STANFORD, Calif. – Much of the early attention in Stanford’s spring football season has understandably concentrated on replacing significant star power on the defensive side of the ball. That attention turned into an impressive display during Saturday’s open practice as a young and athletic defense dominated Stanford’s veteran offense throughout a full-contact scrimmage session.
While Stanford boasts a deep NFL prospect class littered with defensive players, head coach David Shaw’s defense will not be overlooked as media and fans witnessed a harassing style of play.
The offense did not score in 12 drives.
Freshman cornerback Taijuan Thomas exemplified the play with four tackles (three solo) , including a sack, while using a big hit to force a fumble and finishing with two pass breakups.
Classmate Kevin Palma, an inside linebacker, also played well with the Pixley, Calif. native ending a long drive by the second team offense with an interception in the red zone. Palma led the linebackers with nine tackles (seven solo) including one tackle for a loss. Palma was usually supported by fellow freshman Peter Kalambayi on the outside with Kalambayi collecting five tackles.
Junior Blake Martinez buoyed the linebacker corps with seven tackles including six solo efforts and one tackle for a loss. Fellow veterans Henry Anderson and Aziz Shittu played more sparingly but Anderson was unlockable as he recorded three early tackles with one sack and two pass breakups and Shittu also logging a sack and pass deflection.
The passing numbers don’t reflect how well the defense played as Kevin Hogan performed well, completing 12 of 16 attempts for 120 yards while lefty Evan Crower was 16 of 24 for 131 yards and one interception.
Jeff Trojan paced the receiving corps on four receptions for 21 yards.
Stanford’s run game was limited on Saturday although Kelsey Young collected 72 yards unofficially on nine attempts.
Stanford will hold its next open practice on Saturday, April 5 and its annual Cardinal and White Spring Game will be April 12 at 1 p.m. Admission is free for both events. Stanford’s season opens Aug. 30 against UC Davis to begin a three-game homestretch to start the season.
Bradford M. Freeman Director of Football David Shaw on the defensive dominance …
“I’ll give a lot of credit to (Willie Shaw Director of Defense) Lance (Anderson), give a lot of credit to our defensive guys. Apparently we can play defense without Derek Mason, Shayne Skov and Trent Murphy because the defense was on fire today.
It was tough to move the ball. Every time the offense moved the ball, another defensive guy made a play. There wasn’t a lot of offensive mistakes as much as it was defensive guys making plays… I thought the DBs were outstanding in the scrimmage.”
Shaw on trying to block Henry Anderson …
“Can’t. (We) tried a bunch of different ways. Can’t do it. Especially when you can’t cut (block), which we don’t do in practice. He’s… gosh, he’s tough, very tough.”
Shaw on what he’s learned during the first two weeks of spring practice …
“I think you always learn at the gaining of spring because you’ve got new guys stepping in. Who’s going to play that linebacking spot next to A.J. Tarpley? Joe Hemschoot got banged up a little bit and missed some time so Blake Martinez stepped up (today) and played great. With us holding David Parry out, can Aziz Shittu do what we need him to do at nose and at end? He’s answered those questions.”
Shaw on Ronnie Harris …
“Ronnie (Harris) has been more of a leader than we ever anticipated as far as the defensive backs go. That talk and that energy he brings every single day and every single practice has been awesome for our defensive and our DBs in particular.