David Shaw on Stanford's First Scrimmage

Running back Jason Evans

When you total up the passing efficiency, total yardage and touchdowns of Sunday's scrimmage, it is not surprising to see Stanford offensive coordinator David Shaw so excited about his side of the ball. He breaks down the players and performances position by position for us, including his biggest surprises as well as his concerns to address the next two weeks.

Can you first speak overall about the offense's execution and playmaking?

"Overall, we were aggressive.  We were consistent to a point - it wasn't perfect; it wasn't all right - in the mode of offense of getting positive yards on every play.  We're trying to drill it into these guys' heads.  Every time we snap the ball, we want something positive to happen.  It doesn't always have to be a touchdown.  It doesn't always have to be a 60-yard gain.  But we want positive yards.  It feeds off itself.  We set ourselves back with a few penalties, but outside of those, the mentality of being on the attack and getting as much as we can - catching it, running vertical and getting yards on every single play - that was very positive."

Different penalties can mean different things to a unit.  What do you take away about what these penalties told you about your guys and what you want to get straightened out the rest of this spring?

"We had a couple of alignment errors.  We had our receivers jump off-sides a couple times, which is inexcusable.  But they were moving errors.  Guys were trying to be on the attack.  You like that side of it, but you can't lose sight of the focus and concentration.  We didn't have any stupid penalties - no late hits, no blocking in the back.  That was a positive, but the silly alignment errors, we have to cut down on those."

A lot of people's attention for Stanford's offense has been on the offensive line, which hasn't allowed much passing or running the last few years.  You guys have a whole new coaching staff, attitude and scheme.  How do you think the front five did in the scrimmage against Scott Shafer's defense?

"They played well.  They played well, anchored by Allen Smith, who is outstanding.  Absolutely outstanding.  He played extremely well.  He was aggressive; he was physical.  He was into it.  He was jumping up and down.  He was calling for balls to be run behind him, which you always love to hear from an offensive lineman.  Ben Muth stepped up and played very well.  Our guys up front battled.  We did some things schematically to put them hopefully in a position to be successful, and they stepped up to the challenge.  For the most part, they kept our quarterbacks clean, and they gave us some running lanes."

I know that one of the things Jim Harbaugh said to start the spring is that he wanted T.C. Ostrander to do a better job stepping up into the pocket.  As you say, he stayed pretty clean in the scrimmage.  Some of that is the offensive line, but do you like what T.C. is doing improving his pocket presence?

"Absolutely.  Really, the last 10 days or so, he has started to really grasp this offense.  He has audibled a couple times.  He has felt the pressure and pushed up into the pocket, alleviating the pressure from the speed rushers, which is a big help to the offensive line.  The last factor is throwing the ball in a timely fashion.  We've said it over and over again: 'We will not hold the ball.'  He has done a great job with that.  If no one is open, throwing it away.  Check the ball down.  Make a positive thing happen.  We're not going to sit back there and take sacks.  We're not going to keep putting pressure on the offensive line.  We're going to kick the ball out fast and put it in the hands of playmakers and make something happen."

You all are building off a lot of experience with T.C.  But Tavita Pritchard and Alex Loukas are very young in their experience, so what did you see on film in this scrimmage out of those two guys?

"Flashes of athletic ability, which is huge for those two guys.  These are two guys who have not been in any live game action for a couple of years.  They're athletes.  They're still grasping the situation and making up for a lack of experience, but they have shown that they can make plays with their feet.  They can throw on the run very well.  They both made some plays down the field, which were exciting - to see that we can still be aggressive with our two younger quarterbacks."

How would you grade some of your wide receivers in their numerous responsibilities that they had in the scrimmage?

"For not being 100 percent full-speed, Mark Bradford played very well.  He really did.  He showed a flash of speed when we ran him on a reverse that got us down to the five-yardline.  He looked as fast as I've seen him in these two weeks.  Richard Sherman - everybody's favorite - he made some big plays.  He had an alignment error earlier.  The big thing with him is that he's a young guy and is still growing.  I'm just telling him, 'You have to start fast.'  He finished practice great.  He still had a sore hamstring but wouldn't come out.  The thing is to just get him to start fast and finish fast, and he'll be even better.  Mike Miller played very well.  He showed some speed and some quickness.  He has a little savvy - he's an older player and has played some.  It was a great job by him stepping up and playing aggressively as well."

The tight ends have really looked good, top to bottom, through this spring.  I think that Ben Ladner and James Dray looked like they made some really big plays in the receiving game of this scrimmage.  Is that one of the great and exciting parts of this spring right now?

"Yeah, and especially from the scrimmage.  Our tackle play as well as our tight end play was outstanding.  The things that were visual - Jimmy Dray and Ben Ladner in the passing game were more than we thought we were going to get.  We thought they were good players; they stepped up above and beyond yesterday.  It was exciting.  It was outstanding.  Even Austin Gunder and Patrick Bowe - they did some things that were unseen in a protection aspect, in some playside and backside blocking, which were exciting as well.  Those two young men led to a couple of longer runs by staying on their blocks and being in the right positions.  Right now, our tight play has been a strength for us."

Jason Evans had a lot of touches and finished a number of plays going forward.  Did he show himself pretty well?

"Absolutely.  The mentality that we have brought here with Coach Harbaugh, myself and Willie Taggert - we have told these running backs, 'We don't want to finish any plays going sideways.  We want to stick our foot in the ground and finish plays going forward.  Jason Evans really showed that.  He had a lot of yards after contact, which is huge for a running back.  A lot of times, plays are blocked great and you get a big run because everybody is blocked.  The big test for a running back is how many more yards do we get after being hit, and that was a big part of our success in the scrimmage."

You sound pretty darned upbeat and excited about a lot of guys and a lot of different things about the offense.  To push these guys the next couple weeks, what are the things you all are showing them in team meetings and on film that need to be done better or maybe were not as successful in the scrimmage?

"It's the details.  It's the details.  There are a lot of really exciting things happening.  We put the film on and keep showing them: 'Guys, we're close.  We're so close.  If our route is two more yards here and not short.  If this ball is thrown to the proper shoulder, we get even more yards after the catch.  If we can change this play to one protection instead of another.'  Just all of the details of the offense.  Right now we're doing well; we're gaining confidence; we're cleaning up some of the mental errors.  But we're not at the summit yet.  I'm a big positive guy, and we keep feeding our guys: 'You know what?  You're much better than we're playing.  We're playing well, but we can be so much better.  Let's not cap ourselves.  Let's not say we're better now and this is as good as we can get.'  There is no way.  We're going to keep pushing ourselves and try to reach the summit, the peak of our ability."

What are the significant parts of the offense that haven't been installed yet and we didn't see in the scrimmage that we should be watching the next two weeks of spring ball?

"Oh, there's a lot.  In this offense, there is volumes and volumes.  We're trying to pick and choose right now what are the things we can do well.  What can we execute.  How much can we put in.  Right now, it's a week to week thing.  Toward the end of last week, we hit kind of a brain melting point with a few guys and had to back off of the installation.  The big thing in this spring is that we really want to build confidence, but we also want them to learn as much as they can and execute, so that when we come back in the fall, we have some familiarity.  We want to try and give them as much as possible.  This offense can be as big or small as we want it to be.  There is a lot more, and we're just stepping it up a little bit at a time.  Some new formations, some new concepts.  Just a couple of new running plays, some new blocking schemes.  We're trying to gauge how well they understand it before we move on to the next step."

I see so much pre-snap motion in this offense.  With this so new to these players, I guess I would expect to see more mistakes and procedure penalties than I have at this point.  Is that beyond expectation?

"Yeah, but we had a few guys moving - two moving when the ball was snapped.  Receivers shuffling their feet.  All of those little things.  It's really about the tempo.  We want to get up and get set.  Know exactly where the motion needs to start and finish and when it needs to start and finish.  It's a big part of the offense, and we told these guys, 'We want to present the defense with a lot of different looks.  In order to do that - wideouts and tight ends in particular - we have to understand the personnel groupings, the formations and the concepts, so that we can line up in a bunch of different formations with shifts and motions, though still run some very basic and simple concepts.  Hopefully we put pressure on the defense and put them on their heels, so that we can stay on their attack."


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