Shayne Skov at his best yet come 2013?
Stanford's first session of spring practice may have been the most balanced in recent history. Several reinforcements are on the way to infuse another load of energy into a squad with soaring 2013 expectations. Read on to get your in-depth Stanford football fix in the spring hiatus period.
Physicality Fills Question Marks
After Luke Kaumatule hauled in Kevin Hogan's crisp pass on a short
hook pattern at one of Stanford's early 2013 spring practices, the
6-foot-7, 260-pound freshman turned upfield and crunched his way
through Stanford's secondary. His combination of surprising
nimbleness and expected dump-truck physicality punished defensive
backs until they managed to drag him down about 20 yards downfield.
"Physically, [Luke] is as big as Levine Toilolo now," Coach David Shaw raved. "The amazing part is that Levine's a senior, and Luke's
still a freshman."
That rumble after the catch represented one of many reasons
Stanford finds itself so optimistic as preparations for 2013 continue. For
the first time since Andrew Luck manned the controls, the Cardinal
defense has not consistently overwhelmed its own
offense during open exhibitions. Beef up front has breathed air into the offensive
attack. Young, emerging players with tremendous upside, such as Kaumatule, are providing
an added bonus. They're the ones administering the physicality that
is leveling the playing field.
Consider as example another freshman who certainly doesn't look like
one. Andrus Peat has layered his 6-foot-7 frame with 310 pounds of
athletic mass. He's a gigantic emblem of Stanford's offensive line
development. Whereas the Farm Boys' 2012
unit sacrificed a few pounds at most spots to maintain required agility, the
2013 offensive line is shaping up to feature a supernatural
combination of size and quickness. Between Peat's emergence, David
Yankey's shift to left guard, a larger replacement for center Sam Schwartzstein, and general offseason strengthening
throughout all the diesel positions, the Cardinal's offensive line
projects to average about 10 pounds heavier at each spot than last year's.
It's not a finished project yet by any stretch of the imagination.
Development is ongoing, particularly in the case of tackle Kyle Murphy, a player Stanford envisions considerably heavier than his
current listed 272-pound frame. But Shannon Turley-goaded physical
progress has already begun to leaves its mark on the attack. Of
course, Luck-era offensive domination is gone, but so is the
offensive mess of 2012 spring practice, the ineptitude that
foreshadowed the Cardinal's two gut-wrenching, zero-touchdown
defeats at Washington and Notre Dame. A notably balanced and sharp
Stanford squad has taken shape instead, one that is operating with a
delightful combination of that maturing brawn up front and fresh
excitement on the outside.
Reinforcements on the Way
Two waves of reinforcements are scheduled to further bolster Stanford's punch on both sides of the football. The first group of
fresh bodies is expected April 1, when Stanford's second spring
session starts. The second wave, the Cardinal's 2013 freshman
recruiting class, is due on campus in the summer.
Second-session returners will generate plenty of buzz. Linebacker
Shayne Skov, currently finishing the final portion of his DUI-related
suspension, is expected to bring his usual dose of
supercharged energy. Meanwhile, running back Tyler Gaffney's return
from professional baseball could create an authentic deja vu
experience on the other side of the football.
Skov's return is particularly intriguing. Coaches and training
personnel have confirmed that his explosiveness did indeed improve
on a weekly basis coming off his devastating 2011 knee injury. There
is solid optimism bordering on certainty coming from the Stanford
camp that the fifth-year senior will be better than his pre-injury
self in 2013. That's a tantalizing thought when it comes to further
improvement of a Cardinal defense that already returns the
majority of an elite unit.
Ed Reynolds sat out much of Stanford's first session with a minor
tweak in his leg. He's scheduled to return April 1, as is running
back Ricky Seale, who tweaked his leg at the team's first open
practice. Tight ends Charlie Hopkins and Eddie Plantaric are also
said to be close to full readiness at the one spot where the
Cardinal is currently in sore need of bodies. One tight end option,
Alex Frkovic, has yet to participate in his recovery from a severe
knee injury, while fellow tight end Davis Dudchock has missed
time due to the passing of his brother.
The summer reinforcement wave will bring three more tight ends, all
true freshman, with it. Though Stanford would probably prefer to let
them acclimate to college football physically first, early playing
time for at least one of those young tight ends is a possibility if
the health outlook at the position is still bleak come August. Only
time will tell if Greg Taboada, Austin Hooper or Eric Cotton gets
an early shot.
Other muscle positions are also anticipating personnel boosts.
Freshman Graham Shuler, coming off a first session absence due to a
disciplinary issue, will jump into center competition with Khalil Wilkes, Conor McFadden, and Kevin Danser. Kevin Reihner, sidelined
because of injury so far, also hopes to hop into that five-man fray
sooner rather than later.
At the fullback position, expect to see Geoff Meinken continue to
work his way into the serious mix as he re-acclimates to the
football field following last spring's severe knee injury. Pat Skov
will also bolster the position with big-time strength after tending
to a family matter during the first spring session.
Stanford is only becoming deeper, stronger, and sharper as this
offseason continues. Freshman linemen Nick Davidson and Johnny Caspers, who have both packed on over 20 pounds
of muscle over the past several months, are exemplars of
this progression. They represent the burgeoning physical depth that
the Cardinal envision dominating the Pac-12 at the line of
The program, now operating in era that has featured an extra session
of bowl practices for four consecutive years, is building on that additional work. Expect
Stanford to be firing on all cylinders earlier this season, and
don't be surprised if the Spring Game that ends the second session
offers a compelling preview of a well-oiled 2013 machine.
Other Featured Stanford Spring Material from The Bootleg
Development Report: Part 1 (Winning the Chess Match)
Development Report: Part 2 (All Positions)
Development Report: Part 1 (Interior Line)
Development Report: Part 2 (DE, LB)
Development Report: Part 3 (Secondary)
David Lombardi is the Stanford
Insider for The Bootleg and FOX Sports Next. Check him out at www.davidlombardisports.com.
Are you fully subscribed to The
Bootleg? If not, then you are missing out on
all the top Cardinal coverage we provide daily on our
award-winning website. Sign up today for the biggest and best in
Stanford sports coverage with TheBootleg.com