James Vaughters won the open OLB position
David Shaw hates the idea of announcing starters, not because he
wants to be secretive about the complexion of his football team, but
rather because a binary win or lose announcement of starter or backup does a disservice to Stanford's depth.
"I would never name starters if I didn't have to, if you guys didn't
bug me every three days for it," he smiled. "I don't think it
matters. ... Who's in the first play of the game has never mattered to
me, and it's not really that important. But we have to name
quote-unquote starters and put them on a piece of paper so [the
media] knows who they are."
With that being said, Shaw did name Khalil Wilkes Stanford's
starting center. That particular announcement carries more weight
than the other openings filled today because the Cardinal does not
plan to rotate bodies at the center position, though Shaw affirmed
that Conor McFadden and Kevin Danser are both more than capable of
filling in for Wilkes there.
Shaw also named James Vaughters the starter at outside linebacker
and Wayne Lyons the first-string man opposite Alex Carter at
cornerback. As expected, though, he was quick to emphasize that
those positions will essentially operate as timeshares.
"They both showed us they needed to play," he said. "Blake Lueders
is too good not to play. Barry Browning is too good not to play."
Perhaps most notably, Shaw confirmed that Devon Carrington will play
both cornerback and safety for Stanford this season. Defensive
coordinator Derek Mason first hinted at that possibility early in
camp. Carrington, who is 6-foot-1, has now demonstrated his ability
to effectively bring a safety's physicality to the corner role.
"He's one of those utility guys that can play both at a high level,"
Shaw said. "That's the biggest thing that's changed in Stanford
football in last five years. We have depth. We can rotate guys in.
We feel we're at least two deep at just about every position."
More on Center
In previous years, Sam Schwartzstein
had defeated Wilkes in the battle for center. Wilkes ended up starting 2012 at left guard
before finally securing the job in the middle with his excellent
performance during Saturday's scrimmage.
"Sometimes the quarterback changes the play, and the ball will be
snapped in three seconds," said Shaw, outlining the unique challenges of
the position. "So [Wilkes] has to communicate it, snap the ball, and
get his job done all in less than three seconds. He's shown the
ability to do that."
The coaching staff saw immense progress from Wilkes over the course
of last season as he enjoyed the greatest amount of playing time in
his Stanford career. Wilkes, who has bulked up about 10 pounds
(295), is one the Rose Bowl run's unsung heroes: He's the player who
miraculously recovered Kevin Hogan's overtime fumble at Oregon to
set up Jordan Williamson's game-winning field goal.
"Khalil was in two battles last year: guard and center," Shaw said.
"It's hard. It stretches you mentally. Playing a lot last year
helped him a ton. He saw so many looks. Going against our defense in
particular, he saw every defensive look known to man. ... He's a
fifth-year senior now, and you can feel his leadership and command
of the offense."
More on Cornerback
Shaw said that this race in the secondary has been even closer
than the one at center. Both Lyons and Browning have dealt with
their share of injury trouble on The Farm, but both are fully
healthy and ready to fortify a defensive backfield that Derek Mason
hopes is deep enough to withstand the Pac-12's high-snap count
The staff has complimented Lyons for buoying his natural
explosiveness with vastly improved technique over the offseason,
while Browning has intercepted numerous passes over the course of
"He intercepted another one today," Shaw said. "Barry Browning has
had a lot of good practices."
More on Outside Linebacker
It seems fitting that James Vaughters will fill the outside linebacker
spot vacated by Chase Thomas, another
Stanford player out of Georgia. The Cardinal have opened
a recruiting pipeline to the Peach State ever since the Jim
Harbaugh/David Shaw era began, and they're using it to bring
defensive heat from the outside.
Neither player at this competition participated there last year.
Vaughters moved back to the outside this past offseason after a
one-year stint at the insider linebacker position, while Lueders
missed all of 2012 after undergoing surgeries on both of his
"Both guys are versatile," Shaw said. "Both guys are good in pass
drops, both are good in man coverage, both do a good job rushing the
passer, both are good against the run. They'll both play base and
they'll both play nickel. We believe we've got guys who are
quote-unquote starters at all those positions."
Vaughters has weighed in at 260 pounds, while Lueders isn't far
behind at 255. The latter made sure his presence was especially
felt the past two days, so much so that Shaw held Stanford fullback
Lee Ward out of Thursday's practice.
"He ran into Blake Lueders yesterday," Shaw said of Ward. "That's a painful
Other Offensive Personnel News
Shaw emphasized that Anthony Wilkerson and Tyler Gaffney are Stanford's "lead dogs", but added that he does not plan to formally name a starter at
running back this season. He says that honorific will fall to whomever is best suited for Stanford's play call on its first offensive snap. He also added that there is incredible depth at the position.
"You will see Barry Sanders play," he said. "You will see Ricky Seale play. You will see Remound Wright play."
Shaw also affirmed that Ward, Ryan Hewitt, and Pat Skov will all
play at fullback after an excellent camp at the position. He said
that as many as four tight ends may see action throughout the year,
and that doesn't include offensive tackle Kyle Murphy, who is also
expected to contribute his beef to the position. The Cardinal also have
announced their intention to again use up to eight offensive
Special Teams: A Punter Named
Special teams coach Pete Alamar told The Bootleg that Ben Rhyne
will replace Daniel Zychlinski at punter. Rhyne beat
out Conrad Ukropina for the job. Ty Montgomery will be the
Cardinal's primary opening day kick returner, with Kelsey Young and
Alex Carter also in the mix.
Kodi Whitfield currently leads the punt
returner competition per Alamar, who also praised Sanders and Montgomery in
discussing possibilities at the position. Check out The Bootleg
Radio's interview with Alamar to delve into the intricacies of
David Lombardi is the Stanford
Insider for The Bootleg. Check him out at www.davidlombardisports.com
and follow him on Twitter @DavidMLombardi.
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