This weekend's trip to West Point is significant for David Shaw
beyond the Cardinal's important East Coast recruiting rounds. He has
a cousin in the Army, and his father, Willie -- once the
runner-up to Bill Walsh for the Stanford head coaching job -- served
in the Air Force during the Vietnam War as an electronics and armor
expert for bombing missions.
"We're playing against young men that are willing to do some of the
things that we're not willing to do down the road," Shaw said. "Our
freedom is in their hands. We love them, we appreciate them."
Gratitude for Army also emanates from Stanford's players, who will
tour West Point's hallowed grounds on Friday before playing the
Black Knights in front of a sellout crowd at Michie Stadium
"Their training camp is relief compared to what they do in boot
camp," running back Tyler Gaffney said. "They're actually stoked to
get to training camp, which may not usually be the case for football
players. You can't help but respect everything they do."
Saturday morning's kickoff is scheduled for 9 a.m. PDT (noon Eastern). That
marks a drastic reversal from the Cardinal's first start time, an 8
p.m. PDT boot against San Jose State this past weekend. Shaw isn't
concerned with his players' ability to handle the change. He says
that they're young and resilient, and that they'll be fine as long
as they hydrate for Thursday's long cross-country flight.
"If you don't make a big deal out of it, they won't make a big deal
out of it," he said. "I need to think about the game plan. That's
the paramount thing. We won't change what we do preparation-wise.
About 48 hours before kickoff, we'll subtly adjust our schedule, but
Quarterback Kevin Hogan added that the Cardinal's coaches have
recommended that players remain occupied with a book or movie
instead of sleeping on Thursday's flight over to combat jet lag.
The weather forecast suggests that Stanford will miss the humid heat
that can be an East Coast trademark at this time of the year.
Tuesday's temperature at West Point soared over 90 degrees, but an
afternoon high of only 63 degrees is forecast Saturday. The
Cardinal's last early East Coast start came in 2009 at Wake Forest,
when redshirt freshman Andrew Luck suffered his first career loss on
a muggy September afternoon.
A Unique Match-Up
While Saturday's early start in a relatively exotic location is
a potentially complicating factor for Stanford, it's the match-up
with Army itself that presents the most deviations from the Pac-12
norm. Last season, the Black Knights ran the ball 88 percent of the
time from their triple option attack while leading the nation in rushing. They
racked up 369.8 ground yards per game.
Army is extremely small compared to Stanford. The Black Knights'
offensive linemen average only 254 pounds, a figure that's
considerably lighter than Stanford's trio of primary outside
linebackers, all of whom scale in near or above 260 pounds in weight.
"You can look at the numbers and say that, especially up front on
both lines, we're bigger," Shaw said. "Problem is, when you're going
against smaller guys, a lot of the time they're quicker. It's hard
sometimes for big guys to get down. We have to be ready on defense
for those guys to get under our legs and cut us and chop and try to
get us on the ground. Because you have no size advantage if you're
on the ground."
Stanford players are using the scepter of Army's cut blocks,
designed to take the legs out from underneath bigger bodies, to
refine their defensive technique this week. Shaw feels that this
added emphasis can come in handy during later 2013 games as well.
"They try to get you on the ground to eliminate you from the play,"
Shaw said. "It's paramount for our guys to learn how to play those
cut blocks, use our hands, get our legs out of the way, sidestep
them, work on all the techniques that we do in order to stay up and
have a chance to attack the ballcarrier."
Stanford's first-ever trip east of the Mississippi River came in 1928, when Pop Warner's team defeated Army 26-0 in front of 86,000 fans at Yankee Stadium. The Farm Boys last visited West Point in 1976, when they lost 21-20. Army has not beaten a nationally ranked team since 1972.
Underutilized Players and Overthrown Bombs
Shaw admitted that Stanford did not get the ball to explosive
receivers Michael Rector and Kelsey Young as much as he would have
liked against San Jose State. Young saw the ball only once. Meanwhile, the staff had specifically designed
three plays for Rector, but San Jose State's defense was perfectly
positioned to stop them when they came, so Kevin Hogan correctly
decided not to throw in No. 3's direction.
"Sometimes, you can scheme all you want and put guys in places, but
if they call the right defense at the right time, a guy will get
taken out," Shaw explained. "It can be frustrating for a receiver,
but the quarterback has to know not to force the ball ever."
Giving Rector and Young touches remains a priority.
"Those are two guys who we want to touch the ball," Shaw said. "We
need to get experience for Rector because we think he has a huge
upside. Kelsey's proven he's going to do great things in the game,
and we'll continue to give him those opportunities."
Shaw also addressed Hogan's primary struggles on Saturday, which
came on overthrown deep passes to Devon Cajuste and Ty Montgomery.
He emphasized that No. 8 has only six starts under his belt so far.
"We always remind ourselves that he's still young," Shaw said.
"[It's not a technique thing], it's excitement. [He saw Devon and Ty
open,] and he just launched that thing. He got so excited. It's
just, make the throw. He saw it, he read it, and he did everything
right, up until throwing the ball. He's going to continue to grow
there.... But by coaching standards, he's still a freshman."
Hewitt Again Questionable
Shaw said that Ryan Hewitt felt "great" heading into
Stanford's game this past Saturday, in which he caught one pass in
limited action. The painful effects of his knee bruise have
returned, though, so he was held out of Tuesday's practice.
"There's still no issue with re-injury, it's just that it's a deep
bruise," Shaw said. "I want to take him on the trip. If he's ready
to go, we'll play him.... We're just waiting for the pain to
subside. There are no structural issues. It just hurts like a son of
Cajuste is the only current Stanford player that hails from the
state of the New York, though Shayne Skov attended boarding school
at the upstate Trinity-Pawling School. Cajuste's family and friends are
jumping at the opportunity to see him play live: 200 of them, all
wearing matching shirts, are expected at Michie Stadium Saturday.
"There's going to be like three busloads of them coming," Cajuste
said after practice.
The big receiver, who earned extensive coaching praise for his
Saturday play along with Skov, Montgomery, and Wayne Lyons, was the
last Stanford player walking off the field Tuesday. He put in
several extra minutes of catching work on the JUGS machine.
Power Left and Ogres' Jersey Numbers
Shaw seemed to enjoy reciting the weights of Stanford blockers
on the left side. Tight end Luke Kaumatule is 260, jumbo tight end
Kyle Murphy is 290, left tackle Andrus Peat is 315, and left guard
David Yankey is 312.
"It's not a big secret," he said. "Running to our left is
The Cardinal emphasized running in that direction with the
assistance of right guard Kevin Danser's pulling this past Saturday.
Shaw plans to develop rushes spearheaded by Yankey's pull-blocking
to the opposite side in the coming weeks to balance Stanford's
A big part of that effort will be the Cardinal's jumbo tight ends
and 'Ogres.' Murphy, Josh Garnett, and Johnny Caspers are becoming
fixtures at those positions, so much so that Stanford plans to
change their jersey numbers starting this weekend. As offensive
linemen, the three have worn No. 78, No. 51, and No. 57,
respectively. But when Murphy has entered the game as a jumbo tight
end while Garnett and Caspers have come in as Ogres, they've been
required to throw on eligible jerseys sporting numbers in the 90s.
Starting this Saturday, the three will likely wear their respective
numbers in the 90s to begin action and only throw on original
offensive line jerseys if needed at the guard or tackle positions so that they do not have to report to the officials every single play that they enter the game.
What's Your Deal?
Shaw didn't realize that Jim Harbaugh's San Francisco 49ers are
facing Pete Carroll's Seattle Seahawks to cap off this coming
weekend of football. He smiled upon learning of the Sunday Night
Football match-up that will feature a significant tie to Stanford
"I'm sure that'll be a really slow-played, unemotional game," he
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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