Plenty of talent at tight end on Cardinal roster

Thursday's afternoon practice is open to the public

By Rick Eymer

Palo Alto Online Sports

Stanford football coach Jim Harbaugh wasn't about to show his hand, but he talks like anyone who will start at tight end will be pretty darn good, thank you.

Senior Konrad Reuland, who was named to the initial watch list for the John Mackey Award on Tuesday, appears to be the frontrunner in a group that also includes senior Coby Fleener, and sophomores Ryan Hewitt, Zach Ertz and Levine Toilolo.

"That is a competitive spot," Harbaugh said after Tuesday's practice. "It's a daily battle."

Reuland (6-6, 257) has the size and strength to be a factor in both the running game and passing game. He would be hard to stop on a short yardage down.

Fleener (6-6, 244), who still has two years of eligibility remaining, was the team's third-leading receiver last season and caught at least one pass in each of Stanford's final 10 games. He has 33 career receptions, tops among the tight end candidates, and one career touchdown.

Toilolo (6-8, 263) was rated among the top five high school tight ends out of Helix High, and Ertz (6-6, 249) was consistently rated among the top 10 out of Monte Vista High in Danville. Hewitt (6-4, 238) may see more time as a backup fullback to Owen Marecic, although Harbaugh said he was a guy making his presence felt at tight end.

The final starting lineup will be decided during the week leading to Stanford's season-opener against Sacramento State on Sept. 4.

Lining up

Following a second surgery on his right knee in 2007, doctors gave sixth-year senior James McGillicuddy (6-3, 307) about a 15 percent of returning to competitive football.

These days he's right in the thick of things, competing for a starting job at right tackle. After missing the first three years of his college experience, he wasn't ready to put the shoulder pads away.

"He's shown great perseverance," Harbaugh said. "He found a role last year and he's an integral part of this team."

McGillicuddy was part of a new technology that allowed him to return to the field. He underwent a procedure involving platelet-rich plasma (PRP) drawn from his own blood that was injected back into his injured tendon at the point of the tear. It was a new lease on his football life.

"Two years ago he doesn't have much of a chance of playing again," Harbaugh said. "Only a guy who loves football will go through what he did."

From the sidelines

Stanford fullback-linebacker Owen Marecic and wide receiver-return specialist Chris Owusu were named to the watch list for the inaugural Paul Hornung Award, named in honor of former Heisman Trophy winner Paul Hornung, a versatile quarterback in the 1950s and 1960s, who Vince Lombardi once called "most versatile man ever to play the game."

Thursday's 3-5:30 p.m. practice will be open to the public . . . Comcast SportsNet will air a half-hour preview of the Stanford football season on Wednesday at 9 p.m. on Comcast SportsNet Bay Area . . . The show replays on August 19 (2:30 p.m.) and August 26 (7:00 p.m.).

Quote of the day

"All of us, collectively, will try to bring an emotional level that matches or surpasses the offense. We look to dominate Pac-10 defense." -- Stanford sophomore inside linebacker Shayne Skov

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