Football: Several position battles open heading into spring practice

Feb. 18, 2011, 4:59 p.m.

With Stanford football’s first spring practice slated for Monday, head coach David Shaw held a press conference earlier this afternoon to clear up questions surrounding the team and to give a better indication of the direction he plans to take the Cardinal.

Shaw seemed to bring a similar mentality to the program as former head coach Jim Harbaugh, who departed after Stanford’s 40-12 victory in the Orange Bowl to coach the San Francisco 49ers. Namely, he emphasized toughness and determination as elementary to his team’s success.

Football: Several position battles open heading into spring practice
New Stanford head coach David Shaw, above, says he won't be resting on the laurels of his predecessor. (Stanford Daily File Photo)

“It’s more than just talent,” Shaw said. “It’s more than just speed, it’s more than just quickness. It’s a determination, it’s a mindset to be physical, to be competitive, to show up every single day and be ready to fight.”

Shaw also said that he wants to prevent his players from riding on last season’s accomplishments, which included a 12-1 record and the Orange Bowl win.

“We need to establish who we are,” he said. “We’d love for there to be some momentum, but as I told those guys a few weeks ago, those oranges from the Orange Bowl, they rot and they die—it’s over. We have to put a stop on it at some point and say, ‘Who will we be going forward?’”

Lofty statements aside, Shaw discussed the ongoing process of filling Stanford’s coaching staff, which was gutted in the offseason. Several assistant coaches, including acclaimed defensive coordinator Vic Fangio and assistant head coach Greg Roman, followed Harbaugh to San Francisco. Prior to today, both the offensive and defensive coordinators had already been announced, with Pep Hamilton coaching the offense and Derek Mason and Jason Tarver playing the role of co-defensive coordinator.

In the press conference, Shaw announced two new position coach hirings: Mike Bloomgren—a Bill Callahan disciple—as offensive line coach, and Mike Sanford as the running backs coach. Bloomgren’s most recent job was with the New York Jets in the NFL, and he will also serve as the running game coordinator. Only one coaching job—the tight ends coach—still needs to be filled, as Hamilton will coach both the quarterbacks and the receivers.

Similar to last season, the play-calling duties on offense will be split between three coaches. This year, Hamilton and Bloomgren will be primarily responsible for calling plays, while Shaw will maintain what he calls his “head coach’s veto” over the play calls.

With several big position battles looming as spring practice opens, Shaw declined to give any indications of which players might be frontrunners for various open starting spots. There are key holes along the offensive line (where the Cardinal loses three starters) and the defensive line, as well as at fullback, wide receiver and linebacker. Shaw would only say that there would be a competition for every open starting position, and emphasized this throughout Friday’s conference.

Like his predecessor, Shaw declined to comment on injuries despite repeated questions. His only discussion of player injuries surrounded Levine Toilolo, the tight end who suffered a season-ending ACL tear in Stanford’s first game of the season, against Sacramento State. Shaw said that Toilolo will participate in spring practices in a limited capacity and that the coaching staff will continue to be cautious with him.

Shaw also addressed the impact of losing two-way player Owen Marecic. Last season, Marecic started at both fullback and linebacker for Stanford.

“There’s going to be four guys on our team to replace what Owen did for us—one at linebacker and three at fullback,” Shaw said. “He’s a once-in-a-generation type of human being and football player, and to get the same production out of that position is going to take three guys.”

Kabir Sawhney is currently a desk editor for the News section. He served as the Managing Editor of Sports last volume.

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