The Goose Gets a New Name
Henry Anderson's play this camp has essentially disrupted everything -- including the usage of what had become his standard nickname. In the past, "Goose" was reserved for No. 91. That moniker supposedly originated when Stanford teammates teased Anderson for failing to score in the Madden football video game -- so goes one version of the story.
Saturday, though, was one of the days during which Anderson got to play on a real football field as opposed to a digital one. And that changed things.
"He ran a play down from the backside," David Shaw raved. "I don't know who in America was going to block him on that move that he made."
It certainly wasn't the first time Anderson had made jaws drop this summer. It's supposedly been happening so often that Stanford players have been trailing away from "Goose" and conjuring several new nicknames for him, including one that's beginning to stick: "Home Wrecker."
After Saturday's open scrimmage, David Shaw glowed some more about the six-foot-six, 287-pound defensive end, who has shed nearly 10 pounds of weight and fully recovered from a knee injury that derailed his 2013 season. Along with nose tackle David Parry, who's also finally 100 percent healthy again, Anderson is forming the bedrock of a Stanford defense that has established another nasty identity throughout these dog days of August.
"I feel great about where we're at defensively," Shaw said. "The guys have taken it upon themselves to make sure there's no drop off [following the losses of Trent Murphy, Shayne Skov, Ben Gardner, Josh Mauro, Ed Reynolds and others]."
Offense: Starters Battle, Reserves Struggle
Stanford's first team offense did hold its own against the surging defense -- Michael Rector's brilliant deep grab over Ronnie Harris highlighted a lengthy drive and Devon Cajuste's go-pattern touchdown catch was flat-out pretty -- but the Cardinal's reserve offensive units struggled for much of Saturday's scrimmage against wave after wave of Stanford defensive depth (receiver Rollins Stallworth, though, excelled with three acrobatic catches). Back-up quarterbacks Evan Crower, Ryan Burns, and Keller Chryst combined to throw four interceptions. The running game struggled to gain traction, though much of that was to be expected given the limited playbook arsenal the attack had at its disposal.
"We constricted what each side of the ball could call," Shaw said. "You didn't see a whole bunch of reverses or or trick plays on offense, and you didn't see all kinds of crazy blitzes on defense... So really, day one, day two installation plays. We just wanted to see the guys play fast."
That gave Stanford's youngsters, particularly those on the defensive side of the ball, a chance to shine in front of a healthy contingent of fans. True freshmen defensive backs Terrence Alexander and Brandon Simmons both logged interceptions -- Alexander returned his to the house -- while other newbies Alijah Holder, Alameen Murphy, and Denzel Franklin all enjoyed productive playing time. The veterans also got in on the party: A.J. Tarpley returned an Evan Crower interception for a touchdown, while Ra'Chard Pippens capitalized to collect his own pick after Rector slipped and fell running a slant pattern.
Afterward, defensive coordinator Lance Anderson told me about how thrilled Stanford is with its fresh depth. Freshman Mike Tyler led the Cardinal with six tackles, while the newcomers in the secondary also shined. Though these youngsters probably still need a full year of strengthening under Shannon Turley to be ready to contribute on game day, new coach Duane Akina has overseen tremendous early progress among the group. That's a significant storyline, especially considering the fact that secondary strength will be absolutely vital against the speed-happy Pac-12 of the future.
Carter Fully Cleared, More on the Health Situation
With the August 30 season opener against UC Davis less than two weeks away, Shaw is positioning his team to fully heal from the expected bruises of training camp. Saturday brought plentiful good news in that regard.
The biggest nugget centered on cornerback Alex Carter, who has been dealing with an unspecified "lower body injury" since spring. Though Carter missed practice to take a final exam on Saturday, Shaw declared that he's been "cleared 100 percent" by Stanford's medical staff.
"His recovery has been mind-blowing," Shaw said. "His work ethic, his maturity, the body he's been blessed with, all of that [has combined to allow him to] come back ridiculously fast. He has hit every check mark way ahead of when he should."
Running back Kelsey Young, who was seen wearing a boot last Thursday, is expected back at practice this week following a minor ankle injury. Receiver Jordan Pratt is in a similar boat. Once an orthotic arrives in the coming days, he's expected back out on the practice field.
Offensive linemen Kyle Murphy (shoulder) and Reilly Gibbons (knee) are both expected back next week, while defensive end Jordan Watkins is also very close to returning. One more injured body did accumulate, though: offensive lineman Brandon Fanaika observed practice wearing a sling on his right arm. The Bootleg will have more on his status Monday.
Fellow offensive lineman Thomas Oser, who suffered a significant knee injury during spring practice, was back in pads but did not participate. Shaw hopes Oser will be ready to return sometime this year.
Meanwhile, running back Remound Wright rejoined the team after finishing a suspension related to the disciplinary issue that held him out of the spring's second session. Though he wasn't in pads, Wright participated in warm-ups wearing a jersey and helmet.
Stock Rising: Offense
Stanford flashed a three-fullback set near the goal line Saturday, and freshman Daniel Marx was part of it. Shaw says the Orange County product has emerged over the past week or so and has a chance to play this season. Marx also later barreled over Pippens on a third down run.
Tight end Greg Taboada has also impressed the staff recently. He hauled in a pair of nice catches from the 'F' (receiving) tight end position on Saturday. Shaw has indicated that Taboada and Eric Cotton will split time at that spot, while Austin Hooper (who didn't participate Saturday) will start at the 'Y' (blocking) tight end position. Charlie Hopkins will also see action this year at Hooper's role, and this intrigues Shaw because he can again turn to two and three tight end sets following a one-year hiatus.
In fact, Shaw said Stanford will play at least four tight ends this season, and he noted that number may increase to five if true freshman Dalton Schultz adequately shores up his knowledge of the playbook before the season ends.
"There's no pressure on him, since we have all those other bodies," Shaw said. "But he can be a difference maker."
Schultz did haul in a nice catch on a seam route from Crower, but he also false started and missed a block during the scrimmage. Those are the types of errors that Stanford is looking for the touted youngster to eliminate over the next several weeks.
Whitfield's Progress, Secondary Forming
Kodi Whitfield (radio interview embedded above) continues his rapid improvement on the defensive side of the ball after switching positions from wide receiver. Shaw now indicates that Whitfield will see roughly the same amount of time as Kyle Olugbode, the presumed starter, at free safety.
"Kyle has the edge in experience," Shaw said. "But Kodi is making plays all over the place."
Meanwhile, Zach Hoffpauir took first team snaps at nickel back. When I asked Lance Anderson about the progress of Stanford's secondary this offseason, Hoffpauir's name came up first.
"He's really jumped out," Anderson said. "He's such a gym rat, and he has a great feel for the game. He's not afraid of contact."
Anderson also noted that cornerback Wayne Lyons has added significant consistency to his play this offseason. Amongst the freshmen, he said that Alexander and Murphy have impressed the most. Whitfield, meanwhile, had a different take than his defensive coordinator on the youngsters: When asked about standouts, he named Simmons and Franklin.
Martinez Shining at Inside Linebacker
Stanford's staff is happy with the play Joe Hemschoot, Noor Davis, and Kevin Palma have shown in their bids to start alongside A.J. Tarpley in Shayne Skov's former inside linebacker spot, but it was Blake Martinez who got the initial nod there Saturday. He immediately made an impressive missile-like (Skov-like?) tackle for loss near the goal line on third down.
Anderson mentioned that Martinez enjoyed an excellent offseason in the conditioning phase. He bettered all of his weightlifting marks in several months of work under Turley.
The staff continues to indicate that all four linebacker candidates will see playing time this year. Hemschoot is the most versatile, and Shaw said that he'll again see time on the inside, outside, and at the big nickel back spot. Davis, whose interview with The Bootleg Radio is embedded below, is also beginning to realize his potential. Palma has been the biggest surprise of the group. Though he weighs about 250 pounds, Shaw noted that he's been fundamentally solid while performing with the explosiveness of a 230-pounder.
Scrimmage Participation Breakdown
Here's a brief Stanford participation report. Please excuse any omissions; I jotted this down from the rail along the sideline, so the view was not fully clear.
First Team Offensive Line
LT - Andrus Peat
LG - Joshua Garnett
C - Graham Shuler
RG - Johnny Caspers, Brendon Austin
RT - Nick Davidson
2nd Team Offensive Line
LT - Casey Tucker
LG - David Bright
C - Kevin Reihner
RG - Brendon Austin
RT - Nick Davidson, AT Hall
3rd Team Offensive Line
LT - Casey Tucker
LG - David Bright
C - Jesse Burkett
RG - Lucas Hinds
RT - AT Hall
1st Team Defense
DE - Henry Anderson
DT - David Parry
DE - Blake Lueders, Aziz Shittu
OLB - Kevin Anderson
ILB - A.J. Tarpley
ILB - Blake Martinez
OLB - James Vaughters
CB - Wayne Lyons
SS - Jordan Richards
FS - Kyle Olugbode
CB - Ronnie Harris
NB - Zach Hoffpauir
2nd Team Defense
DE - Luke Kaumatule
DT - Alex Yazdi, Lance Callihan, Anthony Hayes
DE - Nate Lohn
OLB - Peter Kalambayi
ILB - Kevin Palma, Noor Davis
ILB - Joe Hemschoot
OLB - Torsten Rotto
CB - Alameen Murphy, Alijah Holder
SS - Zach Hoffpauir
FS - Kodi Whitfield, Dallas Lloyd
CB - Ra'Chard Pippens, Terrence Alexander
3rd Team Defense
DE - Solomon Thomas
DT - Lance Callihan
DE - Harrison Phillips
OLB - Sam Shober
ILB - Craig Jones
ILB - Sam Yules, Jordan Perez
OLB - Mike Tyler
CB - Alijah Holder, Alameen Murphy
SS - John Flacco
FS - Brandon Simmons
CB - Terrence Alexander
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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