Uploaded: Saturday, February 23, 2013, 9:58 AM
Updated: Monday, February 25, 2013, 8:16 AM
Stanford football starts spring practice today
Team takes the field to get in shape for 2013 season
|Nearly eight weeks after last playing in Pasadena, the defending Pac-12 and Rose Bowl Game champions will take the field today for Stanford's first spring practices toward the 2013 season.
The Cardinal will again split its 15 spring practices among two sessions of two weeks each, with an academic break between.
The second session begins April 1 and concludes with the Cardinal & White Spring Game on April 13 (3 p.m.) at Stanford Stadium. Three additional Saturday practices will be opened to the public: March 2, March 9 and April 6 (times and locations to be announced @StanfordFball on Twitter).
These practices will be the first for Stanford without graduating seniors Stepfan Taylor, Chase Thomas, Sam Schwartzstein, Zach Ertz, Levine Toilolo and others.
"We have to see this spring the beginnings of what we can become as a team," said Bradford M. Freeman Director of Football David Shaw. "It's all about competition, with those guys graduating. Who didn't play last year and will step up and show us signs? Who played last year and is now ready to grab a larger role?"
While competitions abound in all three phases of the game, two in particular on the offensive line garner focal attention.
"We need to find out who will be the quarterback of our offensive line. The center is as important to what we do as any position on the field," said Shaw. "With David Yankey moving to left guard, we need to see who can play for us at left tackle."
The quarterback depth behind Pac-12 Football Championship Game MVP Kevin Hogan will be closely watched, as fifth-year senior and nine-game starter Josh Nunes is out for the spring with an injury.
"I'm looking forward to seeing how Evan Crower responds to a lot of repetitions," said Shaw. "I'm interested to see what Dallas Lloyd can do in his first spring."
On the defensive side of the ball, the two-time Pac-12 Coach of the Year has his eye on linebacker development this spring. Fifth-year senior Shayne Skov will miss the first spring session while serving his University winter quarter suspension.
"I'll look for our young inside linebackers and who can step up for Chase Thomas at outside linebacker," said Shaw.
Here's a look at the positions:
With fifth-year senior Josh Nunes on the sideline this spring, the quarterback group takes on a decidedly young face to start 2013. Development and competition will be intense as only four signal callers suit up for 15 practices.
Hailed as one of college football's rising stars at the position, junior signal caller Kevin Hogan was thrust into the starting role late last season and helped Stanford to a successful stretch run to win its division, conference and the Rose Bowl Game. He looks this spring to grow his leadership, better his mastery of the offense, and sync with a young host of wide receivers.
Junior Evan Crower showed flashes in fall practices and scrimmage work, and the southpaw signal caller now has his biggest opportunity to make a jump. Sophomore Dallas Lloyd redshirted in the fall after a two-year LDS church mission, and he is learning the position and seeking to become more consistent. A persistent competitor, senior David Olson will see his greatest repetitions of his career this spring.
Competition and depth make this one of the most exciting groups to watch in the spring and throughout 2013, despite the loss of all-time leading rusher Stepfan Taylor. There is a combination of proven players at both running back and fullback eager to expand their roles, while there is also a host of talent who scarcely saw the field in 2012 and can seize opportunity this spring.
Senior Anthony Wilkerson has returned to full strength and is eager to take a lead role in Stanford's running game this year. He is a big back who can be both a physical runner and a home run threat. He is looking to be a consistent performer and a complete back in the offense.
Tyler Gaffney returns to Stanford on April 1 for his senior year and first football since the 2012 Tostitos Fiesta Bowl. A proven playmaker with productivity for Stanford when last on the field in 2011, Gaffney seeks to return to football shape in his spring. He missed the 2012 season after leaving school to play minor league baseball in the Pittsburgh Pirates organization, before announcing Feb. 11 his return to Stanford to complete his degree and play football.
Three backs with limited touches in 2012 have exciting ability and will compete fiercely this spring: senior Ricky Seale, senior Jackson Cummings and junior Remound Wright. All three fit the Stanford offense well and will seek to complete their game as not only ballcarriers but also as blockers.
Sophomore Barry Sanders was the lone freshman in the running back group last fall and serviced the defense well on the scout team while he redshirted. He has shown flashes and ability in space, and now he looks to grow in the offense in his first spring with assignments, pass protection and consistency.
The fullback cadre for the Cardinal this spring will rival any in college football, led by fifth-year senior Ryan Hewitt. Mr. Versatility can play in all of Stanford's offensive packages and groups, an invaluable player upon whom the coaching staff will rely heavily this year. He needs to be a playmaker for the offense and master all of his many crafts this spring.
Fifth-year senior Geoff Meinken was on the shelf in 2012 following a knee injury in the spring game; his rehabilitation and maniacal work ethic exceeded expectations and have returned him to fine form. A physical fullback, Meinken's athleticism and ability carrying the ball need to find evolved roles this spring.
Senior Lee Ward carved out a valuable role in the running game last fall. He comes downhill and provides a physical presence. He seeks now to develop the rest of his game as a complete and versatile fullback. Junior Patrick Skov will miss the first spring session with a family matter but looks to come along similarly in his growth and abilities in the second session.
2012 starters Drew Terrell and Jamal-Rashad Patterson are gone, but the Cardinal cupboard is far from bare at wideout. A myriad of skill sets, body types, athletes and ability offers as much intrigue as optimism this spring. As a group, there is much to prove, and the expectation is that Stanford's wide receivers should become a strength of the Cardinal offense.
Junior Ty Montgomery is physically gifted and now healthy after a challenging 2012 season. He is looking forward to being a leader and is capable of being a consistently dominant wide receiver one of the best in the conference and in the nation.
Stanford's breakout "slash" player last fall, junior Kelsey Young will continue to work at both receiver and running back, and he uniquely brings a dynamic gear to the offense. An emphasis for Stanford in 2013 is finding ways to get the ball to Young, and he will work this spring to become more complete as a player and grow his readiness for that role.
Junior Devon Cajuste emerged late in the 2012 season and this spring has the opportunity to take another step at wide receiver. Cajuste is a bigger wideout with the rare combination of speed at his size. In his first full spring competing at 100 percent, he seeks to develop an identity and consistency.
Senior Keanu Nelson has the ability and opportunity to emerge in 2013. He has impressed with punt return skills and seeks to grow those as a slot receiver who can make plays and gain yardage after the catch. Nelson will miss the first spring session for disciplinary reasons.
Three exciting players with size and speed eager to step up this spring are senior Jeff Trojan, junior Jordan Pratt and junior Rollins Stallworth. This trio had their biggest impact on the scout team offense last fall and continually tested the nationally ranked Cardinal defense. Each has a great deal of ability and the opportunity to break out in 2013.
Sophomore Kodi Whitfield played as a true freshman in 2012, a natural receiver who picked up the offense quickly, ran all of the routes and blocked well. His first spring offers the opportunity to grow from a freshman into a technical and playmaking wide receiver for the Cardinal.
Whitfield's classmates redshirted last fall and are looking forward to growth in 2013. Michael Rector, Conner Crane and Dontonio Jordan all experienced setbacks early last fall before taking significant strides and showing promise during the Cardinal's bowl practices in December.
Junior Gautam Krishnamurthi joined the roster last off-season and continues to grow markedly through his hard work, offering a valuable presence to the unit.
No tight end group in college football was more talented last fall than Stanford's, and no unit loses more to graduation this spring. Zach Ertz and Levine Toilolo are headed to the NFL, leaving behind a green group that will have a wide-open competition. Each healthy tight end will have a high volume of repetitions and the task of showing their strengths to help the Cardinal offense in 2013.
Sophomore Luke Kaumatule was the third tight end behind Ertz and Toilolo in 2012, playing as a true freshman in a limited role. His upside and athleticism are enticing, and he is working to get stronger, improve his blocking and develop a true feel for the position after switching in August from a high school defensive lineman.
Senior Davis Dudchock has athleticism in the receiving game and an improving understanding of the offense. In the greatest opportunity of his career this spring, he looks to take the next step physically at the tight end position and put himself in a position to help Stanford offensively.
Sophomores Alex Frkovic and Chris Harrell grew and showed promise during their redshirt seasons last fall; they will be evaluated physically and mentally this off-season. Frkovic is expected to miss both sessions of the spring as he rehabilitates following a surgery.
A pair of newcomers to the position group, senior Eddie Plantaric and junior Charlie Hopkins have made switches from offensive tackle and defensive end, respectively. Both are starting their tight end tutelage and expected to contribute a physical presence.
Four starters return among the front five for Stanford's offense, but position moves will lead to a great deal of competition across several positions. Additionally, the six-man class who entered as freshmen last summer are expected to mature and take big steps forward now as sophomores.
Returning All-American and Morris Trophy winner senior David Yankey was a 14-game starter at left tackle in 2012 and returns this spring to his natural position of left guard. He will be a Lombardi Award and Outland Trophy candidate in 2013 and seeks to be the most dominant pulling lineman in the nation.
Fifth-year senior Khalil Wilkes took a leap forward in 2012 as the Cardinal's starter at left guard, and he now moves to center for a heated competition this spring. Last year's backup center, senior Conor McFadden joins the competition with proven ability to make the calls. Two younger faces also in the mix are junior Kevin Reihner and sophomore Graham Shuler, who seek to improve physically and grow in their technique at center.
Left tackle is another wide-open competition, which will be manned by a trio of sophomores in their first Stanford spring. Andrus Peat and Kyle Murphy played as true freshmen last season in significant roles at the main line positions and at tight end; now both will need to use every repetition this spring to advance their skill and physical development as left tackles. Nick Davidson utilized his redshirt season to make dramatic changes to his body, which manifested in enticing performances during the bowl practices of December. He looks to take another step forward this spring.
The right tackle position is led by two-year starter and senior Cameron Fleming, one of the strongest offensive linemen in the Pac-12. He is seeking this spring to improve his technique and flexibility. Pushing him will be junior Brendon Austin, who looks forward to a healthy year and development after missing time in 2012. Austin can compete at both tackle positions.
Fifth-year senior Kevin Danser at right guard will build upon his breakout 2012 season as an every-game starter and development as one of the conference's top guards. This spring he is being asked to take a leadership role on the offensive line and add to his strength and consistency. Talented sophomore Joshua Garnett will provide competition at the position after playing as a true freshman at left guard, right guard, fullback and tight end. Junior Brian Moran can add depth at both right guard and right tackle as a swing player.
Competing at the left guard position behind Yankey is Dillon Bonnell, who played throughout the 2012 position at the "Ogre" tight end position in the offense and will again see snaps there this spring. Sophomore Johnny Caspers enjoyed a successful developmental fall while he redshirted, and he is a bright talent for the Cardinal's future. Caspers will take repetitions at both left guard and the jumbo tight end position.
Four experienced players return at three positions, with flexibility and competition at all positions that sets the table for an intriguing spring. This defensive line should improve a great deal as a group, while establishing depth for 2013.
Fifth-year senior Ben Gardner is the most experienced player on the line, a two-year starter at defensive end with speed and quickness. He has the opportunity to improve his technique and become a leader. Opposite him is senior Henry Anderson, who emerged as one of the best defensive linemen in the conference after the midpoint of the 2012 season a long, hard-working competitor who will continue his development and mental mastery this spring. Anderson can play end or tackle.
Senior David Parry, the starter for Stanford's final three games of the season at defensive tackle, returns as a stout, tough, prototypical nose tackle. He seeks to improve his physical tools and technique and will be pushed by fifth-year senior Josh Mauro, a change of pace player who was highly productive in his snaps last fall. Mauro is another flexible player who will compete at end and tackle on the defensive line.
Further depth at defensive line comes from a pair of junior defensive tackles, Anthony Hayes and Lance Callihan, who are short on experience with an opportunity to make a jump this spring. Junior defensive ends J.B. Salem and Alex Yazdi will look to continue their physical and skill development, as they compete for playing time.
Four highly recruited sophomore defensive linemen from the Class of 2012 came alive during December practices leading up to the Rose Bowl Game. Defensive ends Aziz Shittu and Jordan Watkins plus defensive tackles Nate Lohn and Ikenna Nwafor all have exciting assets to leverage during their first spring. Each has an opportunity to make themselves a factor for 2013.
Despite the graduations of Chase Thomas and Alex Debniak, the outside linebacker corps is stacked and being restocked with talent this spring. The group has a chance to be once again this year one of the best and deepest in the nation. The spring goal is to establish at least four consistent playmakers and provide a strong rotation for the fall season.
Leading the way is All-America candidate and fifth-year senior Trent Murphy, who elected to return to the Farm for his final season and pass on the 2013 NFL Draft. Murphy is looking to build upon his senior season -- bigger, stronger and more explosive this off-season. Behind him at the rush position is junior Kevin Anderson, who had a solid debut last fall and will work with high effort and desire to improve his consistency this spring.
On the opposite side, two faces from 2011 return. Senior Blake Lueders took a redshirt last season following a pair of surgeries, and he is working to return as a factor, pass rusher and consistent player. Junior James Vaughters played as a true freshman outside before moving to inside linebacker last year as a sophomore. He is an explosive, heavy-handed player who looks to find comfort this spring as a playmaker at outside linebacker again.
Behind these four most experienced players is a depth of young talent. Junior Torsten Rotto this spring seeks to make the jump onto the playing field, a good player in space who understands the defense. Sophomore Sam Shober has opened eyes with his athleticism and pass rushing ability, now looking to get stronger and more effective against blockers. Sophomores Noor Davis and Sam Yules have shown great effort and are continuing their physical development in a big spring for them.
2013 marks the first year that Stanford's current inside linebackers have been coached a second year by the same position coach. David Kotulski's charges developed well in 2012 and possess great quality and depth. This spring will seek to further improve their understanding of the defense, hone the breadth of skills required, and play faster.
Fifth-year senior Shayne Skov has demonstrated physical gifts, athleticism and instincts. His spring will be about becoming a physical defender and explosive player again, while improving his overall understanding of the defense. Senior A.J. Tarpley has a high defensive IQ and excellent instincts, and he will look to become better at finishing plays while developing physically.
Jarek Lancaster in his fifth year will push both Skov and Tarpley at the two inside linebacker positions. A strong competitor and mature player, Lancaster will play roles again on defense and special teams. Senior Joe Hemschoot is also expected to play a large special teams role, and his continued physical development will augment his quickness on defense.
The next wave of inside linebackers are sophomores Blake Martinez and Craig Jones, who enter their first spring at Stanford. Martinez played as a true freshman and showed his abilities; he is explosive and has a great combination of size and athleticism. Jones has good instincts and will work to get bigger and stronger, with a chance soon to help on special teams.
The goal of this spring in the back end of the defense is to come out healthy and efficient. Stanford boasts a cadre of proven safeties who have played a high level of football, plus exciting young talent. Outside at cornerback, there is a good deal of upside and growth ahead for a number of players.
Senior Ed Reynolds and junior Jordan Richards return as one of the better safety tandems in college football. Their challenge this spring is to continue their ascent and not rest upon their 2012 success. An emphasis for both and for the entire defensive backfield in 2013 is to put their hands on the football and garner more turnovers.
Reynolds and Richards will be pushed by senior Devon Carrington, the most versatile of Stanford's defensive backs and a competitor at both safety positions. Senior Kyle Olugbode was a starting safety coming out of the spring a year ago before a surgery cut short his season. He understands the defense as well as anyone and now seeks to stay healthy and compete.
Sophomores Zach Hoffpauir and Drew Madhu both played safety and special teams as true freshmen last fall, and they both have opportunities to make a big jump in their second year. Hoffpauir is tasked primarily to baseball this spring, while Madhu looks to improve his knowledge of the playbook to play faster.
Sophomore Alex Carter displayed his talent last fall, starting the final eight games of his true freshman year. As he better learns the defense this spring, he can further leverage his abilities at cornerback. The competition is wide open at the opposite corner position between senior Barry Browning, junior Wayne Lyons and junior Ra'Chard Pippens. Browning will be limited this spring following an off-season surgery, which will give the experienced Lyons and dark horse Pippens a high volume of work.
Junior Ronnie Harris backed up the nickelback position last year but will also compete for time at cornerback this spring. Harris showed flashes on defense and special teams last year, with excellent short-area quickness and competitiveness. Hard-working and improved senior Chris Gaertner from Sacred Heart Prep will benefit this spring from repetitions.
Fifth-year senior Usua Amanam stacks up as one of the most proven nickelbacks in college football and will look this spring to build upon his consistency and versatility he laid as a foundation in 2012.
Some familiar faces return, while some competitions open up following the departures of graduated seniors among the specialists this spring. Punter and the return positions will be ones to watch and critical for 2013 Cardinal special teams.
Senior Jordan Williamson provided several game-winning field goals for the Cardinal in 2012 and looks to continue the consistency he displayed down the stretch last fall. He will work on further strength gains and range for his leg. Competing behind him is sophomore Conrad Ukropina, now in his first spring after redshirting during the fall. Ukropina is a technician with good range in practice who has an opportunity to develop his strength and length. Junior Spencer Summers adds depth -- a hard-working kicker with accuracy inside his range who wants to add elevation to his kicks.
The punter competition is wide open between Ukropina and senior Ben Rhyne. Rhyne filled in admirably for Daniel Zychlinski in the Pac-12 Football Championship Game and showed promise. He seeks to increase hang time this spring for his punts.
Sophomore Reed Miller owned the snapping duties throughout the season as a true freshman, an impressive feat in a difficult spot. He has the task of adding velocity to his snaps and consistency. Junior Austin Tubbs will focus his strong work ethic toward getting his snap times down and improving his protection.
After the graduation of three-year punt returner Drew Terrell, a host of candidates will compete this spring to return punts for Stanford in 2013. Lead candidates include junior Ty Montgomery, senior Keanu Nelson and sophomore Barry Sanders. The kickoff return duties will also see competition this spring, with juniors Remound Wright and Kelsey Young joining Montgomery and Sanders.
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