Dec. 29, 2010
MIAMI SHORES, Fla. - No sooner had Stanford coach Jim Harbaugh stepped off the plane in Miami on Monday before reporters asked about Stanford's accommodations.
The Orange Bowl placed Stanford at the Fontainbleau, one of the most famous and luxurious hotels in Miami Beach. It's a place where you just might find the likes of Alex Rodriguez, Lebron James, Jamie Foxx, and even Sean Penn - whom Harbaugh introduced himself to - at one of its bars, restaurants, or nightclubs.
A popular line of questioning after Wednesday's practice at Barry University was whether the team will be distracted by the array of temptations heading into the Jan. 3 game against Virginia Tech, which is staying at a more subdued location far away from the Miami nightlife.
To this, Harbaugh made his point clear: No.
"We're not in the vacation business, we're not in the travel business or pleasure business," he said. "We're in the playing football business. Our guys get a lot of fun from that. Getting out here and practicing, that's fun to us.
"It's fun to walk around the Fontainbleau and see the celebrities, but we're just a bunch of blue-collar guys that love football. That's how we have the most fun."
Quarterback Andrew Luck was asked a similar question.
"We'll have fun if we can win the game," he said.
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There have been some comparisons between Virginia Tech quarterback Tyrod Taylor and Oregon's Darron Thomas, because both are dual threats who have led their teams to conference championships and major bowl games.
Stanford defensive tackle Sione Fua said that in general he'd prefer to face a more conventional quarterback than Taylor, who has rushed for 637 yards and passed for 2,521.
"It's actually better to have someone who sits back in the pocket," Fua said. "He's very explosive. He could take a broken play and take it for a touchdown.
"He's kind of like Darron, a really athletic guy, and can throw the ball well. But really, he's like no one like we've played so far with that much explosiveness. Tyrod just makes more plays with his feet."
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Even as a Heisman Trophy runner-up, Luck remains something of a mystery on the East Coast.
Harbaugh was asked why he has spoken so highly of Luck for so long, even before the redshirt sophomore stepped on campus.
"When you're around him every day, you just see it," he said. "It's not hard to see. It's hard to miss, really. And then there are the other things the people don't get to see - his intangibles, how smart he is, how good his leadership skills are, his genuine humility.
"It's easy to see that he's going to have a bright future playing football."
Harbaugh also complimented Luck's dedication.
"He really loves the chess of football, and studying the film," Harbaugh said. "Kind of like Peyton Manning, he enjoys that part. Some quarterbacks like to be gunslingers and shoot from the hip, but he really likes understanding how defenses work. Blitz patterns, stunts, coverages. He enjoys being a student of the game."
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Stanford has one Miami native on the roster, freshman walk-on kicker Juan Castellanos, a Colombian native who played just one season of varsity football at Ronald W. Reagan/Doral Senior High School, but made six of nine field-goal tries, including a 52-yarder.
Castellanos spent Christmas at home, and now is staying just a few miles away. He said he'll have plenty of family and friends at the game.
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Luck prefers to defer much of the attention directed toward him, despite earning every accolade during a season in which he has completed 70 percent of his passes (245 of 349) for 3,051 yards and throwing 28 touchdown passes to only seven interceptions.
"If you're the quarterback of an 11-1 team, you're going to get attention whether you deserve it or not," Luck said. "I don't relish it and I don't embrace it, but it's part of the job."
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Luck said he believes Harbaugh is such a good coach is because "he knows how to motivate us and wants to win more than anybody. That trickles down to us."
-- David Kiefer, Stanford Athletics