Stanford football officially kicked off its spring practices on Monday afternoon with several familiar faces at new positions on the field. Sophomores Kodi Whitfield and Dallas Lloyd both began their transitions from wide receiver and quarterback, respectively, to free safety.
“I gave Kodi the option – a chance to compete for the starting spot at free safety or stay in the competition at receiver and still play,” said head coach David Shaw. “It was not a decision made by me, it was made by Kodi.”
Whitfield makes the move from wide receiver to free safety after breaking through at wide receiver in his sophomore season with 16 catches for 170 yards, including an incredible one-handed touchdown catch against UCLA.
“Given that we’re losing a couple of guys – Ed Reynolds, who was a big part of our defense – Coach Shaw pointed out that I had a good chance to come in and contribute right away on defense,” Whitfield said. “I jumped on it. It wasn’t motivated at all by offense, it was just the best circumstance for me. With my safety background in high school I feel comfortable back there already.”
In addition, Lloyd transitions to safety after serving as the Cardinal’s option quarterback this past season. He recorded six carries for 26 yards as a sophomore.
“Both [Whitfield and Lloyd] have some natural ability back there,” Shaw said. “My dad – who has been watching this longer than I’ve been alive – five minutes into practice said those two guys look natural. I trust his eyes as much as anybody on this planet.”
The safety position remains vacant in the wake of senior Ed Reynolds’ departure. Reynolds shined as a safety with Cardinal, leading the team with six interceptions and finishing one yard shy of the NCAA’s interception return yards record in 2012. The spot will presumably be up for grabs in spring and summer practices with Whitfield and Lloyd leading the competition.
The defense this season will train under new defensive coordinator Lance Anderson and new inside linebackers coach Pete Hansen. Anderson and Hansen took over after former defensive coordinator Derek Mason and former inside linebackers coach David Kotulski left for Vanderbilt. Another opening on the defensive staff remains for a secondary coach that will likely be filled in the next week, according to Shaw.
“Coach Anderson has been here and he knows how Coach Mason ran the show before,” said junior inside linebacker Blake Martinez. “It’s kind of the same. We made a survey to see what we liked and didn’t like beforehand to see what we wanted to keep [from Mason’s tenure].”
Martinez figures to be a leading candidate to replace departing fifth-year senior Shayne Skov at inside linebacker in 2014. Martinez finished with eleven total tackles in ten games played last season.
On the other side of the ball, the offensive line faces the difficult task of replacing four former starters. Sophomore left tackle Andrus Peat is the only returning starter from last season. However, several of the potential starters for next season – like sophomores Kyle Murphy and Josh Garnett – have already seen playing time as jumbo tight ends or “ogre” backs in Stanford’s “heavy” package.
“You’re looking at Kyle Murphy, quote unquote, being a first time starter,” Shaw said. “Murphy’s played a lot of football the last two years. Josh Garnett played a lot of football last year. We have a lot of guys who have played a lot of football that are stepping into these starting roles.”
“We’ve played as many players as anybody the last three years. When you play a lot of guys and the older guys graduate, their backups have a lot of experience.”
The Cardinal certainly will not be lacking for experience at the wide receiver position. Even after Whitfield’s change of position, Stanford still boasts an exceptionally deep wide receiver corps with senior Jeff Trojan, juniors Ty Montgomery, Jordan Pratt and Devon Cajuste, sophomore Michael Rector and freshman Francis Owusu returning to form a talented unit.
“I’m excited about our receiving corps,” Shaw shared. “I don’t know if there’s a deeper one in the nation right now.”
Montgomery will miss the first half of spring practice with a knee injury, as will senior defensive tackle David Parry, who is battling an injury to his midsection. Sophomore quarterback Ryan Burns will also miss the first half of spring practice for disciplinary reasons.
Contact Michael Peterson at mrpeters ‘at’ stanford.edu.