Offense begins to excite in second spring practice

March 2, 2015, 11:03 p.m.

In a rare, tumultuous bout of weather that belied the typical postcard image of sunny California, the Stanford football team took to the field again on Saturday for its second spring practice of the season amidst a steady downpour and even hail.

Aside from the unusual weather, an almost equally rare occurrence manifested itself on the field as, for the first time since the days of Andrew Luck, the Cardinal offense seemed to get the better of its defensive counterpart, particularly on the ground.

FRANK CHEN/The Stanford Daily
Rising senior Barry Sanders (right) showed off his speed during the first open spring practice, squeezing through Stanford’s injury-ridden defensive line for a 60-yard touchdown run. FRANK CHEN/The Stanford Daily

Running back Christian McCaffrey picked up right where he left off at the end of last season, repeatedly racing by defenders with ease, while Barry Sanders provided the highlight of highlight of the day with a 60-yard scamper towards the end of the team’s full scrimmage that brought the fans in attendance at the open practice to their feet.

While the Stanford coaching staff avoided actively comparing the offense and defense head to head, running backs coach Lance Taylor acknowledged that there is some competitiveness between the two units.

“We’re exciting about the direction we’re headed offensively,” Taylor said. “Our defense is pretty good. Each and every year they’re one of the top groups in the country. They’re going to win some and we’re going to win some. I think as long as you have that balance of competitiveness, you’re making each other better.”

According to Taylor, with starting running back Remound Wright out for the duration of spring practice because of a disciplinary issue and highly touted freshmen Bryce Love and Cameron Scarlett still months away from enrolling on the farm, Sanders and McCaffrey will continue to take the lion’s share of reps in practice.


Stanford head coach David Shaw also noted that the growth and maturation of the offensive line has put the offense far ahead of where it was at this point last season..

“I think particularly on the offensive line [we’ve improved],” he said. “Losing Andrus [Peat] hurts, but all of these guys who were sophomores and juniors are now juniors and seniors and they know what they’re doing.”

With star left tackle Peat moving on to the NFL, rising senior Kyle Murphy will almost certainly take over the role of left tackle, protecting Kevin Hogan’s blind side.

Regarding Hogan, the rising fifth-year senior has approached spring practice with a lot of confidence and momentum and looks locked into to the starting role. The real drama at the quarterback position will likely come in the battle between rising junior Ryan Burns and rising sophomore Keller Chryst to take over the backup spot behind Hogan.

Following the conclusion of practice, Shaw asked the team to give a standing ovation to team’s three active defensive linemen: Jordan Watkins, Harrison Phillips and Nate Lohn, who soldiered through the entire three-hour practice without backups.

“For three guys to make it through an entire practice with scrimmaging and nine on seven, it’s very, very difficult. But they didn’t bat an eyelash and that’s the effort that it takes,” Shaw commented at the conclusion of practice.

With sophomore Solomon Thomas likely out for the entire first session of spring practice with a toe injury and senior Aziz Shittu, who completed a rehab workout on an adjacent practice field, also unlikely to return for spring ball, Stanford has been very shorthanded at the defensive end position and will have to scramble for the remainder of practices.


In other news, several Stanford football alumni, including David Yankey and Henry Anderson, were present at practice on Saturday. In addition, five-star recruit Trent Irwin — the crown jewel of Stanford’s 2015 recruiting class — was also in attendance.

The Cardinal will take the field again next week for another round of practice, including another open practice next Saturday morning from 10 a.m. to 11:50 a.m. For now, the Cardinal are not too focused about specifics of scheme and are continuing to work on developing the team’s identity for the 2015 campaign.

“Each and every year takes a life of its own and develops as you go,” Taylor said. “That’s what we’re trying to find out. Last year [as the season went on], we morphed and played our best football at the end of the year and that’s what we want.”

Contact Vihan Lakshman at vihan ‘at’

Vihan Lakshman's journey at The Stanford Daily came full-circle as he began his career as a football beat writer and now closes his time on The Farm in the same role. In between, he has served as an Opinions columnist and desk editor, a beat writer for Stanford baseball, and as a member of The Daily's Editorial Board. Vihan completed his undergraduate degree in Mathematical and Computational Science in 2016, and is currently pursuing a master's in Computational Mathematics. He also worked as a color commentator on KZSU football broadcasts during the 2015 season. To contact him, please send an email to vihan 'at'

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