Despite its tough loss at Utah last Saturday, the Stanford Cardinal football team and head coach David Shaw continue to maintain their calm, business-like demeanor with an overall surprisingly upbeat attitude towards the crucial conference showdowns remaining on the schedule.
Nevertheless, while the overall tone of Tuesday’s press conference remained unchanged from those of previous weeks, Shaw did announce that the Cardinal’s depth chart would receive a major shuffle.
With senior defensive end Henry Anderson out with a leg injury until at least the Oregon game on Nov. 7 and fifth-year senior defensive end Ben Gardner dealing with an arm contusion, Shaw announced Tuesday that sophomore tight end Luke Kaumatule would be moving back to defensive end, the position he was originally recruited to play, to alleviate the shaky depth at the position.
“With Henry being down, our guys are playing a lot,” Shaw said. “We needed a spark, and that’s Luke.”
While the 6-foot-7, 276-pound sophomore from Honolulu has not taken a snap on defense this season, he certainly showed off his tremendous power and explosiveness in the trenches when he was part of the contingent that blocked a punt against Arizona State, a play that resulted in a safety against the Sun Devils.
Coming into this season, Kaumatule was expected to be the new flag-bearer of ‘Tight End U,” a lineage that includes several current NFL players such as Coby Fleener ‘11, Zach Ertz ‘13 and Levine Toilolo ‘13. Despite the fact that Kaumatule lacked the same presence in the Cardinal passing game as his predecessors, Shaw emphasized that he has played very well at the position, particularly in downfield blocking. Ultimately, it was the injuries on the defensive line and not lack of play that prompted the change.
However, Shaw did not rule out the possibility that Kaumatule would one day return to the offensive side of the ball, perhaps even this season. In typical, cryptic Shaw fashion, he declared that the move would be permanent “for this week.” Through two practices, Kaumatule’s presence is being felt, though he is certainly not polished just yet.
“[Kaumatule] has no idea what he’s doing, but he’s running around full speed,” Shaw said. “He brought us some energy and life on the defensive side. Now we just need to get him pointed in the right direction.”
Although much of Tuesday’s presser was devoted to Kaumatule’s move, Shaw also discussed his methodology for dealing with a tough loss and the growth of junior quarterback Kevin Hogan, who had just taken his first loss as Stanford’s starter.
When addressing the team after the loss in Salt Lake City, Shaw had encouraged his players to become introspective.
“The first word I used [after the loss] was perspective,” Shaw said. “Let’s look at where we are. Let’s look at how we got here. Let’s look at where we’re going. That’s the most important thing for me. In order to go forward, you have to know where you are.”
Regarding Hogan, Shaw conceded that this quarterback was in a bit of slump for most of the Utah game, but on the final drive appeared to rediscover that “spark” that made him so dangerous last season.
“Kevin has not played great in the last couple of weeks, but in each game he’s made some great plays,” Shaw said. “The throws that he made to get us down there [were] outstanding. The big-time throw on the corner route to [sophomore wide receiver] Kodi Whitfield…that’s an NFL throw.”
Ultimately, Shaw hopes that Hogan, as well as the entire squad, can use the positive energy on that final Stanford drive to get ready for a critical showdown Saturday at Stanford Stadium against UCLA.
Contact Vihan Lakshman at vihan ‘at’ stanford.edu.