The defense “won the day,” but the offense, led by a touchdown run from sophomore running back Barry Sanders, had its moments as Stanford football held its first open practice of the spring season Saturday.
Without senior free safety Ed Reynolds, who missed practice with a tweaked muscle—head coach Shaw called the move “precautionary” and said if Saturday was a game day, Reynolds would have played—the defense relied on pressure from the front seven—a familiar sight—to stuff the offense.
“I thought [junior linebacker] James Vaughters was awesome, phenomenal today,” Shaw said. “He was in the backfield every play, it seemed like. [Senior linebacker] Blake Leuders: just as good. Those two guys playing the SAM, we’ve got a physical presence at our strong side running game, which is phenomenal.”
There was one lineman who showed that Vaughters, while impressive, was not quite “unblockable,” as Shaw described him. Sophomore left tackle Andrus Peat repeatedly stopped everyone who came into his path, including Vaughters, without looking like he even had to try.
On one play, Vaughters started outside, took a punch from Peat, cut inside and just got gobbled up by the massive left tackle. A little while later, sophomore outside linebacker Noor Davis tried his luck against Peat with a similar move and ended up on the turf after a brutally powerful punch from Peat.
“I thought he’s had a really good week of practice,” Shaw said of Peat. “We always talk about as coaches, when the light comes on, the light may have come on. It’s flickered a couple of times but it’s mostly on and for a guy with his physical tools, the sky is the limit.”
Though Peat’s emergence on the outside is not much of a surprise, Stanford is in the midst of an unexpected twist in the center battle.
Fifth-year senior Kevin Danser, who has been filling in as the third center so the offense can fill three units while junior Kevin Reihner and sophomore Graham Shuler are out, has impressed Shaw at center and may be in the competition.
“He’s shocked me with how well he’s done in there,” Shaw said. “If he gets in the battle at center, I won’t fight it, because I think we’ve had some guys at guard that have showed they can play. [Sophomore] Josh Garnett’s had a phenomenal spring so far. If we want to take some reps and put Kevin Danser at center and put Josh Garnett with the ones just to see how that works, we’ll see.”
During the scrimmage session, Shaw showed his current starting lineup for the first time this spring. Sophomore Luke Kaumatule played tight end with the first team, and really impressed. Kaumatule made some tough catches in traffic and played with a motor the entire session.
Sophomore Kodi Whitfield also cracked the first-team, playing alongside junior Ty Montgomery as wide receiver. Whitfield, who is known for his “crisp” route running, is looking to make a big jump after getting some playing time near the end of 2012.
“Last year’s experience definitely pays off,” Whitfield said. “Just learning under those guys that I had in front of me like Drew Terrell, Jamal [Rashad-Patterson], Ty [Montgomery] as well, who is also coming back. Learning from those guys, picking up what I could from them, has helped me just have a fast start this spring.”
Shaw also mentioned that another sophomore wide receiver, Michael Rector, had a great day of practice as well. Rector’s speed makes him one of the toughest receivers on the team to cover, according to junior cornerback Wayne Lyons.
One jersey that didn’t see any action was the No. 12 uniform that formerly belonged to Andrew Luck ‘12.
“As I’ve told the guys, the number’s still hot,” Shaw said. “It’s too hot to put on anybody else. We’ve got to let it cool off for a while.”
Stanford is scheduled to hold one more open practice Saturday before taking a three-week break from practice for finals and spring break. Saturday’s practice is scheduled to run from 12:30 to 2:30 p.m.
Contact Sam Fisher at safisher “at” stanford.edu.