The Stanford football team finished its first week of preseason practice on Saturday with a lively contact session in 95-degree heat overseen by a full officiating crew from the Pac-12 Conference.
Fifth-year senior quarterback Kevin Hogan looked sharp, although he was off-limits to tacklers. Tight ends Greg Taboada and Dalton Schultz were his favorite targets and figure to have big roles in the offense this season.
"I really like the size, versatility and athleticism of the whole group," head coach David Shaw said of his four tight ends.
Running back Christian McCaffrey produced the best run of the session, breaking loose for a 60-yard touchdown. However, the play was nullified by a holding penalty.
McCaffrey had a great week of practice and looks considerably bigger and stronger than last season, when he played as a true freshman. Likewise for fifth-year senior running back Remound Wright, who rushed for a team-high 11 touchdowns last season. Freshman running back Bryce Love has also looked good.
Other bright spots have been the play of the young secondary and retooled defensive line, both of whom have been holding their own. Brennan Scarlett, who played and earned an undergraduate degree at Cal, transferred to Stanford in the spring and is taking graduate courses. He has been brought along slowly, but is now making contributions on the field and is expected to provide much-needed experience and depth on the line.
"We're at full strength and looking good," said Shaw. "He's (Scarlett) given us some added juice."
Offensive tackle Nick Davidson was on the practice field Saturday and will participate in workouts next week, along with David Bright. Both are competing for playing time on the right side of the line.
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Shaw gave quarterbacks Ryan Burns and Palo Alto High grad Keller Chryst extensive work this week and will continue to rotate them in an effort to determine a backup for Hogan.
"They're both doing things better than they did last spring, but they both need to improve," said Shaw. "Neither guy is really where we need him to be," Shaw said.
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Shannon Turley, the Kissick Family Director of Sports Performance, was complimentary about the team's off-season and summer conditioning workouts.
"I was really pleased that the leadership allowed me to take the players back to the basics," he said. "It's that team process you go through, and they did a great job running with it. I like the way they fought and competed."
Turley didn't mind the heat on Saturday. He's hoping for more of the same to help players get ready for the season-opener at Northwestern on Sept. 5, which is an 11 a.m. kickoff local time.
"We need all of it we can get," said Turley. "There's nothing we can do to replicate the heat and humidity."
Stanford will fly to Chicago on Thursday (Sept. 3) to help players acclimate to the time difference and weather.
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The team will hold an open practice on Saturday starting at 10 a.m. Players will be available soon after for autographs.
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Extra Points: Shaw said there will be more emphasis on the kicking game next week. "We're going to ramp that up," he said . . . Reserve Ryan Gaertner, a junior from Sacred Heart Prep, made a nice strip and fumble recovery on the same play during a brief, controlled scrimmage . . . Stanford president emeritus Donald Kennedy attended practice on Friday . . . Former Cardinal offensive lineman Andrew Phillips watched Saturday's practice from the sideline . . . Also on hand was recently retired Ron Lynn, Stanford's long-time director of player development, and his wife Cynthia, along with former Cardinal men's swimming coach Skip Kenney.