performances at every position. Name your firstborns after Wyndam Makowsky, folks -- this is some good stuff!


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