Although next weekend’s matchup with No. 15 USC looms over Stanford’s upcoming game against FCS opponent UC-Davis, Stanford football head coach David Shaw insisted that his team has plenty to play for and prove this Saturday against the Aggies.
“Our guys are excited about playing a game. We still got a lot of guys that have a lot to prove,” he said. “We got a lot of guys stepping into new roles. Game one you want to start fast.”
Saturday’s game will allow the Cardinal to hand significant playing time to many of those players stepping into new roles. Shaw specifically stated that the defense will constantly rotate in order to provide experience for as many players as possible.
“We still have a bunch of guys that we want to see,” he said. “We don’t want to be a defense that plays 11 guys for 60 straight plays. We’re getting ready for up-tempo offenses for the entire season so we’re going to roll our guys no matter what, no matter what the score is, no matter what time in the game it is, we’re going to play a lot of guys.”
Unfortunately for the Card, one player expected to play a bigger role this season, junior defensive tackle Aziz Shittu, will miss Saturday’s game with a toe injury. Shittu is probable for Stanford’s game against USC.
In Shittu’s absence and with the recent medical retirement of junior defensive tackle Ikenna Nwafor, the backup defensive tackle spot on the depth chart remains vacant. Shaw plans on using several players with prior experience at the position to give a rest to fifth-year senior starter David Parry when needed.
“We have options,” said Shaw about using another defensive tackle. “Henry [Anderson’s] spent time there, [Blake] Lueders spent time there — we have a variety of guys that can go in and play.”
Along with the backup defensive tackle spot, another position likely to become a battleground for playing time on Saturday is the “ogre,” the extra offensive lineman Stanford utilizes in jumbo packages. With juniors Kyle Murphy and Josh Garnett now starting on the offensive line, the position is largely up for grabs.
“Casey Tucker, a true freshman, will have an opportunity. David Bright has done a really good job there. Nick Davidson has done a good job there also. Brendon Austin. Those guys have all rolled in there and done a good job,” said Shaw about the ogre position. “Brendon’s got the most experience, he did a little bit of it last year.”
Though Tucker and fellow freshmen Christian McCaffrey, Daniel Marx and Terrence Alexander are expected to see the field this season, two other freshmen once thought to have a shot at cracking the rotation – defensive ends Solomon Thomas and Harrison Phillips – will not play this season if all goes to plan.
“Hopefully we don’t need them because we got some depth at the defensive end,” Shaw explained. “Luke Kaumatule’s come on. Nate Lohn’s come on. Jordan Watkins is back healthy…As long as we stay healthy and those guys perform, we’ll keep those two on the bench.”
Additionally, sophomore Thomas Oser and freshmen Brandon Fanaika and Lane Veach will be out until at least midseason with various injuries. Fanaika and Veach are unlikely to play this season, even upon return from injury.
Contact Michael Peterson at mrpeters ‘at’ stanford.edu.