If you’ve heard music blasting throughout campus in the late afternoons this week, have no fear; it’s just the Stanford football team preparing for the raucous crowd that will greet the Cardinal in Seattle for Thursday night’s game against the Washington Huskies.
Well, maybe that is something to fear; while you can be relieved that the music isn’t coming from overeager freshmen partying in a post-NSO frenzy, it does signify an enormous challenge for Stanford football. Any road game with a first-year starting quarterback is difficult, but heading to CenturyLink Field, the only stadium in the country whose fans have caused a minor earthquake, is certainly cause for concern.
Besides the music, it’s been a fairly uneventful bye week on the Farm after Stanford’s stunning upset of No. 2 USC. At Monday’s weekly press conference, head coach David Shaw, fresh off a busy weekend of recruiting, provided a few important updates on the health of the team. Junior running back Anthony Wilkerson will miss Thursday’s game with a lower-leg injury. Ricky Seale and Remound Wright are listed as the replacements for Wilkerson on this week’s depth chart, and Shaw expects both to see significant action in support of senior Stepfan Taylor.
The other midweek news was much better for the Card, as Shaw announced that offensive tackle Andrus Peat had his cast removed, finally giving the freshman full use of his hands. Peat has seen his playing time increase week to week, and though Shaw still believes that David Yankey will start at left tackle against Washington, Peat’s clean bill of health is a huge boost for the team. At the very least, it will allow Peat to be more effective in his time as an extra offensive lineman for Stanford’s jumbo packages.
In the long term, it’s a significant step forward in Peat’s progression towards becoming the full-time starter at left tackle, which would allow Stanford to push Yankey back inside to his natural left guard position.
Stanford wasn’t the only team in the matchup with important injury news this week. On Monday, Washington head coach Steve Sarkisian announced that his starting left guard, Colin Tanigawa, will miss the rest of the 2012 season, another devastating blow to an already-hurting Huskies offensive line. Washington’s updated depth chart has only seven players listed in the top two strings of the offensive line, exposing a serious lack of depth.
Stanford’s pass rushers will be licking their chops for this matchup, including outside linebacker Trent Murphy, who on Monday told reporters he plays football for the feeling he gets after sacking the quarterback.
The biggest change this week for Stanford comes from off the football field. Since the start of classes on Monday, Shaw is “very concerned” with his players’ ability to manage their time-strained schedules. This season Stanford has additional cause for worry, as this team relies on true freshmen more than any Stanford team in recent memory. Though these freshmen do have a bit of experience balancing workouts and summer school, they have never contributed to a top-10 football program while taking a difficult Stanford course load.
Even if Stanford’s student-athletes are successful in managing their newfound difficulties, some sacrifices are unavoidable. The first casualty of heading back to class this week has been time for extra film study. Fortunately for Stanford, with last week being a bye week the team had plenty of time to prepare for the difficult road trip ahead. Moving forward though, as the football schedule gets back to normal and school picks up, this time strain is certainly something to pay attention to, especially with Stanford’s freshmen.