A Familiar Defensive Assistant
Tavita Pritchard will forever be lodged in Stanford football lore for his performance in the Card’s dramatic 2007 win at USC. For the past two seasons following his graduation, however, the former Cardinal quarterback has found another way to help the team – as a staff assistant.
In 2010, Pritchard worked with the team in a volunteer capacity, lending assistance to former coach Jim Harbaugh and the rest of the Cardinal’s high-octane offense.
”I was working with the team as a volunteer last year,” Pritchard said. “Helping out with the quarterbacks, whatever I could. I was breaking down some tape, helping Coach Harbaugh and the offense, and just whatever I could do.”
This season, Pritchard’s role has changed. Despite spending his entire playing career on offense, Pritchard is assisting co-defensive coordinator Derek Mason with the defensive backs.
“I crossed over to the dark side,” joked Pritchard. “I’m assisting with Coach Derek Mason, working under him. I’m a staff assistant working with DB’s, which is a really good learning experience. Playing all of my career on the offensive side of the ball, this is a very good learning experience for me. I’m learning a lot and really enjoying it.”
Although coaching defense wasn’t exactly at the forefront of Pritchard’s mind in years past, he’s embraced the challenge as preparation for what he hopes is a long and successful future in coaching.
“It worked out staff-wise and it was also something Coach Shaw had presented to me,” Pritchard said. “I had never really considered it. And then when he presented it to me, I figured I want to coach down the road and it might be a good thing for me to spend however much time on the defensive side of the ball and really learn it from that side. So it is a really good thing.”
Offensive Position Battles
None of the battles for the three vacant offensive line spots have been settled. However, after an impressive spring, Kevin Danser has vaulted to a lead in the competition for Andrew Phillips’ old left guard spot.
Danser hasn’t quite locked up the position yet, however, because the coaches want to give senior Matt Bentler a shot once he returns to full health.
“We want to get Matt Bentler back in the fold and give him a chance,” offensive line coach Mike Bloomgren said. “He’s a fifth year senior and he’s earned the right to deserve that. As soon as he can get healthy and get on the field we’re going to put him on the field and see if he can battle for it.”
Center and right tackle are far less clear. Khalil Wilkes and Sam Schwartzstein have been alternating practice working with the ‘ones,’ at center, with no clear leader.
“Sam Schwartzstein and Khalil Wilkes are going to battle it out [for the center job],” Bloomgren said. “Right now, they’re trading every other practice, going with the ones, and I think that’s the fairest way to do it, get some continuity.”
The right tackle hierarchy is just as clouded. Tyler Mabry, Cameron Fleming, and David Yankey are still neck-and-neck.
The same applies for the backup quarterback competition. Shaw said Robbie Picazo and Josh Nunes are running even, although redshirt freshman Brett Nottingham could provide an interesting dynamic to the race.
“They’re (Picazo and Nunes) right about the same right now,” Shaw said. “And I would say that Brett Nottingham has closed up the gap. Brett Nottingham has had a really good camp, he’s showed command of the offense, got command of the huddle. He’s impressed us thus far, so he’s got a chance to get in that competition as well.”
Defensive Position Battles
The competition for the two vacant linebacker spots is just as fierce. Trent Murphy, Alex Debniak, and Blake Lueders have all been mentioned by the coaches as possibilities at the outside ‘backer position, while Max Bergen, James Vaughters, Jarek Lancaster, A.J. Tarpley, and Joe Hemschoot are battling for the inside slot.
Matt Masifilo, Terrence Stephens, and Ben Gardner figure to see much of the playing time along the defensive front, but Henry Anderson has also been singled out by the coaches for his performance in the early days of camp.
“Henry is playing a couple different positions for us,” Shaw said. “He’s going to need to be versatile for us, and so far he’s taken to it.”
Shaw confirmed that Darren Daniel and Alex Turner are no longer with the team. While Daniel is “potentially going to transfer,” said Shaw, Turner’s situation is less clear. It’s a “Different situation, but we’ll see what happens over the next year or so,” Shaw said.
Former Stanford safety Bo McNally was spotted at several practices.
The team will hold its first open practice of the summer from 10 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. next Sunday, August 21, at Elliot Field behind Maples Pavilion.
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