By Joseph Beyda
Rising junior Dallas Lloyd, fresh off his transition from quarterback to safety late last season, has been getting a lot of advice from a pair of football giants this spring: Duane Akina and Richard Sherman ‘10.
Akina, a 35-year coaching veteran known as one of the best defensive backs coaches in the country, just arrived on the Farm a few weeks ago; Monday’s practice kicking off the second session of spring ball was his first chance to interact with the Cardinal’s secondary on the field. In the meantime, Lloyd has learned a thing or two from Sherman, who has worked out on campus during the NFL offseason.
“He said coming from the offense is unique because you have the perspective of someone who’s on the offense,” Lloyd said. “You have route concepts and what receivers are trying to do, and being a quarterback before, techniques that quarterbacks use to look safeties off, where their eyes are, their shoulders.”
Of course, Sherman switched from offense to defense at Stanford before becoming an All-Pro cornerback and Super Bowl champion with the Seattle Seahawks. Lloyd has the chance to reinvent himself as well, coming off a season that saw him lose the keys to the Cardinal’s read-option package due to fumbling issues.
Akina likes what he sees so far from both Lloyd and classmate Kodi Whitfield, who was converted from a wide receiver to a defensive back this offseason. Yet he cautioned that the moves might take time.
“[Lloyd is] a big athlete that can run, and I think there’s some tremendous upside,” Akina said. “So I just think we need reps. It’s not a position that’s just ‘add water, instant football player.’ It takes time to develop.”
Also developing this spring is the relationship between the defensive backs and their new coach, who will take over for former defensive coordinator Derek Mason at the helm of the position group. The early returns are good.
“I guess it’s different from Coach Mason, but it’s the same in that it’s a guy that wants to win, [and] is a real smart coach,” said second-year starting strong safety Jordan Richards. “And we’re excited to play for him.”
“It’s just very apparent that he cares about us as people,” Lloyd added. “He compared us to his sons — he has a lot of sons — and he said that he’s going to coach us hard.”
Akina said Monday that he considered taking a break from coaching after the staffing change at Texas, but that he has admired Stanford on film for years and was intrigued by the Cardinal’s coaches and their philosophy.
“I just believe they’ve cracked the code,” Akina said. “They’ve been able to take that competitive spirit in the classroom and they brought it to the grass.”
Akina also noted that the move brings him closer to Hawaii, where he was born.
Head coach David Shaw was asked about last week’s controversial decision by the National Labor Relations Board, which ruled that college football players at Northwestern — and, by extension, other private schools such as Stanford — could unionize as employees of their university. Shaw said that he was confused by the motivation for the case because of how well Northwestern provides for its players, and he said that Stanford’s program is an example of the financial benefits already provided to college athletes.
“You talk about a place like this, where it’s $60,000 a year on scholarship, and they’ll get health care and 20-hour weeks,” Shaw said. “There are people who are chemistry students that have a lot of hours also. So I’m curious. I’m curious to where it goes from here. I’m curious how it affects everybody, but I’m waiting to see why this is so vital. We haven’t had a kid go out of pocket for a surgery. There’s not a kid here, in particular, that’s ever had an issue that we haven’t tried our best to take care of for a health care reason. That would go against everything that we stand for.”
“There’s nobody that has our players’ best interests at heart more than us,” Shaw added later. “If this is a cost of attendance thing, we’ll do whatever the NCAA allows us to do. But I’ll tell you this: I know we’re preparing these young men for more than just football. We’re not using them for anything. We’re giving them an unbelievable education, unbelievable contacts. Hopefully they’ll have a phenomenal experience here, athletically, academically, socially. And hopefully they go on to influence this great nation. But to insinuate that there’s anything we’re doing to harm these young men, I think is just not correct.”
Shaw also addressed comments made by former Wildcats quarterback Kain Colter, who verbally committed to Stanford in 2009 before switching to Northwestern, where he just finished his final year.
In a recent interview, Colter implied that the Cardinal revoked their scholarship offer because he injured himself early in his senior year of high school. Shaw staunchly opposed that claim.
“I can tell you 100 percent, there was no issue with his injury,” Shaw said. “Our track record speaks for itself. We’ve never dropped a kid from a scholarship offer or from a commitment because of injury…I [was recruiting in] Colorado at the time. I went to his high school. I talked to his high school coach. I sat there for an hour and a half and watched all the kid’s film. There’s no way we dropped the scholarship offer because he got hurt.”
Shaw added that three recruits in Colter’s class who did end up coming to Stanford all suffered season-ending injuries as high school seniors.
Rising senior wide receiver Ty Montgomery won’t return to the playing field during the second session of spring practice, Shaw confirmed on Monday.
In addition to recovering from the knee injury he suffered in the Rose Bowl on Jan. 1, Montgomery underwent minor surgery on his arm to resolve another issue. Shaw said that his star playmaker would be back in time for training camp.
Contact Joseph Beyda at jbeyda ‘at’ stanford.edu.