Yankey Out; Injury Updates
Stanford will be significantly shorthanded entering the challenging road environment of Seattle's CenturyLink Field. Hours after the Pac-12 conference confirmed free safety Ed Reynolds' first half suspension, David Shaw announced that left guard David Yankey will miss the entire game against Washington State while tending to a family issue.
"He's in our thoughts and prayers," Shaw said. "He's OK. He'll be with his family this week. We hope to get him back soon... We'll rally around him in spirit, but we'll go try to win a game without him."
The Cardinal may also be without third cornerback Barry Browning for the second straight week. He practiced in a yellow non-contact jersey Tuesday, but Shaw doesn't confidently expect him to be full-go until Stanford's October 5 home game versus Washington.
"He's 50-50 right now, but we're maybe leaning toward him not going," the coach said.
Meanwhile, linebacker Blake Martinez, also a special teams ace, will miss about three more weeks because of a lower body injury. He has resumed running activities. The status of defensive end Henry Anderson remains unchanged. He's recovering from a knee injury that's expected to shelve him four to six weeks.
Josh Garnett, a Washington native who cheered for the Seahawks at CenturyLink Field in his youth, will take Yankey's starting spot at left guard. The sophomore's hometown of Puyallup is just outside of Tacoma, the second largest city in the Seattle metropolitan area. Dozens of friends had already messaged Garnett pictures of their tickets to the game before hearing news that they'd be present for his first career start.
"Get ready to lose," some of the messages read.
Excitement for No. 51's homecoming should only grow from here on out, though Garnett doesn't expect his following to be as large as the 200 fans who gathered to see New York state native Devon Cajuste play at Army. Since the Washington Huskies host Arizona right up the road just three hours before Stanford and Washington State kick off, Garnett expects fans from his hometown to be scattered between the two stadiums on Saturday.
Garnett's development has entered the fast lane since the beginning of September. Back in April, Shaw expressed desire to see more rapid progress from his talented guard. About two weeks ago, he challenged Garnett to show more consistency on the football field. The desired level of performance has materialized over the the course of September just in time for Garnett's biggest assignment yet.
"I wanted to see him move people and knock them back," Shaw said. "And that's what he's done."
Garnett's primary 2013 action up until this point has been as Stanford's primary 'Ogre,' one of the Cardinal's eligible supplementary blockers that lines up in the backfield. He says this role has helped him develop pull blocking skills that will be essential at left guard Saturday.
"A lot of the Ogre spot involves blocking cornerbacks and linebackers," Garnett said. "It's helped me with my pulls a lot because I was having a really tough time squaring up linebackers and chopping my feet going from long stride to short stride."
Yankey has provided textbook pull-blocking examples in the film room, many of which have been received with "ooohs" and "ahhhs" from the younger linemen. The senior's low trajectory, flexibility, and powerful ability to establish leverage are rubbing off on Garnett, who has developed an affinity for pulling.
"Time slows down a bit and everything clears," he said. "You just see this guy about six yards ahead of you. It's really fun. Those moments are the ones you live for. You get to hit smaller guys instead of those big 300 pounders inside."
Pulling isn't reserved for guards in Stanford's offense. Offensive coordinator Mike Bloomgren has implemented wrinkles that have allowed for Andrus Peat and Cam Fleming, two of the Cardinal's massive tackles, to also get on the move.
"They don't pull as much, so when they [do get the chance] they know they're only getting a couple shots," Garnett laughed. "So they're running trying to take someone's head off."
Stanford's versatile linemen will be working against a much-improved Washington State defense that has only allowed 17 points over the course of its past three games. The Cardinal's offense will also be dealing with the deafening environment of Seattle's CenturyLink Field, where Garnett says he and Kyle Murphy were barely able to hear each other speak when Stanford played Washington last season. The field turf's pellets bounced because of the intense noise.
By the way, Dillon Bonnell, who was Stanford's primary Ogre last season, will likely re-assume playing time next to Johnny Caspers while Garnett is at guard. Murphy remains the Cardinal's jumbo tight end.
Washington State coach Mike Leach has established his traditional pass-heavy offense in the Palouse, so Stanford's shorthanded secondary faces a challenge against quarterback Connor Halliday and a talented set of Cougars' receivers.
Devon Carrington will start at free safety for the first half in place of Ed Reynolds, whose helmet-to-helmet hit against Arizona State's Taylor Kelly earned him a half-game suspension from the league office. Shaw said Reynolds' punishment was "just," though he noted the hit was an outlier considering No. 29's spotless record.
"Ed does not play the game to hurt people or get hurt," he said. "He doesn't know why and we don't know why he ducked his head [into Kelly on the rush.]"
Stanford expects Halliday to throw the ball 60 times Saturday, so Carrington's shift to safety and Browning's probable absence leaves the Cardinal with a shortage of experienced cornerbacks during a game in which they'd usually rotate at the position. Shaw has mentioned that Usua Amanam and Ra'Chard Pippens are options to provide depth, but neither is listed there on the depth chart and it is possible that the staff would rather not use unproven cornerbacks against a pass-heavy attack in such a hostile environment.
The Farm Boys' strategy may be to chew up as much of the first half as possible on offense to buy time for Reynolds' return at intermission. At that point, Carrington will be able to move back to corner.
- Defensive end Ben Gardner mentioned that Stanford is "more polished" in the defensive front seven than it was last season. He said he enjoyed teaming up with relative depth chart newcomers Aziz Shittu and Joe Hemschoot on a tackle for loss against ASU. "I saw their eyes light up," he said.
- Fullback Ryan Hewitt (bruised knee) came out of the weekend "feeling pretty well." Shaw said that his role will probably increase versus Washington State.
- Shaw and Kevin Hogan both confirmed that Andrew Luck ran the
same exact bootleg play Sunday at Candlestick Park that Stanford
had perfectly executed Saturday (Luck had
already verified this to The Bootleg). Hogan, though,
smiled and noted that Luck is "a lot slower" than him.
Meanwhile, Shaw said that he fought a severe case of "mixed
emotions" while watching the 49ers play the Colts.
- Now that classes have started, six-foot-six, 318-pound tackle
Cam Fleming, an Aeronautics and Astronautics major, will miss
chunks of many practices because of his lab schedule.
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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