Can Mauro play low while staying tall?
Stanford's visit to Army provides a set of unique challenges in the Cardinal's second game of the 2013 campaign. David Shaw's scout team has simulated the Black Knights' cut-blocking triple option attack throughout the week. Are the Farm Boys ready for a markedly smaller opponent?
Wake Up On Time
Army averages 254 pounds across the line of scrimmage; Stanford
outside linebacker Trent Murphy weighs 265. The Black Knights
feature a defensive end who checks in at 228 pounds. He lines up
alongside a tackle a 247-pound tackle. Simply put, this is a David
v. Goliath type of match-up.
Stanford's potential problem: Well, David killed Goliath despite his
marked disadvantage. Army will try to overcome the Farm Boys'
bruising size through a variety of exotic looks highlighted by their
offense's triple option attack and their defense's double-eagle flex
But regardless of some of the complications that X's and O's may
present, the two clubs are ultimately engaging in an inherently
physical battle Saturday, and there's a reason why Army has not
beaten a ranked team since 1972 while the Cardinal is in the
nation's top five. As long as their execution isn't atrocious,
Stanford has no business losing this game. The 9 a.m. PDT start on
the East Coast is a potential complication. Given the Cardinal's
talent edge, it may be the most daunting one.
Pound Them Into Submission
Featuring three down linemen, a pair of outside linebackers, one
inside linebacker, two supplementary players around the line on the
outside, a duo cornerbacks, and a deep safety, Army's double-eagle
flex defensive scheme is certainly funky compared to what Stanford's
attack is used to facing. It's best suited to defend against option
offenses, though, so the Cardinal's power running game should
certainly find its niche on Saturday.
Army tries to make up for its lack of size with defensive quickness,
so Stanford's big boys must execute their assignments with matching
speed. That generally isn't a problem for an athletic, Shannon
Turley-trained front. If they're in position to block, the Farm Boys
can pound the Black Knights into submission.
Overcome Cut Blocks
Last season, Army ran the football 88 percent of the time on its
way to leading the nation in rushing, averaging 369.8 yards per
game. Again, the Black Knights use unconventional techniques to make
up for their size disadvantages and set the table for their
production. Low cut blocks, designed to take the feet out from
underneath larger players, highlight this effort.
"If you play too tall, you'll get chopped down like a tree,"
Stanford defensive end Josh Mauro said.
Fighting through cut blocks will be a noteworthy challenge for the
Cardinal simply because of the front seven's remarkable height. All
of the team's leading linemen outside of David Parry reach at least
six feet, four inches.
"You don't have a size advantage anymore when you're on the ground,"
David Shaw astutely observed.
Coaches have been preaching the importance of quick, crisp footwork
and technique throughout the week. Cut blocks can pose an injury
risk, but only against players who aren't technically sound while
facing them. If Stanford doesn't bring Army's hustle to the table
Saturday, they'll find themselves in a vulnerable position.
Establish Downfield Confidence
The Pac-12 schedule starts with a bang a week after Saturday
when Arizona State visits, so this is the final chance for Stanford
to work out some kinks before a physically daunting opponent comes
calling. Shaw explained Kevin Hogan's deep ball overthrows against
San Jose State were attributed to freshman excitement. No. 8's a
redshirt sophomore, but he's only started six career games.
Saturday marks a perfect opportunity for Hogan to fully settle into
his rhythm. Army is a fundamentally sound football team, but they
are not on Stanford's level athletically. This is a tune-up chance.
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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