STANFORD, Calif. -- -
As much as he tried not to think about it, head coach David Shaw knew there would come a day when Andrew Luck would not walk through the gate onto Elliott Field for a Stanford football practice.
That day is here, as the Cardinal will hold its first of 15 spring practice sessions on Monday, which will culminate with the Cardinal and White Spring Game at Kezar Stadium in San Francisco on April 14.
As the Cardinal prepares for life without the player who led Stanford to a 23-3 record over the last two seasons and consecutive BCS Bowl appearances, Shaw points to five signal callers - sophomore Brett Nottingham, juniors Josh Nunes and Robbie Picazo, along with redshirt freshmen Evan Crower and Kevin Hogan - who will compete for the starting role beginning in earnest this spring.
Although Nottingham spent all last year in the No. 2 position on the depth chart, Shaw insists it will be an open competition and one that won't be settled until midway through training camp.
"We want to give all five guys a shot this spring," said Shaw. "It's hard to give all five guys equal reps, but for the first session, it will be pretty even."
When asked how quickly he would like to make a decision on a starter, Shaw quipped, "Ideally, tomorrow, but that's not going to happen. My guess is we'll identify a starter midway through training camp. I don't want to go until Week One, but if I have to, I will.
"We'd like to have a starter in place 10 days or two weeks before the opener but at the same time, if no one separates himself, we'll take it all the way to pregame warm-ups if we have to."
Shaw said one of the five players could certainly get a leg up on the starting job coming out of the spring, but indicated training camp is a much better proving ground to decide the competition.
"There are a lot of areas of our offense and defense that we won't necessarily cover in the spring," said Shaw. "Having a great spring can set any one of the five up to be the starter, but it certainly won't be decided in the next month."
Is there a pre-spring favorite as to who will win the starting job?
"Absolutely - and it changes every 15 minutes," said Shaw. "We haven't been on the grass yet so I'm sure there will be some back and forth. The bottom line is we have a lot of talented guys who are competing for the job. They can all play. It's just a matter of who gives us the best chance to win every weekend."
Whoever ultimately wins the job, Shaw points out it would unfair to judge Luck's successor by the same standards that have been set over the last three seasons.
"The responsibilities of the quarterback will be whatever he earns," Shaw said. "To say we want the player who wins the job to have the same standards as we've had the last three years would not be wise. For the most part, we are going to do whatever the starter is able to execute. That's the starting point."
Much more comfortable heading into this spring
Shaw looks back at the whirlwind of the start of last spring with a smile. A little over a month into the job as head coach, Shaw was busy rounding out his coaching staff right up to the start of spring practice, with Mike Bloomgren and Mike Sanford being added on February 23. Tight ends/offensive tackles coach Ron Crook came on board on March 28, just weeks before the Cardinal and White Spring Game. Shaw also oversaw the transition of three coaches - Pep Hamilton, Derek Mason and Jason Tarver - into coordinator positions.
"We are more prepared now," said Shaw. "We were settling a lot of things schematically last year at this time. We had just hired a running game coordinator (Bloomgren) and coach Mason and Tarver were tweaking the defense. Now, both coordinators have one full season under their belts and the overall scheme is already in place. We are much more cohesive going into this spring than last year."
One more coaching position still needs to be filled
With last week's appointment of Pete Alamar to the position of special teams coordinator, Stanford has one more position to be filled on its coaching staff. Shaw hopes to have a new inside linebackers coach in place sometime this week.
"I've learned that as a head coach the most deliberate thing I need to do is to hire assistants," Shaw commented. "They have to understand how Stanford works, our players, how we have to recruit and deal with admissions. It's important to take the time and get the right guy in here."
Shaw gave running backs coach Mike Sanford added responsibilities as the program's recruiting coordinator last week.
"I am excited for Mike," said Shaw. "He has always been one of those guys even when he was an intern that I knew was going to have a bright future in this profession. He's very personable, great to talk to and bonds very well with people. He's a coach's kid so he's lived all of the country like I have. He doesn't mind being plopped down in a place he's never been. He'll get to know the coaches and the families. He recruits with the utmost integrity. You look at some the guys we signed this year and many were his recruits. They'll run through a wall for him. It was only natural for me to elevate him to that position."
Shaw on Stanford's draft prospects
While quarterback Andrew Luck along with offensive linemen David DeCastro and Jonathan Martin are widely projected as first round picks in April's NFL Draft, Shaw does not discount the possibility of tight end Coby Fleener being selected in the first round.
"I'd be shocked if he gets out of the first round, especially if he runs well at Pro Day," said Shaw.
"You see the 49ers tight end running by people, the Saints tight end running by people and the Patriots tight end run by people. You turn on the tape and watch Coby - that's all he does is run by people. After the NFL Playoffs, I think his value went way up.
"Coby averaged nearly 20 yards a catch playing in a pro-style offense. He ran past defensive backs, not just linebackers. He's got to be an intriguing guy because he scores points and changes field position."
"A lot of people are intrigued by Delano. Here's a guy who missed time last year and was still voted first team all-conference as a safety because he's an impact player. You can envision hin having an impact on special teams and being a third safety before working his way into a starting role."
Shaw said Owusu has no lingering effects from a series of concussions that ended his senior season prematurely and has been medically cleared to resume football activities.
"I talked to Chris before he left for the Combine and he's so excited to get going."
Combine rewind Chris Owusu ran the 40-yard dash in 4.36 seconds, tying Georgia Tech's Stephen Hill and Miami's Travis Benjamin for the fastest time at the combine...Andrew Luck posted an unofficial time of 4.59 in the 40, which was the same time as Cam Newton posted last year..the time was later adjusted to 4.69, placing Luck fourth among quarterbacks...Luck also broad jumped 10 feet, 4 inches and recorded a vertical leap of 36 inches...Luck skipped throwing drills and will throw at Stanford's Pro Day in March.
Stanford Athletics mourns the death of longtime equipment manager Ron Yamaguchi Ron Yamaguchi, who was a member of Stanford's equipment staff since 1989, died suddenly Friday of an apparent heart attack. He was 53 years old.
"Ron has been a valued member of the Athletic Department since 1989," said Jaquish & Kenninger Director of Athletics Bob Bowlsby. "In his nearly 23 years as a member of the DAPER family, Ron has been an exemplary employee and his passing is a tremendous loss to our department and to all of us who knew him personally."
"Ron Yamaguchi will be sorely missed both, in our equipment room, and on our practice field," said head coach David Shaw. "We are forever indebted to Ron for is many years of dedication to the athletes of Stanford University.
Within minutes after the announcement of Yamaguchi's death tweets from the Twitter accounts of a host of current and former Stanford football players, including current NFL players were posted expressing sympathy over Yamaguchi's death.
One former player Tweeted, "Ron Yamaguchi was a friend to generations of players -- since 1989 -- and a caretaker for their safety. We lost a great one."
Last Friday, Stanford's baseball and men's volleyball teams observed a moment of silence in honor of Yamaguchi before their respective contests.