Sept. 23, 2009
STANFORD, Calif. - After two injury-plagued seasons, offensive tackle Allen Smith returned to action Saturday ready to hit someone.
Three serious knee injuries, including two fractured kneecaps, made him pine for another opportunity. And the sixth-year senior received it when he was sent onto the field in the fourth quarter of Stanford's 42-17 victory over San Jose State.
But after all that build up, the first snap was ... "very disappointing," he said.
"I was supposed to lead block on No. 91," Smith said. "And he dropped into coverage. I had to run after him."
Complicating the situation was that Stanford fumbled on the play. But guess who made the tackle?
"That was exciting," Smith said.
Smith played 10-12 plays and, "one good solid series," he said.
"It was exactly like I dreamed it would be," Smith said. "For the past 18 months, that's all I could think about, to step back under the lights."
Smith was regarded as a potential NFL first round draft pick when he tore his patella tendon against Oregon in the third game of the 2007 season. Smith remembered the play, which began with confusion between himself and another lineman on their assignments, causing Smith to react late with poor technique, leading to the injury.
While rehabilitating, Smith suffered a fracture in his kneecap while weightlifting. He broke it on April 1, 2008, during spring drills.
As he rounds into shape, Smith sees an increased role this season and hasn't given up on an NFL future.
"Every day, it feels a little better," he said. "The more I go through the process, the more trust I gain in my knee and the harder I'll be able to go. I'm on the cusp.
"I always thought I had more to give to the game. I still feel that way."
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FOOTBALL: Gerhart could return in 2010
Senior running back Toby Gerhart could return to the Stanford football team for a fifth season, in 2010.
"There's a chance," he said. "It all depends on how this season goes. If I stay healthy, have a good year, I'll see what the next level thinks of me. If it's not appealing, I'll come back, get a master's degree and play my final year of football."
Gerhart is a fourth-year senior who set a Stanford single-season rushing record with 1,136 yards last year. However, Gerhart could be granted a medical redshirt year for 2007, when he suffered a season-ending knee injury in the third quarter of the opener against San Jose State.
Gerhart would not speculate on what projected draft round would be the tipping point in his decision, but acknowledged that NFL interest would drive it.
"Definitely," he said. "The focus is on this year, and when the year's over, evaluate it and see what my potential could be to play at the next level."
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MEN'S SOCCER: Warshaw experiment paying off
The logic may have seemed unconventional at first: Why would the Stanford men's soccer team move the best offensive player to defense when it had trouble scoring goals anyway?
Bobby Warshaw led the Cardinal in goals in each of his first two years, but late in 2008, during which the team scored 13 goals while going 4-11-3, Warshaw was asked to move to central defense.
Now, five games into 2009, Stanford (4-1) already has matched last season's totals in victories and shutouts (three), while closing in on goals (nine so far). It's seems safe to assume the experiment has worked.
"The coaching staff found the answers and they gave it to us," said Warshaw, a junior. "I'm very happy, and we're winning."
Warshaw played at forward and midfield most of last season, but felt he wasn't helping the team.
"If I wasn't scoring goals and the team wasn't scoring goals, something's not right," Warshaw said. "I felt I was just as expendable as the next guy."
Warshaw, who played center back on the United States U-17 and U-18 national teams, felt comfortable in the new role.
"There are definitely guys who as talented or more at forward," he said. "But one of the things we weren't doing well was playing defense to attack. Now, we're able to build from the back.
"Our attacking still isn't there, but we're organized, we're battling, winning the ball and keeping it up the field."
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WOMEN'S SOCCER: Not quite No. 1
Stanford's routs last weekend over No. 23 Colorado and Wisconsin, combined with No. 1 North Carolina's 0-0 draw against Auburn, and No. 2 Portland's 3-1 loss to Texas A&M seemed to put the Cardinal in position to lead the NSCAA coaches' poll.
While Stanford (9-0-0) did move up from No. 3, North Carolina (7-0-1) maintained its No. 1 ranking. Stanford is No. 2 in the NSCAA, but No. 1 by Soccer America, Soccer Times and Top Drawer Soccer.
"It's not something I care too much about," Stanford coach Paul Ratcliffe said. "It's basically just bragging rights. By the end of the day, you have to prove it on the field. Hopefully, we can play a No. 1 team and prove we're better than them."
Stanford is off to its best start since 1994 (10-0) and has a 13-match home winning streak and 17-match home unbeaten streak. Six players have multi-goal games and the Cardinal has allowed only one goal in its past six matches, while scoring 20 in that span.
Stanford has outshot opponents 235-48, while allowing only 17 shots on goal.
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BASEBALL: Ex-Stanford players named as top big-league prospects
Baseball America came out with its list of the top prospects in each major league organization and three former Cardinal players received No. 1 ratings.
Drew Storen was rated as the top pitcher in the Washington Nationals' system, Michael Taylor is listed as the Philadelphia Phillies' top hitting prospect, and Jason Castro is the Houston Astros' top hitting prospect.
Storen, a closer, went 2-1 with a 1.95 ERA, with 49 strikeouts and eight walks in three levels in the Nationals' chain. At his top level, Double-A Harrisburg, Storen held batters to a .077 batting average in 12 innings.
"It's not only the way he pitches during the games," Nationals' general manager Mike Rizzo told Baseball America, "but the way he goes after his training and the way he warms up, the way he lights up when he crosses the line and gets to the mound. That was really the litmus test of how we think he's a back-end-of-the-bullpen guy."
The 6-foot-6 Taylor, an outfielder, hit .333 at Double-A Reading with 18 stolen bases and 15 home runs before finishing the season at Triple-A Lehigh Valley. He hit .282 with five home runs in 110 at bats there.
"I don't think anyone could have predicted what he did in the Eastern League this year," said Phillies' assistant general manager Chuck LaMar to Baseball America. "He tore it up. We've always thought of him as a major league prospect, but he sped up his clock toward Philadelphia."
Castro, a catcher in his first full pro season, hit .300 with 10 homers and 73 RBI between Class A and Double-A.
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BASEBALL: Hester an all-star
Triple-A Reno catcher John Hester was named to the Pacific Coast League postseason all-star team after a breakout offensive season in which he hit .329 with 31 doubles, nine homers and 66 RBIs in 92 games.
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FOOTBALL: Former Cardinal could be top prosecutor
Trial lawyer Ron Machen, a walk-on receiver on the 1989 and 1990 Stanford football teams, is being considered for the position of U.S. Attorney General, according to the Washington Times. Machen had a double major of economics and political science at Stanford.
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VOLLEYBALL: Walsh, May-Treanor to reunite
Four-time Stanford All-American Kerri Walsh will rejoin Misty May-Treanor on the beach volleyball court this weekend at the AVP World Challenge in Glendale, Ariz.
The two paired for Olympic gold medals in 2004 and 2008 before Walsh had a baby and May-Treanor ruptured her Achilles tendon while practicing for "Dancing with the Stars."
It will be their first competition in 2009, though they did team up to play Shaquille O'Neal for an episode of the television show "Shap Vs."
The $200,000 World Challenge pits the top teams from the United States and Brazil, the world's top two beach volleyball powers, against each other. May-Treanor and Walsh are the most successful women in beach volleyball history, and their presence bolsters the Americans' chances of claiming the bragging rights to the beach.
Walsh led the Cardinal to NCAA championships in 1996 and 1997 and to four Pac-10 Conference titles.
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FOOTBALL: Former assistant Clark dies
Monte Clark, an offensive line coach during Bill Walsh's second tour of duty as Stanford head coach, died Sept. 16 in Detroit at age 72. Clark had a bone marrow malignancy associated with lung and liver disease.
Clark, a former head coach of the Detroit Lions and San Francisco 49ers, spent the 1993-94 seasons on Walsh's staff.
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MEN'S GOLF: Woods recalls Stanford days
Tiger Woods recalled in a San Francisco Chronicle article published Sunday, Sept. 20, that his years at Stanford, in 1994-96, were some of the most influential in his life.
"I look at those as two of the greatest years I've ever had - being away from home for the first time and learning how to cope with things, how to learn, how to grow," he told the Chronicle's Ron Kroichik. "We were all in the same boat together trying to get through it together.
"I'll never forget the intelligence people had and their perspectives on so many different subjects, the things I was exposed to. It certainly did shape me, no doubt about it."
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RUNNING: Hall earns big win
Ryan Hall, Stanford's 2005 NCAA 5,000-meter champion, outdueled three Kenyan runners to become the first American-born runner to win the Philadelphia Distance Run since 1986. The top-ranked U.S. marathoner broke away from Sammy Ndereba, Benjamin Limo and Valentine Orare with about a mile to go in the 13.1-mile race and hit the finish line in 1 hour, 1 minute, 52 seconds.
-- David Kiefer, Stanford Athletics