April 4, 2007
Following his first practice as head coach of the Stanford Cardinal, Jim Harbaugh said he was pleased with his team's effort and the pace and tempo of practice, but that much work still needed to be done. "Tomorrow we have to get two percent better," he said. "And by the end of the 15 spring practices, we will be 30 percent better than we are now."
"I thought the tempo of practice was real good," he said. "We got off the field early because we were playing so fast. But, we've got to get better tomorrow, and every day after that." Harbaugh had his team out early for the start of practice, but the two-and-a-half hour practice ended about 15 minutes early.
The practice began with former Cardinal head coach Bill Walsh addressing the team. "Bill sent two great messages to our team," said Harbaugh. "One was to continually take mental reps, listen to your coaches and learn all you can. Work hard to make yourself a better player every day. The other was basically for the guys on the bottom half of our team. He told them not to worry about whether they're first or second or third string, but to be the best player they can be and do all they can to improve, which will make the team better.
"To have Bill Walsh kick off our spring practice is an honor to the entire program," said Harbaugh.
At the end of practice, Harbaugh called on another guest speaker, this one was 15-year NFL veteran and former Cardinal All-American Bob Whitfield. Whitfield, who played at Stanford under Denny Green from 1989-91, recently retired from the NFL. He played last season with the New York Giants. Whitfield is back at Stanford taking two classes to finish his degree in Economics.
But the word of the day was tempo, not only from Harbaugh but also from several players.
"The tempo of today's practice was much faster than before," said Cardinal quarterback T.C. Ostrander. "We're weren't waiting for the defense, we were just going.
Said running back Toby Gerhart: "It was a high-energy practice and we were all having fun. Coach Harbaugh is a high-intensity guy and a great motivator." Gerhart, who suffered a fractured bone in his right forearm in February while playing for the Cardinal baseball team at Texas, said he would be held out of contact during the spring. Gerhart said he plans to start swinging on Monday and expects to return to the baseball team soon.
Returning to the practice field for the Cardinal were receivers Mark Bradford and Evan Moore and center Tim Mattran. All three had some uncertainly about their future with the Cardinal following the 2006 season, but all three are back for Stanford and should be among the team's top players. Tight end Matt Traverso, who along with Mattran petitioned the NCAA and was granted a sixth year of eligibility, was also on the practice field, although unable to participate due to health concerns. He said he plans to return to practice in the very near future.
Several players were in different positions from the last time they were seen in a Cardinal uniform. Austin Yancy has moved from receiver to free safety, Eric Lorig was in his new position at defensive end after moving from tight end, Gustav Rydstedt was playing on the offensive side of the ball after switching from nose tackle, Ben Ladner has moved from fullback to tight end, Sam Weinberger from linebacker to fullback and Chris Hobbs from cornerback to receiver.
Practice number two for the Cardinal is Thursday from 4:00-6:30 pm.