Right across the Bay in Berkeley, just as Stanford football coach David Shaw approached the media following Tuesday's spring practice, dual sport man Zach Hoffpauir blasted an RBI triple against Cal on the baseball diamond.
"Did he really?" Shaw beamed upon hearing the news. "We knew it was only a matter of time. He just had to adjust to the pitching at this level."
After collecting just two total hits throughout his entire freshman baseball season, Hoffpauir registered a pair of knocks on Tuesday alone in coach Mark Marquess' 1,500th career victory. The Stanford safety/nickel back, a goal line stand hero of the Pac-12 championship game, has smacked two home runs already this season.
"Hopefully in fall, he'll be hitting receivers instead," Shaw smiled.
Sherman Brings the Gold to Practice
An especially famous visitor wearing shiny gold shoes soon ambled toward the gate of Stanford's practice field. Richard Sherman is in town for the week on a coordinated visit along with other Cardinal NFL talents Andrew Luck, Zach Ertz, and Jonathan Martin -- among others.
Earlier Tuesday, Sherman met with former defensive coordinator and current Vanderbilt head coach Derek Mason, who also happened to be back in Palo Alto. The Super Bowl champion cornerback then headed to Stanford practice, where he primarily observed the secondary.
"He tried not to coach from the sidelines, but he couldn't help himself sometimes," Shaw said.
Wayne Lyons, who has been asked to learn the nickel back position on top of his original cornerback assignment, thought that Sherman's experience with physical play on the edge made him an especially valuable mentor given the current transition.
"He was helping us out, giving us different techniques and different strategies," Lyons said. "On our errors, he was showing us what we could do better in different situations."
Sherman is using a portion of the new Stanford locker room that is dedicated to NFL alumni while he's in town. He praised football's new facilities addition and expressed interest in someday coaching at the high school level before also delivering some complimentary words toward his old coach Jim Harbaugh, who's a hot topic in the national media right now.
"Jim Harbaugh did a heck of a job changing the culture and the mindset [at Stanford]," Sherman said.
Another Position Hint
When it comes to Stanford's starting five offensive linemen, it looks like there will be little drama from here until the season's August 30 kickoff against UC Davis. Some of the supplementary line positions are open, though, and Shaw hinted that six-foot-six, 304-pound senior Brendon Austin is the early leader to grab Joshua Garnett's former 'Ogre' spot in the backfield.
"He's done it before, so I'd say he's the leading candidate," Shaw said.
It will be a while before Stanford begins installing its jumbo packages. Most of that work is reserved for late spring and August training camp.
Tight Ends Resurfacing
As of now, young tight ends Eric Cotton, Greg Taboada, and Austin Hooper are all seeing equal first team action along with veterans Charlie Hopkins, Eddie Plantaric, Alex Frkovic, and Chris Harrell. That can change as Shannon Turley's physical development plan continues to progress.
"I've been very impressed with the young tight ends," Shaw said. "You can see the athleticism, the playmaking ability, and they're showing the beginnings of being physical. All of them need to get stronger, just because they're not old enough yet. They haven't been through enough offseason with coach Turley."
It's apparent that Shaw has high hopes for Stanford's passing attack in 2014. He's already said that the Cardinal wide receiver corps, which is returning all of its 2013 production, may be the deepest in the nation. Now, he hopes that tight end productivity can return after a one year hiatus to give the aerial game a stronger backbone.
"We're trying to put a lot of pressure on the tight ends," Shaw said. "We have to put them in those [game-like] situations. They have to get used to it, so we're not pulling any punches. We just got extremely athletic at tight end, which when matched with our wide receivers, can make us really dangerous."
Defensive tackle Ikenna Nwafor, who injured his foot on September 28 of last year, is recovering more slowly than Stanford had initially expected. Before the Rose Bowl, Shaw expressed hope that Nwafor would be back in action by the latter half of spring ball. The sophomore, though, is still wearing a boot, and it appears that August camp marks a much more likely return date.
"It's taken so long, we're going to be overly cautious," Shaw said. "I'd love to have him back for training camp so he has the whole summer to prepare. Trying to rush back for part of the spring is unnecessary. It's healing, but it's just taking a long time to heal -- that's just his body."
Michael Rector rolled his ankle Tuesday and left the practice field with a minor limp, but he is expected to be fine -- though he may miss Saturday's open workout.
A summary of Stanford's health issues elsewhere: Ty Montgomery (knee) is out until the second session of spring, as is David Parry (lower abdominal injury). Alex Carter (lower body muscular injury) will likely miss the entirety of spring practice, while Ronnie Harris is currently practicing in a yellow non-contact jersey. Ryans Burns, of course, will miss the first session of spring due to a disciplinary issue, and Shaw lamented the fact that he will miss valuable repetitions as a result.
- Outside linebacker Kevin Anderson splashed onto the scene as 2013 progressed and he impressed even more Tuesday we he ran down a tackle 15 yards downfield. Shaw credited exceptional desire for Anderson's eye-popping closing speed. "People from Palo Alto (Anderson went to high school across the street) understand from watching him play," Shaw said. "It's a combination of speed and effort. It's Skov-like. Other linebackers will run faster than Shayne, but when the ball is declared, he's going to pass those guys up. It's just pure desire."
- Like the tight ends, Stanford's running backs are expected to evenly rotate through spring, but Shaw did note that Kelsey Young is much more comfortable back at running back than he was at the wide receiver position the past two seasons.
- Kodi Whitfield and Dallas Lloyd are both working on picking up the nuances of the free safety position. "We're not there knowledge-wise yet," Shaw said. "But as far as athleticism goes, it's fun to watch. These guys can move. Hopefully they grasp it."
- Shaw said that Ra'Chard Pippens has a big opportunity to make an impression at the cornerback position this spring with Carter out and Harris still in a non-contact jersey. Wayne Lyons echoed his coach's sentiment. "Ra'Chard Pippens is super freak athlete," Lyons said. "He's going to make plays while he's out there. He hasn't had a chance to put his work on film yet, but I think he'll be able to do that this spring."
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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