Offense continues to sparkle in football practices

March 10, 2015, 12:16 a.m.

Kevin Hogan and the Stanford offense looked sharp in Saturday’s open practice session at the Elliott Fields. The rising fifth-year senior got off to an especially quick start, completing 11 of his first 12 passes on his first three drives, all of which ended in touchdowns.

FRANK CHEN/The Stanford Daily
Junior Ryan Burns (left) is locked in a tight battle with freshman Keller Chryst for the second string quarterback spot. Burns went 7-9 with 67 yards and a touchdown in Saturday’s practice, while Chryst virtually equalled him by going 7-9 with 66 yards and a touchdown. FRANK CHEN/The Stanford Daily

The first-team offense did most of its work over the middle of the field, punctuated by a 9-yard touchdown pass from Hogan to sophomore tight end Dalton Schultz and a spectacular 61-yard touchdown grab by senior wide receiver Devon Cajuste.

Stanford’s defense, which ranked second in the nation in points allowed per game last season, has faced some growing pains this spring as it attempts to integrate several new faces into the starting lineup. Injuries to rising senior Aziz Shittu and rising sophomore Solomon Thomas have left the Cardinal with only three healthy defensive linemen to rotate into scrimmages.

“We’ve got a young secondary,” coach David Shaw said. “A lot of talented guys that we’re still working on. Today was tough, and we gave up some big plays in the passing game.”

Despite battling injuries and inexperience, coach Lance Anderson’s defense showed signs of development during Saturday’s practice session. Rising sophomore cornerback Terrence Alexander put his natural coverage instincts on full display, jumping a seam route and picking off a pass from rising junior Ryan Burns. Rising junior outside linebacker Mike Tyler built on his impressive spring campaign in Kevin Anderson’s absence, recording 4 tackles and providing a solid pass rush. Rising senior safety Kodi Whitfield, now over a year removed from switching to defense after playing wide receiver, led the Cardinal with 8 tackles.

Stanford’s top two candidates for backup quarterback, Burns and rising sophomore Keller Chryst, turned in poised, confident efforts on Saturday, leading a scoring drive each.

“I thought they were really good,” Shaw said of his three quarterbacks. “They went through their progressions well, hit guys in rhythm, and the receivers made plays.”

Burns was involved in the play of the day for the Cardinal, a one-handed touchdown grab by rising junior Francis Owusu on a back-corner fade from Burns. After coming to Stanford as a raw prospect playing in a rush-heavy single-wing offense, Burns has matured and adapted well to Shaw’s offense.

Not to be outdone, Chryst led the offense down the field in the first of his two drives, a 13-play effort that ended with a fade caught by rising fifth-year senior Rollins Stallworth.

Stanford begins the second session of spring practices on Mar. 30. The team’s next open practice is on Apr. 4, and spring football ends with the Cardinal and White Scrimmage on Apr. 11.

Contact Sanjay Srinivas at ssri16 ‘at’

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