One of the most grueling training camps of the Harbaugh-Shaw era is over, and Stanford is ready to shift its entire focus to the August 30 season opener against UC Davis.
Following recently established tradition, David Shaw made Friday's final practice as short as possible. Players the left the field brimming with noticeable extra energy as a result. Eight months of laborious offseason training have come to a close.
For the first time in fullback Lee Ward's five-year college career, Stanford wore pads every day of training camp.
"That might have been my most difficult camp, and that's saying something," Ward said. "But I loved our overall mentality. When you go into something like training camp, there's a tendency to get down on yourself because it's such a long grind. But this year, I feel like we've really kept a positive attitude throughout the whole thing. Everyone's been upbeat and optimistic even if it's been tough, and that's strengthened us and made us better."
Earlier in the week, Stanford players voted Ward as one of the team's four captains for the 2014 season. Quarterback Kevin Hogan, safety Jordan Richards, and linebacker A.J. Tarpley were also designated as captains.
"Being a leader is one thing that I tried to improve upon this offseason, and I think I did successfully," Ward said. "I tried to help the younger guys with their workout regimens, their dietary habits, and their sleep schedule. I wanted to impart some of my wisdom."
The Cardinal now have the weekend off to recuperate and circle the wagons before UC Davis preparation begins in earnest on Monday. In an effort to break up the final week of camp, Stanford had already been mixing in some work specifically designed for the game against the Aggies. Now, the team finally gets to fully dive into its regular season routine -- and that's a very welcome change.
"By the last week of camp, everyone's tired of [playing and scheming against] each other," Shaw smiled.
Nwafor Retires, Other Injury Updates
It's now official: Nose tackle Ikenna Nwafor has medically retired because of the foot injury he suffered against Washington State early last season. Nwafor worked to rehabilitate his foot for nearly one year, but to no avail. His entire focus now turns to his pre-med studies. Stanford will rely on Aziz Shittu to be David Parry's immediate back-up at the nose tackle position.
All other news along the injury front was good. Jordan Pratt (ankle) was back and fully dressed at practice for Stanford. Kelsey Young, James Vaughters, Charlie Hopkins, and Alameen Murphy took Friday easy without pads, but all of those players should be ready to go next week. Young, who suffered a minor ankle injury several days ago, actually participated fully in Thursday's practice. Shaw held him out of Friday's session only as a precaution.
Ty Montgomery has a few appointments with doctors coming up next week that will determine whether or not he is cleared to play against UC Davis. Shaw again repeated that Montgomery -- who's still wearing a yellow non-contact jersey at practice -- has looked stellar, but he emphasized that the receiver's availability to play lies solely in doctors' hands.
"I'm not in that decision-making process," he said.
Shaw also noted that, if cleared, Montgomery will rotate with Barry Sanders and maybe even Christian McCaffrey on the punt return unit against the Aggies.
We've dedicated several articles this offseason to Stanford's struggles in the short-to-intermediate passing game in 2013, so Kevin Hogan's recent discussion with San Francisco Chronicle beat writer Tom Fitzgerald is a particularly interesting read. Hogan said that he's been working to shorten his delivery on short and intermediate routes.
"It was a little bit elongated," he told Fitzgerald. "I feel like it's improved. The arm slot is a lot better."
In the article, Fitzgerald also mentions that Hogan has been working on his footwork. It's certainly worth a read as Stanford looks to rediscover efficiency in this phase of the aerial game.
- Shaw mentioned that the staff has been pleasantly surprised with running back Remound Wright's excellent physical condition after rejoining the team this past week. "He's worked his tail off, he's in great shape, and he hasn't made any mistakes. He's going to be in the rotation," Shaw said.
- Shaw clarified that he was not complaining about rankings or perceived disrespect in relation to Oregon when he used "underappreciated" in an ESPN word association with the Stanford program. "I think what this team has accomplished the last four years is phenomenal -- I look at it as trying to find the best scholar athletes in America," he said. "The significance of that hasn't been lost on quite a few people, but there are quite a few people who don't understand how this program has been built and the character it's been built on."
- This has been expected for some time, but Shaw finally named Johnny Caspers as Stanford's starting right guard. Brendon Austin, who was also competing for that position, will play as one of the team's supplementary lineman along with Nick Davidson. Shaw also sounds confident that true freshman Casey Tucker will become part of that mix a couple games into the season. Sophomore David Bright has also been mentioned as a candidate for playing time in similar discussions.
- Shaw discussed how Stanford has maintained rushing success over the years through different running backs, and this led to one more interesting comment that may provide a hint into Stanford's offensive complexion this season. "We have a good system," he said. "We've had very good offensive line play, and we've tailored our running game to what our backs do well. We'll try to do the same thing this year." As discussed recently, the Cardinal's running backs are significantly lighter this year than the bell cows of the past. Stanford's adaptation to this reality will be interesting to watch.
David Lombardi is the Stanford Insider for The Bootleg. Check him out at www.davidlombardisports.com and follow him on Twitter @DavidMLombardi.
Are you fully subscribed to The Bootleg? If not, then you are missing out on all the top Cardinal coverage we provide daily on our award-winning website. Sign up today for the biggest and best in Stanford sports coverage with TheBootleg.com (sign-up)!